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

A pitahaya summer interlude

(Updated July 25, 2015)

It began with the waxing of the Full Buck Moon.*

DSC_0003 Pitahaya flower bud

It was almost like praying.

Our White-fleshed pitahaya, Hylocereus undatus, began to send a bud towards the heavens as it did last August under the Full Sturgeon Moon.*

DSC_0005 Pitahaya reaching into the heavens

DSC_0012 Plants' quest for fulfillment

It reached up in its quest for fulfillment.  At dusk, it began to open its outer petals…

DSC_0013 Pitahaya bloom begins

… revealing its glistening white, seductive inner petals.

DSC_0015 Pitahaya evening bloom

Over 20 pale yellow stigma lobes extended outward to catch pollen that will travel down through the style to the ovary.

DSC_0022 Pitahaya night bloom profile

These flowers have as many as 800 pollen-producing anthers on stamens.**

DSC_0017 Pitahaya's ecstatic bloom

Sometimes called Dragon fruit or Belle of the Night,* this species of plants seems to mysteriously know when the moon is about to be full as the most opportune time to exhibit its spectacular floral displays that will attract and excite moths and bats and enhance fertilization.

DSC_0026 800 stamens & 1 stigma

The bloom lingered open during the early morning hours presenting additional opportunities for honeybees to gather pollen and pollinate the flower, as happened last year.

DSC_0087 Pitahaya & honey bees

DSC_0046 Pitahaya's last call for bees

But this time, no bees came, so I used a small brush to pollinate the pitahaya flower…*

DSC_0027 Pitahaya's swan song

… just before its swan song.* (The blossoms last only one night in Southern California.)

DSC_0007 Pitahaya blooms's death

Hopefully, this year’s first bloom will yield fruit that we can enjoy picking and eating.*

DSC_0130 Pitahaya fruit

DSC_0169 White-fleshed Pitahaya

Update, July 25, 2015

Alas, my attempt to use a small brush to pollinate the pitahaya flower seen at the beginning of this post failed, and since there were no bees present to do the job, this Belle of the Night flower dried up and fell off yielding no fruit.

However, the joy that I felt as this flower reached up for the heavens and opened fully under the bright full moon for only one precious night lingers in my memory and reminds me of the importance of being present in the moment and cherishing the beauty around me.

DSC_0025 Pitahaya bloom 2015

Additional information: How to grow pitahaya (dragon fruit).*

Additional inspiration:  The Great Bell Chant and Ode to Joy and Simply the Best!

Author’s note: Please see my latest update in my post, “Spring flowers, leaves and end of life options,” on the progress of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, as it makes its way through the California Legislature (currently stalled, but not dead!).

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

** Pitahaya: A Promising New Fruit Crop for Southern California, Paul H. Thomson, produced by Leo W. Manuel, 2002.

Posted in Flowers, Meditations

A night-blooming interlude

Magic energy seemed to be in the cool night air on the eve of summer solstice as our night-blooming cereus opened its flower buds…

DSC_0476 Cereus bud and flowers

Revealing its stamens and stigma…

DSC_0496 Cereus stamens & stigma

Six blooms opened at the same time…

DSC_0482 Six cereus blooms

Adding grace, beauty, and a sweet fragrance…

DSC_0491 Cereus grace & beauty

To our backyard garden and our outdoor kitchen.

DSC_0487 Our backyard patio garden

This night-blooming cereus is Epiphyllum oxypetalum, Queen of the Night,* and its blooms last only one night and close at sunrise (See time lapse*).

DSC_0514 Blooms last one night

The flowers are white but seem to change colors depending on lighting conditions.  Sometimes flowers seem to change colors before our very eyes.*

DSC_0470 blooms reflecting colors

The night-blooming cereus adds a touch of peace and serenity to our garden, which enhances enjoyment, relaxation and meditation.*

DSC_0477 Cereus serenity

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Author’s note: Please see my latest update in my post, “Spring flowers, leaves and end of life options,” on the progress of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, as it makes its way through the California Legislature.

Posted in Flowers, Meditations | 4 Comments

Space gleanings

“The fourth pebble represents space, space that is within me and around me,” says Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.  See his “Pebbles Meditation” in his book, A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles.  “Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free.”  See and hear “Pebble for your pocket meditation.”*

DSC_0450 Four pebbles

DSC_0184 Coffee meditations & illuminations

Author Cynthia Rich, wrote about her meditations on what she calls “Clear Space” in her Dharma Gleanings post of October 30, 2013:

“Yesterday, once more in a coffee shop, I experienced a variation of what I was aware of in meditation the other day (October 23, 2013). I think it is more and more how I am experiencing people in general, but quiet times of practice—and I do practice in coffee shops—bring it to the fore. Instead of buddha nature, which has potentially sentimental reverberations, I saw that everyone in that shop had access—whether they knew it or not—to what I named the Clear Space. The Clear Space is the place within each of us that is peaceful awareness and discernment, the place that sees, that is never touched or diminished by distresses, confusion, doubts, despairs. I was gladdened and relieved to see how obviously that was so—I didn’t need to imagine them awakened or see evidence of it in the now. It was simply a fact…  my experience of Clear Space tells me that it has no boundaries—that’s how I know it’s Clear Space and not ego—so if that is what Clear Space is, other people’s Clear Space has no boundaries either.”

