Ode to joy in thriving, driving and dying

The joy of seeing the sun rise as I arrive for my volunteer work at San Diego Medical Center reminds me of the wonderful sunrises we experienced while camping with our Airstream travel trailer for the past 10 years in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

The cool morning air is crisp and refreshing, and a thriving dawn chorus of birds is heard as hospital workers scurry along curving sidewalks lit up with miniature, multicolored LED lights as they make their way to their work stations.  I’ve already put on my royal blue Nike Air Zoom Pegasus running shoes for a day of escorting family members and friends to see their loved ones in pre-op, recovery, and post-op rooms.

My recent change from working as a docent in a well-known San Diego historic house museum to working in San Diego’s newest state-of-the-art hospital has infused me with a new sense of thriving.  As noted in Kaiser Permanente’s A History of Total Health, “In 2004 Kaiser Permanente launched its Thrive advertising campaign, which spotlighted the health plan’s continuing emphasis on healthy living to help patients stay well,” as illustrated in their commercial Power to Change*

And this spirit carried over to my adding customized license plate holders for our new RAV4 Hybrid.

This hybrid compact crossover SUV is relatively healthier for the environment and us.  It is easier to get in and out, carries lots of cargo, including our corgi Tasha, and makes it easier to manage and unload cargo from the rear.  I am seen below transferring koi food from a 50-lb. bag to empty Costco pretzel containers. Working smarter, not harder… and wearing my Ridin’ with Biden hat (See Joe Biden Speaks With Meghan McCain About Cancer*).

Speaking about thriving, flowering cacti are next to 11 thriving koi in our 20′ backyard pond…

(Click on images to enlarge them.)

Along with many other joyful blooms such as Dendrobium orchids  (below).

Purple Trumpet Vine (below)

Red Trumpet Vine (below)

Epidendrum (below)

And last week, the exquisite Epidendrum hookeri, showed its first bloom since our neighbor Kelly gave us a cutting a couple of years ago (below).

The life of this Epidendrum flower was brief.  It opened during the evening and night before and quickly died by mid-morning as the sun bore down.

Another drama played out last week half way around the world as Australia’s oldest working scientist, David Goodall, 104, botanist and ecologist, flew from Australia to Basel, Switzerland to die on his own terms.  According to the May 10, 2018 New York Times article, Mr. Goodall said, “I no longer want to continue life, and I am happy to have a chance tomorrow to end it.”  The article states that David was not terminally ill, but he had experienced significant deterioration in his quality of life, and went to “Switzerland, the only country that offers assisted-dying services to foreigners if the person assisting does not benefit from the person’s death.”  The article also says that David chose the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Sympathy as his last song and he died the moment “Ode to Joy“* concluded!

Encore: Stephen Hawking Sings Monty Python… Galaxy Song*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Additional resources:

A Life & Death Conversation with Dr. Bob Uslander“, Otto Radio

Why David Goodall, 104, Renowned Australian Scientist, Wants to to Die,” Yonette Joseph, New York Times, May 3, 2018.

David Goodall, 104, Scientist Who Fought to Die on His Terms, Ends His Life,” Yonette Joseph and Iliana Magra, New York Times, May 10, 2018.

One Last Drink: San Diegans who end their lives,” San Diego Reader, April 26, 2018.

Compassion & Choices

Hemlock Society of San Diego

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams

The Dalai Lama: “The Book of Joy”* (CBS Sunday Morning)

Posted in Deserts, Flowers, Gardens, RAV4 Hybrid, San Diego, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

RAVing about thriving

A glorious sun rose above the early morning mist as I arrived for yet another happy day of working as a volunteer in Kaiser Permanente’s state-of-the-art San Diego Medical Center,* which is celebrating its first birthday this month on April 25th.  Happy Birthday SDMC! And Happy Birthday Baby Kingston, the first baby born at SDMC on April 25, 2017 at 4:08 p.m., a glorious son of two thriving Kaiser Permanente RNs!

