Wandering Universe

The hue and the wing beat
Bound by the laws of Physics.

The eye and the nebula
Too wonderful to be accidental?

The paradigm shifts upon takeoff
The paradigm shifts upon implosion.

What a journey it must be when your feet
Barely touch the ground
To kiss the wind of the sea and the sound

of the stars.

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#DogHeroes – Four-Legged Heroes

#DogHeroes is back for another addition, and this one’s a little bit different. This time, I’m going to share some of my favourite four-legged heroes.

From service dogs for the blind, the deaf, the disabled to bomb-sniffers, drug-busters, cancer seeking dogs and everything in between, dogs are more than just man’s best friend. Their intelligence and human intuition is second to none, and is the reason that dogs are able to take on such diverse roles far beyond that of the family pet.

The 9/11 Heroes

Of the almost 10,000 emergency service and rescue personnel that rushed to the aid of the World Trade Center attacks, 300 of them were dogs. Alongside their tireless handlers, Bretagne, Riley, Coby, Guinness, Apollo, Thunder and others went far beyond their normal line of duty, searching for both the deceased and survivors, working 12 hour shifts and pushing themselves to the absolute limit. Sadly, the last four-legged 9/11 hero Bretagne passed away in 2016, after enjoying her retirement until age 17.

Dog Hero 9/11 Dog
Image: smithsonianmag.com

Lucy – Better Than Lab Tests

Lucy simply wasn’t cut out for guide dog school, as her Labrador-Irish Water Spaniel drive to smell got in her way. Excitable and curious, her nose led her to distraction and eventually to the end of her guide dog career. However, her owners didn’t give up, and knew that they could put her skills to good use. Lucy became part of Medical Detection Dogs,  and for 7 years she trained, sniffing out various types of cancer from bladder cancer to kidney and prostate cancer. Her success rate is measured to be around 95% accurate, which is considered equal or better than many of the best laboratory tests. Way to go, Lucy.
Kelsey Wouldn’t Leave Her Owner’s Side

A trip to go and get firewood nearly ended in tragedy for Bob from Michigan. It was a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve when he popped out to collect some logs, but fell and broke his neck, falling into the snow. With his nearest neighbour almost a kilometre away, Bob’s cries for help were pretty futile. But his Golden Retriever Kelsey found him, curled up on top of him and kept him warm overnight, licking him so he didn’t fall unconscious, and barking until help finally arrived. Bob and Kelsey are both now doing just fine.

Veterans

Dogs have probably been used in combat ever since we domesticated them. From sentries to scouts, dogs have been documented since 7th Century BC as leading the way in cavalry charges and battles. Dogs are known for their fearlesslness, and no doubt their close connection to humans made them highly suited for their role of leiutenant.

In the 16th Century the Conquistadors used the bulky breeds such as mastiffs to intimidate and subdue the native Americans.

In the First World War, the role of dogs was of critical importance, and canines were enlisted to carry messages across enemy lines (along with carrier pigeons) and struggle through the desperate front lines. It’s estimated that over 1 million dogs died alongside the human casualties, but their bravery and assistance was greatly revered.

More recently, a Belgian Malinois was on the team of Operation Neptune Spear, that successfully assassinated Osama bin Laden.

Image result for dogs in war
Image: theatlantic.com

Whether it is ethical to use dogs in warfare is another matter, and one I won’t go in to here. The use of millions of dogs, horses, pigeons, donkeys and others was vital in ending (and probably starting) many of history’s great wars. Perhaps with improvements in Drones and other technology, such use of animals will be in decline.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments, and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/20/health/cancer-smelling-dogs/index.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/15/hero-dog-saves-life-freezing-owner-broke-neck-fall/

How To Save Five Species

The International Rhino Foundation is working around the globe to protect the five rhino species from extinction. It’s a big job, and every little bit helps. Please consider making a donation of $5 (or a multiple of $5) to help rhinos today. Every gift, large or small, helps us do more. LOOKING FOR EVEN […]

via Five Buck Friday: How Five Bucks Can Save Five Species — The International Rhino Foundation Blog

Cosmic Thoughts – Existence

“No man is an island,” wrote the poet John Donne. I would add: no island is an island. Nature does not exist in isolation. It’s birth, evolution and daily chimings are dependent on the greater nature beyond our planet’s fragile borders. My mind wonders to the numinous thought espoused by the science of quantum biology that mutation in the genes of life-forms on earth could have been triggered by the sun’s rays affecting the way DNA copies itself in terrestrial veins. So the random mutations that lead, through non-random ways, to our very existence, could have come from the very fingertips of our star.

