Saturday, March 31, 2012

Family Memories

My long overdue trip to visit my brother this past week had motives beyond touching base with him. We had not seen each other since our father's funeral three and a half years ago. We had gathered, before Dad died, stories of his life as he told them to us. I've meant to get them organized, typed and sent to Bob for additions and corrections, but never seem to be able to get started. (It's been easier and more fun to write this blog.)

We had decided to add memories of our childhood at Dad's many Air Force duty stations, so I took a notebook with me to Escondido and asked Bob to tell me what he remembered about our childhood. He, being five years older than I, remembered more and earlier tales. Now I will type those memories up and send them to Bob for additions/corrections. Then I'll incorporate them into Dad's life story. At least, that's the plan.

It was interesting to hear Bob's version of events that I remembered but from a viewpoint five years younger. How different our versions often were!

I remember that Mom was incensed when Bob took me, of kindergarten age, on a rickety raft in a swamp when we lived in San Rafael, California. Mom was incensed because I could have fallen off and drowned. What Bob remembered was getting in trouble for getting our clothes dirty!

The only way I can keep dates straight is to remember which state we lived in when I was in what grade. Bob remembers by what car Mom and Dad owned at the time.

As well as pulling stories out of my brother, I timed my visit around the engagement party of their son Rob to a young woman, Sabrina, whom I had not met before. Last Sunday, Elladine drove the three of us (Bob, Elladine and me) to Redlands where Sabrina's family lives. Her mom and sister had planned and hosted the party at their home. It had a black and white theme and most everyone arrived wearing black and white, as suggested. I had not come prepared so settled for black and gray.

My brother, to fulfill the theme in his own way, wore one white sock and one black sock. That gave everyone a good laugh and a funny memory for Rob and Sabrina at the beginning of their journey together through life.

It was a warm and friendly party with Rob and Sabrina's friends and families plus lots of food. Sabrina's mom had created a scrapbook with photos of both of them through the years and room for photos from this party. Here they are posing for Sabrina's sister who was taking pictures for that scrapbook.

Rob won't realize it yet, but the memoir of his grandfather, for whom he is named, with his father and aunt's childhood memories included, will help both him and Sabrina understand how Rob's father grew to be the person he is and how that influenced Rob himself. Or it will if I ever get it finished...

Friday, March 30, 2012

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Until recently called the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the Safari Park is 1800 acres devoted to African and Asian animals and is near Escondido, not San Diego. My brother has lived in San Diego or Escondido ever since graduating from college so I've had many opportunities to visit the Park. I love going there, although it was more fun when the lines were not so long. On Saturday, March 24, we waited in a slow line to get into the Park, a quicker but longer line to get into the Butterfly Jungle, and a very long slow line to ride the tram around the Heart of Africa. But the weather was pleasant and the animals and plants, as always, fascinating.

We started our tour with the Butterfly Jungle, which opens each year for just a few weeks. This year it opened the day we visited, March 24. Thirty species of butterflies, hundreds of them, flit about the Hidden Jungle (an aviary the rest of the year), resting on the colorful flowers and often on the visitors.

Giant Owl Butterflies were the most numerous. Here they are decorating a tree. They have rather somber colors until they spread their wings. The top side is a brilliant blue, much bluer than this photo would suggest.

After leaving the Butterfly Jungle, we visited the Okapi exhibit. Looking like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra, the Okapi lives in African rain forests where its coloring helps camouflage it. The Park says the bright stripes on its butt also help calves keep sight of their mothers as they follow them through the dense jungle. Each Okapi's stripe pattern is unique. Like a giraffe, they have a long, prehensile tongue to pick their favorite leaves, as this one is trying to do below.

Gerenuks used to be at the Oregon Wildlife Center where I survey raptors in the winter months. But the Gerenuks were not happy with Oregon's cold winters so returned to warmer climes. These fragile looking animals from semi-arid regions of East Africa almost never need to drink water... not a plus in rainy Oregon! They are doing well at the Safari Park. I love watching them stand on those impossibly slender legs to reach tree leaves and treats.

The Park had birds big enough (and close enough) for the pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera I'd borrowed from Johnny. Here are an African Crane and a Black-crowned Night Heron. The heron may be a wild bird freeloading at the zoo. It was well-camouflaged just a few feet from the trail.

Below is an Abyssinian Ground Hornbill that strutted about and scolded loudly to protect its mate on a nest in the cave nearby.

This African Tortoise was entertaining a small crowd of people in one of the grassy areas where zoo personnel give talks with and about various animal ambassadors. The tortoise kept wandering off and had to be carried back to center stage.

