Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Prado

The Prado reflecting in the still waters of the lilly pond, Balboa Park, San Diego, California.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

But for the Grace of God

Turnagain Pass, Alaska.

I was filling gas at the gas station today when a young lady of perhaps 25 years came up and asked for a dollar. Now, I've heard all the stories about how the "bums" cook up stories to get money without working and then use it for liquor and drugs. In fact, a friend at work takes every opportunity to remind me not to give money to beggars. Of course, those stories typically go in one ear, swish around in that empty skull of mine, and then out the other ear.

The girl had long brown hair, sad brown eyes and the most worn out tennis shoes I had seen in a really long time. She looked so bedraggled you could not help but feel horribly sorry for her. Still, in spite of it all, she looked truly embarrassed to be asking for money. I know I would be embarrassed asking for money but most beggars are quite bland to the act. She was different.

I somehow managed to stuble out, "What happened to you? How did you get here?" Poorly phrased but she understood. She explained that she had come to San Diego from New Hampshire for a job in a restaurant. The job lasted all of 6 weeks before the restaurant closed down and she was jobless and moneyless. An uncle was mailing her bus money to get home.

Now, I don't know if it was true or not. I'll never know. However, it felt true and I have a decent feel for honest people. Perhaps, sometimes you need to go with your gut. So I ran off to get change and gave her a dollar...and off she went in an embarrassed-to-be-here kind of way. Had she let me finish filling gas, I would have bought her dinner and maybe even a bus ticket home but she was gone in a blink of an eye. I could only think that this recession has been hard on the most vulnerable among us and that, but for the grace of God, that girl could be any of us. Good parents, great schools versus abusive parents and flunking out of bad schools... Why us? Call it fate, call it luck, call it grace or anything else...but for that bit of circumstance, whatever the cause, that gird could have been any one of us.

I don't think a dollar goes very far these days. I found myself wishing I'd given her more. Still, if nothing else, this dollar bought a little bit of extra perspective. But for the grace of God... Besides, even if I was hood-winked (and my gut says no, this wasn't a con-job), the perspective was well worth it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lotus Blossom

Lotus Blossom in the pond in front of the Aboretum, Balboa Park, San Diego, California. They don't bloom for long but they are certainly dramatic while they last.

The Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin was said to have descended in a lotus blossom, as she came to relieve suffering. Kwan Yin is often seen with a water jar in her right hand and a willow branch in her left. Her crown may often have the figure of the Amitabha Buddha, her teacher before she reached nirvana.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spanish Village Art Galleries

Spanish Village Art Galleries, Balboa Park, San Diego, California. I really enjoyed how they painted the tiles in the Spanish Village in Balboa Park. It is totally cheerful and really livens the place up, easily complementing the myriad hues of the paintings, art glass, pottery and sculpture!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley, Hawaii. Alas, this is what I think of when I think of Hawaii. Lush green valleys with gentle showers and light breezes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kilauea is Erupting! What Better Time to Go See the Lava?

Images of the ongoing Kilauea Volcano Eruption from USGS! If you've ever wanted to see a volcano erupt in relative safety, now's your chance. As we speak, the lava in encroaching on old Kalapana town (as if it wasn't enough to lose the lovely black sand beach...). If you do decide to visit, consider setting up your exploration HQ at Mele Kohola, well away from the lava flow but just a mere 20-30 minute drive up the coast!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Amazing Facades at the Casa Del Prado

Close-up of the facade over the Casa Del Prado Theater, Balboa Park, San Diego, California. The Prado was built for the World Fair; however, it's amazing buildings with their intricate and fragile facades have managed to survive the test of time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus, Balboa Park. The Monarch is a milkweed butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. The Monarch migrates seasonally, spending its Summers in Mexico and the Southern U.S.

Monday, July 19, 2010

One in a 100,000

Albino Red Slider Turtle. The owner said albinos occur in turtles at a rate of one per 100,000. It's a beautiful creature although it would probably have great difficulty surviving in the wild. In case you looked close at the picture, this nice-sized red slider is sitting on a huge water turtle and that "rock" is really a turtle shell!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Baby Leopard Tortoise

Baby Leopard Tortoise, Geochelone pardalis. Leopard Tortoises, the fourth largest land tortoise, are native to the Eastern and South African Savannah. They have extremely hard shells to protect them against predators such as lions. This baby Leopard Tortoise is about 6 months old.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Feather Dancers

Feather Dancers, Pride, San Diego, California.


Gongora rufescens. This Gongora is quite fragrant so when it blooms, you'll smell it throughout the greenhouse (whether you actually see the flowers or not!). It's actually quite showy up close and is a moderately easy grower as long as you can keep the temperature up above around 50F.

