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

End of summer flowers, fruit, and promises

(Updated October 5, 2015:  I am happy to announce that today Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s End of Life Option Act, which now becomes law!  See note below.)

Last month, our newly acquired Peruvian Apple Cactus cutting surprised us with a spectacular bloom, as seen in my last post, A Peruvian Apple Cactus interlude.  A few weeks later we were delighted to see an explosion of blooms on its sister cutting across the pond.

DSC_0439 Three more cactus blooms

DSC_0204 Cactus blooms across the pond

The blooms slowly opened in the late afternoon, revealing its many stamens that will yield pollen from its anthers, which will hopefully pollinate the style’s stigma.

DSC_0214 Stamens and style

DSC_0469 Anthers and stamens

The flowers burst fully open after the sun set, bringing a magical feeling to our backyard!

DSC_0229 Night bloom by pond

DSC_0223 Peruvian Apple Cactus bloom

Meanwhile, the festivities continued again when our Pitahaya cactus, Hylocereus undatus, (seen in my posting, A pitahaya summer interlude) sent up four gorgeous flower buds.

DSC_0385 Pitahaya bloom

This time the bees came* and the flower was successfully pollinated!

DSC_0397 Pitahaya pollinating bee

DSC_0351 Pollination by bee

DSC_0422 Pitahaya pollination bee

The pollen has reached the ovary and the promise of glorious Indian summer fruit is being realized and hopefully ready for harvesting by September’s Full Harvest Moon,* which occurs this year on September 27, along with a Super Blood Moon eclipse!

DSC_0530 Pitahaya fruit

As this fruit has been ripening, I’ve been doing my end of summer reading with a focus on Joe Biden’s memoir, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, a riveting and moving account of the author’s life up to the beginning of his 2008 presidential campaign when his wife Jill said during a family meeting, “We think you can unite the country… We think you’re the best person to pull the country together.”  In the Prologue, Joe fondly recalls his father, Joseph Robinette Biden Sr.,** “He didn’t judge a man by how many times he got knocked down but by how fast he got up…  Get up! That was his phrase, and it has echoed through my life.”  The book ends with another quote from Jill, “You’re going to give it your best shot… And you’re going to go out there and run for the right reasons, and tell people why you should be president… and we’ll be okay.” ***

DSC_0155 Joe Biden, Promises To Keep

*This is a YouTube video.

**This is a CBS News video.

***Promises To Keep: On Life and Politics, Joe Biden, Random House Trade Paperback Edition, New York, 2008

Author’s note:

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, 2016.

Compassion & Choices says:

“California is now the fifth U.S. state to authorize aid in dying, and by far the biggest and most influential. This achievement will resonate throughout our country, and inspire other states to follow suit.

At the foundation of this remarkable moment is the support of you and other C&C donors. People from all walks of life have joined together to transform our nation’s understanding of death with dignity, and have raised the ruckus necessary to break down barriers that have kept options from so many.

While we celebrate, we also recognize the fight is far from over. Our opponents are furious at their loss and will use every trick in the book to overturn the will of the people. We need your support today to defend this law, and our movement, with every ounce of our considerable strength.”

Additional information can be seen on Compassion & Choices’ California webpage.

Posted in Flowers, Night photos, Politics

A Peruvian Apple Cactus interlude

(Updated August 20, 2015)

We were surprised to see a flower bud because just two months earlier we had placed Peruvian Apple Cactus cuttings into large planters filled with a homemade cactus planting mix containing potting soil, coir, perlite and sand.

DSC_0049 Peruvian Apple Cactus bud

Per Wikipedia, the Peruvian Apple Cactus,* Cereus repandus (aka Cereus peruvianus), is a large, erect, thorny, columnar cactus that has flowers that remain open for one night only and yield an edible and tasty fruit.*

The first flower bud opening began with August’s Full Sturgeon Moon.*  By late afternoon, the first of its pure white inner petals could be seen.  It seemed so happy and eager to surge forth and display its beauty to the world and, in particular, to the night’s moths and bats and to the morning’s bees that would hopefully come to gather pollen.

DSC_0052 Peruvian Apple Cactus bud close-up

At nightfall, I gathered up my tripod, headlamp, and camera to record the event.

DSC_0059 Full bloom for full moon

The headlamp was too bright, so I took it off, moved it away, and brought over a candle lantern that added a yellow, softer light in our backyard garden patio.  It became a happy, magical moment and even the nearby tiki seemed happy to watch my antics.

DSC_0084 Cactus bloom, lantern & tiki

This softer combination of light helped the Peruvian Apple Cactus show off its lovely, seductive, natural beauty.

DSC_0097 Peruvian Apple Cactus bloom

Hundreds of dancing stamens holding pollen laden anthers surround the stigma seen in the lower right, which receives and transports pollen to the ovary.

DSC_0100 Peruvian cactus bloom close-up

This cactus is self-fertile and to increase the chances for pollination, I used a small, soft brush to move pollen onto the stigma.  Once the deed was done, I noticed that others were also here watching and smiling, such as Guan Yin, Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.

DSC_0103 Our smiling Kuan Yin

Guan Yin is often shown wearing a white, flowing robe (symbol of purity) and holding a vase of life-sustaining water.  Guan Yin is seen in our garden riding on a Chinese guardian lion, and in the house, riding on a Chinese dragon.

DSC_0108 Kuan Yin rides guardian lion

DSC_0198 Guan Yin riding Chinese dragon

(Hear and see a Kuan Yin meditation*)

After the night’s celebration under the full moon, the exhausted flower closed in the morning.

DSC_0132 Morning closure of cactus bloom

I was glad that I assisted with the flower’s pollination because no bees were seen that morning.  And I was thrilled a few days later when the flower fell off and I saw the beginnings of a fruit, but saddened later in the week when the fruit fell off.

DSC_0166 Fallen flower, growing cactus fruit

The spectacular beauty of this flower blooming for only one precious night reminded me of the impermanence of life and of the importance of appreciating and celebrating the flowers* and returning to the present moment,* and being in touch with the wonders of life.*

*This is a YouTube video.

Author’s notes:

  1. Please see my latest update in my post, “Spring flowers, leaves and end of life options,” on the progress of the End of Life Option Act, as it makes its way through the California Legislature.  I am happy to report that on August 18 this legislation has been reintroduced in a special session of the California Legislature as Assembly Bill X2-15 (ABX2-15). Additional information can be seen on Compassion & Choices‘ web page.

2.  Oh, and there’s just one more thing… a YouTube video:  I’m Ridin with Biden!*

Posted in Flowers, Meditations, Night photos