Aesthetically, too, nature is wedded to the cosmos. The colours of the sky, of plants, of the sea, of the rainbow, all of them, are dictated by the cosmos that veils our planet. And I can think of no greater masterpiece than a tower of starlight in free-fall over a tundra or a great lake. All we can do is be humble and get into that ring of beauty, see what we’re made of – literally.

neighbours
Neighbours, Watercolours

You can learn more about my cosmic nature paintings here.

Cosmic Thoughts – Light

The lights we see from stars and planets emit a beautiful array of colours. But light isn’t just about illumination. Light is the very DNA of a celestial body’s chemical make-up. By using spectroscopy, astronomers can deduce what elements are present on a planet or star. Each and every element in the universe, when burned, gives off a unique set of colours. And these are the same anywhere across the vast universe. Strontium is a reddish purple. Sodium is yellow. Potassium is lilac. Copper is blue. And so on.

If you look at a rainbow, you are also looking at the chemical make-up of our own sun. Our sun is about 70% hydrogen and 28% helium – which isn’t surprising, because those two are the most common elements in the universe. And as you can imagine, for a painter, knowing that colours play such an important role in the decoding of the universe – colours are essentially the bar codes of existence – is a great inspiration. So when you look at the night sky, and you paint it, you pay very careful attention as to what each and every colour you’re using actually means.

Colour then, is the language of the universe. The phrase ‘the music of the spheres’ should be redundant – the universe is quiet, but it has some very loud colours!

Dog Galaxy Watercolour Painting
The Running Dog, Watercolours

You can learn more about my cosmic nature paintings here.

Cosmic Thoughts – Awe

Ever since I was a little girl the aesthetics of the universe had a Sisyphean hold on me. I owned many big books and encyclopedias about astronomy, where I was amazed by the way galaxies whirled and how bright and colourful nebulae always were. I looked at the planets on our solar system and learned their Roman names. Saturn’s rings, in particular, reminded me of a princess wearing her crown. And Jupiter – the king of all gods, isn’t he? – always looked pissed off to me.

I had lost that connection with astronomy as I grew up and nature – earth’s nature – took more of a hold on me. But by a personal Darwinian evolution I went from religiously watching David Attenborough documentaries to watching Professor Brian Cox. Attenborough’s natural heir. He re-kindled my infantile passion and sense of wonder at the great beyond. His Wonders series are a masterpiece in themselves. And when I feel that mixture of awe and curiosity the only way I can subdue that wonderful itch is to paint.

who is listening
Who’s Listening? Watercolours

You can learn more about my cosmic nature paintings here.

Frida Kahlo – Columns, Colours and Chronic Pain

The painting left a lasting impression on the depths of my mind, one that I’d perhaps quite forgotten, the same way a haunting piano solo never fails to move me as I remember and sway to its decadent rhythms. The Broken Column by Frida Kahlo is more than just a painting about pain, and more than just a woman in pain painting about pain. It is about what painting does to us all.

Frida Kahlo is the kind of painter that a lot of female artists, myself included, aspire to be. That hard-headed, self-reliant, independent, driven woman that approaches her art as she does every aspect of her life; from her politics to her philosophy, fashion and eventually, a painting on canvas. And yes, she can have a man if she wants, but she doesn’t need one (or maybe she does).

The Broken Column, 1944

The Broken Column is a painting of insight, but also of outward influence. This painting is a deeply intimate portrayal of her struggle; a bus accident in her childhood left her for a time, bedridden, and forever unable to bear children. Frida’s life was sadly cut short at the age of 47, after she endured years of chronic pain, operations, miscarriage, amputation and ultimately, alcohol and medication dependence, not to mention her tumultuous relationship with muralist Diego Rivera. Whilst The Broken Column is undoubtedly a personal piece; we can feel the artist’s shattered insides and feel like we should put our hands to the canvas to put support the crumbling column, it is also a painting of external forces. The artist is in control of the paint colour she chooses, the depth and texture of the canvas, even the way she holds the brush, but ultimately, the painting is out of her control. We are all driven by external forces that dictate what we do, what we say, and much as we try to avoid these external chess moves, we are all dictated by them.

We all have our own Broken Column, a piece of us that may be a little more fragile than we let on, a deep rooted fear that prevents us from taking a leap off the edge, whether figuratively or literally. Many of us have an unseen column, a disability we haven’t shared, a poem we haven’t shared or a story we never dared tell.

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” Frida Kahlo