The Genus Gongora was named after Antonio Caballero y Gongora, a viceroy of New Granada (Colombia and Ecuador) and the governor of Peru during the Ruiz and Pavón botanical expedition.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just a Little Echinopsis...

Easter Cactus, Echinopsis oxygona? I found this lovely little plant looking all alone at Armstrong Nursery and, behold, it had two buds on it as well (not to mention about 12 pups!!)! Alas, the willpower caved in and, with a little help from the credit card, this Echinopsis is now part of the Wayward cacti collection. There was a little tag on it that said Easter Cacti (although it is blooming completely out of season). Still, these are always quite a statement, no matter what time of year they bloom!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If You Like Orange...

Trichocereus in full bloom! I wait for this one with anticipation. The flowers only last a day or two so if you're not there...poof and they're gone.

Orange Orchids!

Prosthechea vitellina, an orchid native to Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua in oak and pine forest at about 4500 to 8000 ft. They tend to grow cool and like good air circulation. Ironically, they grow fine outside here in San Diego, particularly if you live near the ocean. However, if you lock them up in a greenhouse and keep them nice and toasty/humid, they die off in no time. Yes, some orchids like it hot and some NOT. If you can grow this little beauty, it is worth the hassle for it's long lasting, waxy orange and yellow flowers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Matilija Poppy, Backlit

Matilija Poppy, Romneya coulteri, Mission Trails Park. These flowers are gorgeous from above and, as shown, below as well. The backlighting brings out the crepe paper texture and purity of these flowers. The plants are not very common, largely because the seeds require fire to be able to germinate. As humans have been effectively putting out wildfires for some time, it has likely taken its toll on these awesome plants. They are a tad sensitive when they are young but once established will rapidly take over an area as they spread through runners.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Butterfly Days

Pieris rapae, also known as the "Small White" or the Small Cabbage White. I found this one fluttering around my Cardomom (several plants of the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the ginger family Zingiberaceae) and, when it paused for a rest, I snuck in there for a few shots with the Nikon. Nothing rare, these butterflies are native to Europe and North Africa and have managed to become a minor pest on cabbages and cabbage-related plants worldwide. Even so, they are beautiful in an understated manner and generally not a problem in my, mostly cabbage-free yard.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Heliconia angusta. This Heliconia is native to Mexico, rather than Central and South America like its showier cousins, and therefore is one of the only Heliconia that will grow outdoors in San Diego, tolerating temperatures down close to freezing. I planted these, as well as bird of paradise, to use as cut flowers as they last for weeks in a vase and months if you leave them on the plant! As for color, they're hard to beat!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

River Otters

River Otters playing in the water. This one looks has a bit of a sour look.

River otters are members of the weasel family, and live and breed in burrows close to the water's edge.

African Spoonbill

African Spoonbill, Platalea alba. The African Spoonbill is native to African and Madagascar where it lives in marshy wetlands and nests in colonies in trees.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Blue-capped Cordon-bleu

Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Uraeginthus cyanocephalus. Just when you thought cordon-blue was a chicken dish, out comes this adorable little blue finch. Blue is not the most common color in the natural world so this little finch, in a wonderful baby blue, is all the more special. For the record, cyano is blue and cephalus is head; so, basically, this is a blue headed Uraeginthus finch. These are native to Eastern Africa where they live on seeds and insects.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wide Eyed Fascination

Infant touching a replica of a mammoth molar at the new elephant exhibit at the San Diego Zoo [I think that docent has the best voluneer job ever!]. Do you remember when you were still wide-eyed about the world and every day was a new adventure? When do we lose that fascination with the world and stop looking and observing? When does everything get a label and get tossed into a bin? Is it too late to see the world as a fascinating place full over endless variation and wonder? Never too late.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Newly Hatched Flamingo

Newly Hatched Carribean Flamingo, also known as the American Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber, with mother looking on. The females have been patiently sitting on huge mud nests that they scraped together with their beaks. All that work finally paid off with a new crop of hatchlings!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Aliens Invade San Diego?

Aliens Invade San Diego? ID that Alien for bragging rights. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

What did YOU do on 4th of July weekend?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Tree Bark Teddy

Tree Bark Teddy. Sometimes you find really cool patterns in tree bark! This one looks like a teddy bear.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Drunk Bunny?

Drunk Bunny? Someone wrote DUI on this bunny's ear! How undignified... This was the #2 youth bunny in class at the San Diego County Fair and what a beautiful bunny it is!