As I looked to the east, I could see  Kaiser Permanente Viewridge Medical Offices below and hear the morning chorus of birds. (Click on images to see them enlarged.)

According to Kaiser Permanente’s press release, “Designed for cleaner, greener energy, the new hospital uses cutting-edge technologies to produce its own electricity, heat and cooling, create less greenhouse gases and save water. These innovations have earned the San Diego Medical Center certification as a LEED Platinum health care facility.”  “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide. Developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) it includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods that aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently” (credit: Wikipedia).  “Platinum” is LEED’s highest certification level and SDMC is only the fourth healthcare facility in the world to achieve this status level.  See LEED: Better buildings are our legacy.*

My concern for the environment goes back to my obtaining a B.S. degree in Landscape Architecture from Rutgers* in 1969.  My concern for healthcare began as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy through to my retirement as an RN from the VA San Diego Healthcare System in 2003.  These are just a few of the many reasons why I am so proud and excited to join Kaiser Permanente’s healthcare team as a Guest Services Volunteer!

Some call it “volunteeritis,” but I call it infectious enthusiasm and a great way of keeping my mind alert and my body exercised and thriving!  “Thrive” has been Kaiser Permanente’s ad campaign tagline since 2004 and focuses on their dedication to preventive medicine and the goal of keeping its members healthy and thriving!

Last month we celebrated my 71st birthday (I’m another who’s just getting started) by buying our much anticipated 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited and selling the F-250, which closes the chapter of our 10 year adventures with our Airstream trailer, and opens a new era of more comfortable, efficient, and enjoyable driving, while enjoying San Diego’s wonderful places.

The RAV4 (“Recreational Activity Vehicle, 4-wheel drive”) is the first compact crossover SUV and debuted in North America in 1995.  In 1936 Toyota (at that time called “Toyoda” from the family name of the company’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda), built its first passenger car, Toyoda Model AA Sedan (See Jay Leno drive a replica)*.  Today, Toyota is thriving (See “How Big is Toyota? They’ve Owned 27% of Tesla Motors!“*).  Gas prices at the moment seem reasonable, but with the instability of world politics, economics, and oil production, we think the Toyota Hybrid System* is a better bet, especially since this will probably be our last car.

We preferred the SofTex* (synthetic leather) interior* and I wanted the warm tan color, “Cinnamon,” instead of the typical black (which could feel hot in the sun), but this color was hard to find at dealers and online, so I ordered one to be made for us, which was done in Aichi, Japan, (Toyota Headquarters)* last February (see Toyota’s Factory in Aichi),* and delivered in March.  Relax for a moment and a take a tour of Aichi as seen in “Welcome to Aichi“* and see “Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.”*

Toyota Safety Sense* state-of-the-art technologies, such as Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, along with Blind Spot Monitoring and Parking Assist, help to protect us and enables us to drive safely with peace of mind and thrive.

See 2018 RAV4 Limited Hybrid Test Drive* and the fun”Toyota RAV4 Second Production series” music video.*  We are still driving our 2001 Toyota Camry Solara, but our RAV4 is more comfortable, has greater accessibility and can carry more cargo safely and easily.

Oops, my Apple Watch Activity app* just reminded me that I’ve been sitting too long and it’s time to get up and stand for at least one minute.  At the beginning of my workday, it reminds me to “Make it happen today” and keeps track of the number of my steps, which is often 9,383 or 4.24 miles in just the first half of my day at Kaiser Permanente SDMC!*

After eating a delicious lunch from SDMC’s Cafe Fresh salad bar, I took a walk on Thrive Walk, composed of walking paths featuring drought tolerant plants, tables and benches.

The Kaiser Permanente Thrive video, “Introducing the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center,”* says, “Environment plays a large part in the healing process…  Patients, families, and visitors can find respite on 2 miles of walking paths, healing gardens, and in other quiet areas of repose.”

