Sunday, 13 September 2015

Listening to Nature

"Listening to Nature", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

Today's drawing was inspired by another painting by the artist Sophie Anderson.  Her work was entitled "The Song of the Lark". I chose to have my subject listening instead to a male cardinal singing!  I did attempt to use a pose similar to Anderson's for the reclining woman as I mainly wanted to challenge myself to attempt to draw the right hand and arm in that unusual position.  I am still, as always, far from satisfied with the results.

"Girl at Butterfly Conservatory --
(holding bowl of sugar water)"
drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer,
Speaking of Anderson, you may recall that I wrote about her back in February when I featured another drawing based on one of her paintings.  The posting appeared on the 15th of February, 2015 and my drawing that I featured showed a young woman surrounded by butterflies. 

Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823-1903) was a French-born British artist who specialized in painting children and women in scenes from everyday life, typically in rural settings. She began her career as a lithographer and painter of portraits, collaborating with Walter Anderson (an English artist who was a painter, lithographer, and engraver) whom Sophie eventually married.

Listening to Nature has always been, for me, an intriguing concept. Growing up in the country as I did meant that I learned at an early age to listen to the sounds around me -- listening to hear what was being said by Mother Nature.  

I remember so well walking out into the woods near our house. They started just beyond the fenced pasture behind our barn. There, on a cool, windy, Autumn day, I would find a sheltered spot under the high branches of a stand of longleaf pine trees growing in a mix of oak and hickory.  The pine straw would be thick and warmed from the sun. Snuggling into a hollow, I would be well-hidden and protected from the wind.  Then I would begin to listen.

The most obvious sound was the wind soughing through the pine trees, but as soon as I would get really quiet, I would hear other sounds as well.  There were the bird calls that would begin to repeat once I had stopped moving about (upon my arrival at the spot, the birds had either flown away or else gone very quiet).  Next I would begin to hear rustling in the leaves nearby and I knew that, most likely, these sounds were being made by field mice, ground-hunting birds and insects. If I remained very still for quite some time, I would often have birds, mice or other small creatures come close to where I was sitting. 

Even though none of these sounds were loud or harsh, when combined in the "silence" of the woods, they could seem amazingly clear with various sounds combining with others.  It was almost as though I was listening to a symphony with passages labelled allegro, tremolo and vibrato. Some sounds lively and fast followed by a rapid alteration between two or more sounds leading to a quick variation in pitch and then silence again except for the wind soughing through the pines.  What a beautiful masterpiece Nature would "play" for me when I took the time to listen.  I really miss, perhaps more than anything else, being able to be out in the natural world -- tasting the wind, smelling the earth, seeing Nature up close, touching trees, plants and creatures and hearing the song of Nature.

Details on Sophie Gengembre Anderson were taken from Wikipedia.


"Why are you interrupting my nap?"

Because most of the visitors I have these days are well known to Suki, I had more or less forgotten about her embarrassing behaviour that always occurs whenever someone "unknown" comes to call. I was clearly reminded this past week, however. 

I had a phone call from a woman I had not spoken with for a number of years. The two of us had been members of the same professional organization back in the 1990s. Due to health problems, I left the organization in early 2000.  It turned out that she was calling to see if and a friend could stop by for a short visit in order to get my input on what I recalled about the group's history from those years as they are in the process of writing about it.

Reluctantly, I agreed to see them the following day -- I say "reluctantly" because all visits are difficult for me now as I have to work at keeping the pain away from my facial expressions and my movements while visitors are here as well as delay my next dose of morphine.  However, I did want to help them if I could.

Upon their arrival, I suddenly realized that I had something else to worry about -- something I had forgotten about until they politely removed their shoes upon entering my home as is the custom of visitors here in Canada. I realize that I had forgotten about the problem of Suki and shoes!