Physical space also appears to us to have no boundaries, especially when we are camping under the stars.

DSC_0081 Camping under the stars 1

DSC_0089 Camping under the moonWe just look up and see and feel infinity, such as here in the mountains. Or when we take our Airstream trailer out to the desert and on clear nights experience a whole sky filled with stars or the desert floor and mountains lit up by brilliant moonlight.

DSC_0125 Airstream under desert stars

DSC_0170 Base camp under the stars

On warm nights, we love to lean back and gaze at the wonderment of the heavens…

DSC_0173 Stargazing

Or perhaps make a wish upon a star.*  I wished or perhaps dreamed that the craft’s vertical thrusters were about to be engaged and send the Airstream into space.

DSC_0180 Airstream under the stars

DSC_0185 Airstream lift off

DSC_0189 Airstream joining the stars

As we got into Earth orbit, I thought I saw Stephen Hawking fly by in a wheelchair.*

DSC_0207 Airstream in black space

And it was cool to hear Chris Hadfield sing Space Oddity* at the space station.

As we continued orbiting, we opened our curtains, turned on our lotus light and connected with the cosmos, or as some would say, kosmos.

DSC_0085 Airstream lotus light

And I thought I heard the bell mentioned in The Great Bell Chant,* by Thich Nhat Hanh: “May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the kosmos, even in the darkest spots, living beings are able to hear it clearly, so that all suffering in them ceases, understanding comes to their hearts, and they transcend the path of sorrow and death.”

Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me** because I believe* in the bell, clear space, and heaven.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**This is a link to a YouTube video.  The full quote, “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe,” is the last sentence in the book The Polar Express, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1985.

Author’s note: Please see the update in my post, “Spring flowers, leaves and end of life options,” on the progress of SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, as it makes its way through the California Legislature.

Posted in Meditations, Night photos, Our Safari

A crow and squirrel interlude

For the past eight years, we’ve been entertained by abundant ground squirrels looking for food as we camped on the bluff overlooking South Carlsbad State BeachCalifornia ground squirrels live in burrows that they excavate and spend most of their time within 82 feet of their burrow.

DSC_0022 Ocean, bluff & squirrels

DSC_0046 Squirrel & burrow entrance

Ground squirrels forage close to their burrows, usually on plants and seeds,* but in this setting, they aggressively beg or search for food from campers.

DSC_0011 Squirrel looking for food

We keep our dog food storage box secure with a bungee cord.  The South Carlsbad State Beach brochure states, “SQUIRRELS/WILDLIFE: Do not feed them to avoid disease, overpopulation and property damage.”

Squirrels themselves can become prey to other animals such as hawks, ravens and crows, so they have learned to be vigilant.  The one below has a favorite lookout post on the windblown bushes (Melaleuca nesophila) that provided privacy for our campsite.  Larry saw a crow fly off with a small squirrel* held in its beak.

DSC_0035 Vigilant CA ground squirrel

This season we saw fewer young squirrels and more crows and this phenomenon seems to be related and was captured by my camera as I took photos of birds soaring by, such as pelicans, seagulls, and crows.

DSC_0295 Crow flyby along bluff

An American crow* glided by and noticed a squirrel just outside its burrow.  This crow abruptly changed course and and turned toward the squirrel on the bluff.

DSC_0284 Crow spots squirrel & burrow

DSC_0294 Crow turns abruptly

The crow dive-bombed the squirrel below.

DSC_0298 Crow dives

DSC_0290 Crow approaches prey

But each time the crow approached, the squirrel quickly withdrew into its burrow.

DSC_0289 Squirrel withdraws into burrow

This flight dance repeated several times until they both realized that it was a standoff.

DSC_0293 Crow and squirrel standoff

So the crow flew off  and continued its search for food.

DSC_0299 Crow flys off

All was calm at sunset on the bluff and I suspect that the squirrel was cozy and sleeping well in its burrow, and perhaps dreaming about the day’s excitement as a slow gypsy dance.*

DSC_0171 Peaceful bluff at sunset

*This is a YouTube video.


Posted in Ocean, Wildlife

Ocean gleanings

We can see the Pacific Ocean from our house on the San Diego coast but we can not hear or see its waves.  So to round out our camping season, we pull our Airstream Safari on a 45-minute drive up the coast to South Carlsbad State Beach where we join the squirrels in watching and listening to the soothing, continuous waves.*

DSC_0022 Ocean, bluff & squirrels

The trailer gets unhitched on the bluff, 50 feet above the waves.