Eventually, I returned to SDMC’s Hospital Parking Structure that provides 2,367 parking spaces on seven levels.  See 1,500 solar panels on the 7th level, which provides a portion of the hospital’s energy needs, in this Kaiser Permanente Thrive video!*

I got into our RAV4, sipped on cool water and turned on some cool, thriving music…

such as Despacito (Luis Fonsi) from my iPhone Music Library or other cool hits from one of my favorite FM stations, such as ¡Diego 99.3 Más éxitos que nadie!*

Life is good… and I’m thriving… and I believe “The Best is Yet to Come“* (Tony Bennett and Chayanne from Viva Duets)!*

Additional inspirations:

Arianna Huffington talks about her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.”*

Thriving After 60 – Day Event – Kaiser Permanente*

Free To Thrive – Visualization Meditation*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Flowers, Gardens, Health, Meditations, Mindfulness, RAV4 Hybrid, San Diego, Zen | 3 Comments

Hello World (Take Two)

Waking up from a long winter’s nap, this blog has been energized and is now thriving.

History Safari Expresso started three years ago this month as a way to capture some of our highlights and best photos of our experiences camping with our Airstream Safari travel trailer, which was originally covered in my first blog, History Safari Express, beginning in 2008.  Over the past 3 years, History Safari Expresso expanded to also cover other topics that are important to us, including the beauty of the world that surrounds us, along with topics of health of the body, mind and spirit, which enable us to thrive.

After 10 years of camping in San Diego’s beautiful beach, mountain, and desert sites, we listened to our minds and bodies and decided to lessen our workload and stress by selling our Airstream to a younger family who will use and love this Airstream as we have, and hopefully gaze with wonder and awe at the stars at night and cherish breathtaking, beautiful sunrises.

Our family pets have enabled us to thrive over the years.  Pug Pau Hoa and corgi Mac are no longer here with us physically, but their memory and spirit lives on.

Our tri-color corgi Tasha continues to thrive and loves the attention she gets at public San Diego Corgi Meetup events and while promoting Hillcrest Indivisible events.

My life’s work as an RN took a new and exciting turn last month when I retired from 13 years of service as a docent in a well-known historic house museum and proudly began my volunteer work in San Diego’s newest, state of the art hospital,* whose motto is “Thrive.”*

So this blog has reawakened and is thriving, along with us as we continue to explore the universe with a sense of wonder and awe.  See: Wonder and Awe – Louie Schwartzberg – TEDxLA.*

Besides providing interesting photos and information, the blog postings here provide links to additional information that is intended to enhance the viewers understanding and experience. Some of the links are to videos (usually asterisked) that are carefully selected for being interesting and supportive to my posts’ themes.  This blog will continue to feature our seasonal celebrations, holidays, meditations, outings, and the beauty we see around us.

It is hoped that the viewer will take a moment to sit down with a hot cup of coffee or a sip of wine and take time to savor the content and experience!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Deserts, Flowers, Larry, Our Safari, San Diego | 3 Comments

Chinese Lantern Plant

This summer I noticed an exotic plant in the San Diego County Park that is also the home of the haunted Whaley House* in Old Town San Diego.  Visitors would often stop by and admire the Chinese lantern-like flowers.

It is called Abutilon pictum, Flowering Maple, and Chinese Lantern Plant and is a wonderful addition to our garden.

See more about the growing and care of this plant:  Abutilons – The Flowering Maple or Chinese Lantern Plant*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Spring flowers – 2017

After record breaking winter rains, a deep snow pack, and a horrible political winter, our California flowers surged forth reminding us that life triumphs death and that there is still hope and time to nourish each other and our planet.  Carl Sagan said, “A new consciousness is developing, which sees the Earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed… We Are One Planet.”*

The first set of images below shows flowers that bloomed in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

Ghost Flower


Barrel Cactus

Palo Verde

Creosote bush (left), Ocotillo (middle)


Indigo bush



Hedgehog Cactus

Beavertail Cactus and bee

Beavertail Cactus

The images below are flowers that bloomed at home in San Diego.