As I think I may have mentioned several years ago in another posting about my beloved kitty, Suki has a thing about shoes.  As you know, if a workman noisily arrives, Suki heads for her hiding place in my bedroom closet. However, when guests arrive, Suki, who seems to know beforehand that they are expected, sits and watches as the person (or persons) enters and removes their footwear. Then Suki slowly proceeds towards their discarded shoes or boots.

Suki doesn't wait politely until the guest(s) and I are seated and in conversation -- no, she heads immediately for their shoes as soon as they begin to walk away.  This means that the guest(s) see where she is headed and so they watch her as she begin to carefully sniff the inside and outside of their footwear. 
Suki Doing Her Sniffing Thing!

Since most people are a wee bit self-conscious about the possibility of having stinky feet or shoes, this behaviour of Suki's always creates some embarrassingly awkward moments for everyone.  I try to smooth things over by saying something like: "oh, don't mind her, that's just Suki's way of getting acquainted with you!", but I can see that my visitor(s) is uncomfortable about the whole business.

At this point, I usually just sigh and say something along the lines of: "I do apologize for what my cat is doing now and for what she will do next".  This always brings a quizzical look to the face(s) of my guest(s) and so I explain that after she has sniffed their shoes, she will probably be coming over to sniff their feet as well! (I can only assume Suki wants to make a connection between the footwear and the owner of said footwear).

At this point, everyone gives a nervous laugh or two and we go and settle ourselves in the living room.  Since my guest(s) is forewarned, we are usually able to continue our conversation and ignore Suki when she quietly walks in and begins sniffing feet.  If the person visiting is a cat lover then they understand that cats do strange things like this; however, if they really don't care for cats in the first place, conversation can become quite strained at this point.

Fortunately, the ladies who came to visit seemed reasonably comfortable with Suki's behaviour once I had explained things to them and we were able to have our discussion.  For whatever reason, they only stayed a short time and then hurriedly put their shoes back on before saying their "thanks" and "goodbyes".  Suki simply sat there and watched them in that scary, Sphinx-like way she has.  Maybe, the truth is that she really doesn't care for visitors and behaves in this strange way to frighten folks away... who knows with this crazy kitty-cat!

Otherwise, it has been a quiet week for both of us.  I did have a medical test on Tuesday which was arduous but uneventful.  As well, I had a doctor's appointment scheduled for this past Friday; however, I had a "senior moment" due to the short week after a long weekend and kept thinking that Friday was only Thursday and so ended up missing the appointment!  What can I say other than my memory just ain't what it used to be.  I will have to call and apologize tomorrow (Monday) and arrange for another appointment.  I do have another medical appointment this week so I am putting up post-it notes in several places so that I won't be missing this one.



"Icon -- Christ said 'take up your cross and follow Me' ", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015 revision

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”  Mk 8:27-35

As an illustration for today's Gospel reading, I used one of my "Stations of the Cross" icons -- the one where Christ meets the women of Jerusalem.  It seemed appropriate since it clearly shows that Christ not only called us to "take up our cross and follow Him", He demonstrated exactly what he meant.

So, if we are followers of Christ, then we have to try to do what he did which includes picking up and carrying the crosses we are each given.  It doesn't mean constantly looking around and trying to determine if my cross is larger or heavier than another's cross.  Nor does it mean refusing to carry our crosses because we feel that we are not being treated fairly in this "cross carrying" business!

Nor does it mean we have to like our "cross" although sometimes being able to embrace it seems to make it much lighter. What it does mean is that we have to deal with whatever life gives us without blaming others for the difficulties, misfortunes, etc. with which we are currently living. 

Let us pray: for the strength to carry whatever crosses we have been given; the wisdom to accept that "crosses" are a normal part of life; and, the humility to acknowledge (and request) our need for help from our brothers and sisters in order to carry our crosses.  

May we not be afraid to face whatever the future may bring -- even if things occur that will make our cross even heavier.  Let us look to Him as He walks ahead of us, showing us the Way -- always remembering that whenever we walk with Him, we are walking in Love.


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