DSC_0315 Airstream Safari on bluff

Brown pelicans sail by on the updraft of sea breezes.

DSC_0066 Pelicans soaring

Pelicans also use the updraft of incoming waves.

DSC_0057 Pelicans soaring above surf

The ocean sustains life, such as the Whimbrel feeding off the surface.

DSC_0304 Wimbrel feeding

The ocean also provides small fish, the primary food for the great blue heron.

DSC_0218 Great Blue heron

The ocean beckoned me to come closer and a stairway led me to the beach.

DSC_0149 Stairway to the beach

Walking along the beach is living in the present.

DSC_0053 Footsteps along the beach

I thought about the preciousness of life and how each of us can make a difference.  I thought about the Starfish Story (aka The Star Thrower),* about a boy picking up stranded starfish on the beach and throwing them back into the ocean.

DSC_0042 Throwing the 'starfish' back

A man walked nearby and asked the boy what he was doing.  The boy explained that the sun was rising and the tide was going out and he’s throwing them back in so they won’t die.  The man replied that there were too many of them for him to make a difference.

DSC_0043 It made a difference

As the boy threw another starfish back, he replied, “I made a difference to that one.”

Sunrises and sunsets are indeed inspiring and wonderful to share.

DSC_0018 Sunset stroll

They provide a special moment to contemplate the mysteries and celebrations of life…

DSC_0108 Sunset at the beach

and my thoughts led me back to the ocean…

DSC_0075 There will always be the ocean

and to Cynthia Rich’s words in her “Dharma Gleanings” blog entry of June 22, 2014:

“Here’s what my memory loss feels like to me. It’s as though I now know that there has always been within me—or accessible to me—this rich, amazing ocean filled with swimming fish of all different shapes, sizes, colors, swaying coral, green algae. I scoop down as I always have to capture one of the fishes just long enough to look at it closely before I release it. The difference in these years is that the fish often wriggles off beyond my sight before I can catch it or perhaps even name it. What my process of awakening has made clear to me is that there are endless, innumerable fish with glittering scales and swishing fins in that ocean of impermanence, and there is no need to attach to this particular one. Instead, as the fish I had looked for slips away, I experience the deeper enjoyment that springs from gratitude for the ocean itself, for the endless energy of endlessly diverse life.

And even when I can no longer see the diverse life, there will always be the ocean, primal, still, deep, welcoming.”

And then I thought about Thich Nhat Hanh’s words while looking deeply at the ocean waves, as they seem to be born a ways out and then die on the beach, but really illustrate the concept of no death, no fear.

No Death, No Fear – Thich Nhat Hanh, Part 74*

DSC_0133 Waves, no death, no fear

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Meditations, Ocean, Wildlife

A Rio Grande turkey interlude

As mentioned in my previous post, our mountain campsite was in a secluded area of William Heise County Park, where we were close to nature.  We spent 5 days here and it seemed like the surrounding wildlife became more comfortable with us as each day passed.

DSC_0068 Our mountain campsite

On our fourth day, late in the afternoon, I decided to do some reading and writing on the picnic table in back of the trailer.  I scattered some wild bird seed on a nearby log and rock wall and had my camera with me just in case some interesting birds came by, such as the Steller’s jay seen in my last post.  After about 15 minutes, I looked up and was surprised by an appearance of a Rio Grande tom (male) turkey, who gave me the hairy eye ball.

DSC_0220 Gave me the hairy eyeball

His front displayed an impressive beard and a set of bright red caruncles to attract females.  He saw me and decided to come around the log for a closer look.  This profile view revealed the vibrant array of glistening feather colors and the snood, the fleshy protuberance just above the beak.

DSC_0221 coming to check me out

I continued to sit still while holding my Nikon D40 as we continued to stare at each other just a few feet apart.

DSC_0223 One more hairy eyeball

Tom finally decided that it was safe to feed, which began a wonderful 40-minute photo opportunity.

DSC_0247 Feeding time

After a few minutes, I was doubly surprised when Tom’s two hens came out from the bushes and started feeding on the seed by the log and nearby wall.

DSC_0272 Tom's two hens

Tom hopped up on the log and we both had a feeling of being on top of the world.*

DSC_0282 Tom on the log

A happy time was had by all as the turkeys feasted while I photographed.  After 100 photos, I just set the camera down and admired them… it was a very special moment.

DSC_0393 Turkeys foraging for seed

Tom finally nodded his head to me, as if to say, “Goodbye,” and led his entourage of hens away into the bushes.

DSC_0420 Tom led hens away

This left me with a feeling of awe and reminded me that there is something very special about turkeys* and all of nature, which reminds me to chill out and enjoy the moment.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Posted in Mountains, Wildlife | 2 Comments