Old Man Cactus towers over Stenocereus

Old Man Cactus flower

Meditation: Thich Nhat Hanh – The End of Suffering*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Deserts, Flowers, Gardens, Meditations

Japanese Friendship Garden: Oasis of serenity

Located in the heart of San Diego’s Balboa Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden is an oasis of serenity amidst a bustling city and its freeways.  Per the “Japanese Friendship Garden of San Diego Visitor Guide,” this garden is named “San-Kei-En,” meaning “Three Scene Garden: Water, Pastoral and Mountain,” after the Sankei-en Garden in Yokohama, Japan, San Diego’s sister city.  (Take a serene stroll through the Sankeien Garden in Yokohama.*)

DSC_0071 Japanese Friendship Garden gate

Upon entering, we experience the sight and sound of the shishi-odoshi,* meaning “scare the deer,” originally a device used by farmers to scare away animals eating their crops.  Listen to the Friendship Garden’s Audio Strolling Tour of the Upper Canyon  (Open on a new tab/window).

DSC_0001 Shishi-odoshi

Also seen above are Japanese garden elements of rocks (symbolizing mountains), bamboo fence, pathway, and horsetail rush, Equisetum hyemale.  A short way down the path, we observed fig beetles having a festive time on an Indian hawthorn, Rhaphiolepis indica.

DSC_0002 Fig beetles on Indian hawthorn

Another element of the Japanese garden is the ishidoro,* stone lantern, also known as oribe-doro and tōtō.

DSC_0003 Stone lantern

Below, are images of the water basin, tsukubai,* originally used to cleanse the hands before entering a place of ritual, such as a temple or tea house.  “This process is thought to cleanse the spirit,” says our Visitor Guide brochure.  The Japanese tea house* represents the values of lasting friendships and an enduring connection with nature.



We entered the Exhibit House and viewed a Japanese rock garden,* karesansui, through the windows.  Gravel symbolizes water and the rocks symbolize mountains and islands.


Outside, in the upper garden, koi, symbol of longevity, swam and helped us relax.*


We paused at the Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate before proceeding to the lower garden.  Per Wikipedia, San Diego Mayor Charles Dail was instrumental in establishing a sister-city relationship between San Diego and Yokohama, Japan (1957).


Passing through the gate, we descended down curved pathways (to “discourage evil spirits from entering the Garden,” per our guide) and passed Azalea and Camellia gardens* on the way to the Dragon Bridge, considered a symbol of power, strength, and good luck.  Listen to the Friendship Garden’s Audio Strolling Tour of the Lower Canyon  (Open on a new tab/window).


Crepe myrtle, Lagerstroemia, was blooming.


The Chinese Flame Tree, Koelreuteria bipinnata, displayed its red fruit, rose-pink, papery seed capsules, seen below.


The lower garden has several ponds, shishi-odoshi and bridges.



Bridges may provide an opportunity to experience anticipation of crossing to a new place* or an opportunity to pause and contemplate* or meditate on being in the moment.*


We eventually crossed over and visited the Inamori Pavilion, where special exhibits are displayed throughout the year, and is available for lectures and weddings.


Alaskan Yellow Cedar* was used for the posts and beams and is traditionally used in Japanese buildings because it is strong and can withstand the elements.


We continued on the winding garden paths while enjoying the play of shadows…


and paused at the Light of Friendship.  This bronze lantern, a gift from the Boy Scouts and Yokohama citizens, has a  chrome sphere inside containing the names of the people who helped send this gift to San Diego, and is a symbol of the continued friendship between San Diego and Yokohama.


We look forward to touring the Japanese Friendship Garden* in March, when the cherry trees* are blooming with profuse, pink flowers during the Cherry Blossom Festival.*

We also visited the Yokohama Friendship Bell on Shelter Island (San Diego), presented to San Diego by the citizens of Yokohama to San Diego in 1958 as part of the recognition of the San Diego – Yokohama sister city status and continues to promote peace & humanity.*


This 6-foot high, two ton bronze bell is inscribed with the words, “Bell of Friendship,” in English and Japanese, and is sounded by striking the side of the bell with the large horizontal wood ram, which occurs every New Year’s Eve (See and hear the bell).*


In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh*:

May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos

Even in the darkest spots, living beings are able to hear it clearly, so that all suffering in them cease, understanding comes to their heart and they transcend the path of sorrow and death

Listening to the bell, I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve, my mind calm, my body relax, a smile is born on my lips

Following the sound of the bell, my breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness

In the gardens of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully

The Great Bell Chant (The End of Suffering)*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.