On our way to the tram ride around the Heart of Africa, we saw two Cheetahs feasting on meaty bones. Cheetah Run is a new attraction at the Park, but we didn't stay late enough in the evening to watch. Instead, I watched it on the Park's website: Behind the feasting Cheetah in the photo below you can see another way to see the Park, a bit more expensive: take a safari truck into the Heart of Africa and feed a giraffe.

We opted for the included-in-price-of-admission tram ride. I liked the soft gray African Wild Asses.

We crept past a new baby giraffe, still in the nursery pen with its mother and auntie and barely visible in the distant shadows. It is lying down to the left of the right-most giraffe.

After the tram ride we began our hike up Condor Ridge, where I always want to see the Condors on exhibit. But on the way, we stopped to admire the papa lion at his favorite siesta spot, on top of an abandoned vehicle. His harem was sleeping on the ground below and right of him, looking like large brown rocks.

The view from Condor Ridge shows how extensive the Park is and only a fraction of it can be seen even from up here. The portion above and beyond the Condor flight cage is being restored to its natural state... full of desert plants... to give the native fauna a home.

For one reason or another, these Condors in their large flight cage cannot be set free. Every once in awhile, one would unfurl those over-8-feet-when-spread wings and fly across the cage.

Most of the Park is kept watered and green and flowering. It is a beautiful place to stroll through, large enough to not be crowded on the paths.

My brother and his wife are planning to move to Colorado, to be closer to their daughter and grandson and Elladine's sister and her children and grandchildren. My brother has Parkinson's Disease and Elladine anticipates needing help with care-giving eventually. It is about the same distance from our farm to Colorado as it is to Escondido so I will have no farther to travel to visit Bob and Elladine... but I'm glad I had my San Diego Zoo Safari Park fix this year.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Escondido in Photos

Beautiful weather, beautiful flowers, many birds: that's Escondido in March. I didn't have a camera suitable for bird photos but I took many flower photos. The Bougainvillea were in full bloom everywhere. Tangelo trees held ripe fruit and sweet-scented flowers all over my brother and his wife's neighborhood. And what a beautiful neighborhood! A county park is within easy walking distance... and I walked to it every chance I got.

Bob and Elladine have an acre and a half full of citrus trees, flowers, lovely home and swimming pool... and Elladine's beloved Ralphie the buffalo at pool side, posing with Elladine below. Right above Ralphie is a Mourning Dove on a nest in the eaves of their garage. She nests there every year and successfully brings off young'uns.

Bob is smelling the flowers on one of their tangelo trees. You don't really have to get that close. They have many tangelos and the air is perfumed with their fragrance.

Mockingbirds sang non-stop every day I was there. This was the best I could do for a photo. I never did get a picture of the Black Phoebe that hung out in their yard.

This bougainvillea hedge on one of our daily walks was beyond belief. I let Bob and Elladine go ahead so my photo would give a sense of how immense this hedge was.

The original inhabitants of the area were Kumeyuay Indians. They have erected signs along one of the paths at nearby Felicita County Park telling about their traditions.

Here are some scenes from areas of the park that may look much like they did when the Kumeyuay were the only human inhabitants. Lizards loved these boulders. So did I. And oh those lovely palm trees...

Not quite as close to Bob and Elladine's house as Felicita Park, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, now called Safari Park, is nonetheless a very short drive from Escondido. It is one of my favorite places and one they always take me to when I visit. We spent a beautiful day there on Saturday.

Next up: The Safari Park.

My Flight to San Diego in Photos

Johnny's little camera came with me on my trip to visit my brother and his wife in Escondido, California, since mine would have been too awkward to carry around. As always, I claimed a window seat in the plane. Usually when I fly, all I see are clouds. But this time, the skies were clear, or nearly clear, most of the way. I took a jillion photos.

When I left home early morning on Thursday, March 22, there was snow on the ground at our farm and flakes were gently falling. The snow had started (again) the day before and was on the ground all the way driving to Portland. At the airport, there was a dusting but most had melted. I flew Alaska Airlines in a plane just like this one.

As we climbed higher, the snow beyond the warmth of airport tarmac was obvious. Soon snowy mountains appeared. I couldn't believe the ground was still visible with few clouds to obscure my view.

But the earth did, for a time, disappear below the highest cloud layer. I am always amazed at the sharp division between brilliant blue sky and white cloud blanket below.

As we reached the Oregon-California border (near as I could tell), the ground reappeared and stayed visible all the way to San Diego. I was transfixed by the changing landscapes below.

San Diego is a city of palm trees. These are all in the airport parking lot! Although the temperature (60's F) was cool for this time of year in San Diego county, it was most definitely warmer (and drier) than back home in Oregon. And look at that blue sky!

Next up: Escondido.