Posted in Flowers, Gardens, Larry, Meditations, San Diego, Tourist destinations, Zen | 2 Comments

Pitahaya Harvest Moon Festival

(Updated October 8, 2015, see note below).

Late summer glorious blooms on our pitahaya were attracting bees so we were hopeful that the bloom seen below and in my last post, “End of summer flowers, fruit and promises,” would yield a mature fruit in time for the Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival.

DSC_0380 Glorious pitahaya bloom 8:15:15

While waiting for the fruit to grow and mature, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah* by eating round challah that I made, which symbolizes the cycle of the year.

DSC_0557 My Rosh Hashanah challah

Meanwhile in our backyard, Monarch butterfly caterpillars (fifth instar), with the characteristic complex banding pattern and very small front legs close to the head, were feasting on our Asclepsias curassavica, aka Milkweed plant, and blood flower.*

DSC_0551 Monarch catterpillar (5th instar)

The caterpillars then attach themselves to a horizontal surface, molt into an opaque, blue-green chrysalis, and emerge as a butterfly after a few weeks. (See a metamorphosis time-lapse*)

DSC_0043 Monarch butterfly on Asclepias

As seen in my previous post, the above pitahaya flower was pollinated by bees and developed beautiful fruit seen below (one month after the bloom).

DSC_0575 Pitahaya fruit, 33 days old

And one week later:

DSC_0582 Pitahaya fruit, 39 days old

Four days later, it was ready to harvest, which I did during the evening of the Super Blood Moon, beautifully described and illustrated in Bert Gildart’s blog post, “Blood Moon”, Glimpses From Bert & Jane Gildart’s Travel Adventures.

BloodMoon-42 credit- Bert Gildart

(Photo credit: Bert Gildart)

While this orb was red, an Orb-weaver spider was waiting for its prey.

DSC_0040 Orb-weaver spider

I placed my Nikon camera on a tripod in front of our Moon Festival display, which Larry had set up earlier, ready to be energized by the full light of the moon when it emerged from the Earth’s shadow.  During the eclipse, I climbed a ladder and harvested the pitahaya, which was placed on the raised (compote) dish, holding the moon cakes.

DSC_0018_2 Moon Festival 2015

The Moon Festival, is one of many international harvest festivals.   The Mid-Autumn Festival, is celebrated in mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and by ethnic Chinese people worldwide.  It is a charming tradition of remembering and honoring family and friends, near and far.  It is thought that propitious festival symbols with circular shapes be displayed and enjoyed such as moon cakes.

DSC_0033 Moon Festival table

Our Moon Festival display included: a compote holding two moon cakes (harmony, unity) and pitahaya halves, a bowl of water to capture the reflection of the moon, apples (fertility), grapes (fertility), peanuts (good health, abundance), Jin Chan, a three-legged toad (wealth), red hibiscus (life, good luck), brass incense holder, candles, and a scroll painting of Chang-o, Chinese goddess of the Moon.

One and a half months in the making, our pitahaya was a very propitious sign for success in the coming year and at this time of the Mid-Autumn Festival, we wish all of our friends good health and happiness!*

The Super Blood Moon was also a propitious sign in that for a moment it caught the world’s attention and imagination, and hopefully, as people gazed at the beauty and wonder of the moon, they imagined a world living in peace!*

DSC_0025 Moon cakes & pitahaya fruit

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Author’s Update:

Please see my latest update in my post, “Spring flowers, leaves and end of life options,” about the End of Life Option Act and its passage through the California Legislature and signature into law by Governor Brow on Monday, October 5, 2015!

Posted in Flowers, Food, Larry, Night photos, Politics, Wildlife | 2 Comments