A Day at Safari Park

When I first moved to San Diego, and my children were little, I had heard about San Diego’s “world-famous zoo” and how magnificent it was. And, true to its word and reputation, I found it to be a really spectacular zoo. If you visit, it’s not to be missed.

But, if you venture a ways out of town, heading north on Interstate 15 to Escondido, you’ll discover the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The two zoos are related, as both are operated by a not-for-profit organization. But while the zoo comprises 100 acres and is home to over 3,700 rare and endangered animals, the Safari Park is a wildlife sanctuary that sits on 1,800 acres. For those who have trouble with math, that’s a mere 1,700 acres more than the zoo has!

Yet, as expansive as the Safari Park is, fewer animals reside there. About 1,000 less, which means, the animals sure have LOTS of room for roaming!

Alas, once my kids entered their teen years, they no longer were interested in going to either park. Hanging with friends trumped hanging with mom, hands down. So, imagine my delight when my son and his girlfriend recently invited me to spend a day with them at the safari park.  Which for me meant only one thing:


Now, I’m definitely no professional, but I’m sure you know how much I adore taking photos.  Here are just a few from the day we spent at the vast, enormous park:


Trust me, these flamingos looked a lot more pink in person. I guess you had to be there.


I don’t know what I did, but I love how this photo of the red-headed ducks turned out.


Don’t you just love giraffes? They’re so calm, majestic, and, well, tall. A few years ago, I got to feed one when I went on the Safari Park’s special caravan tour. Talk about fun!DSCN6653


One lion rests; another licks her chops. DSCN6733

The gorillas were out and about, including one baby gorilla whose photo I tried to snap at least a dozen times, to no avail. Boy, was he quick. So, my consolation prize was getting a photo of this fellow. DSCN6771

I like how the water glistens in this shot.


Here’s same bird, a study in black and white.


And, finally, one more:

After all, what's a trip to the safari park without stopping at the gift shop?

Because, what’s a trip to the safari park without stopping at the gift shop?

So, tell me. When was the last time you paid a trip to the wild animals in your neck of the woods?

He Crossed the Line

Yesterday, someone asked me if I was having a good weekend. I said yes, but that wasn’t entirely true.

I was sad. So sad, and I’m sure you know why. In fact, like many of you I spent most of Friday in various stages of sorrow and tears. How could this be? Who can explain what happened?

Sandy Hook Elementary: People gather at a makeshift memorial near the school following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/12/15/sandy-hook-shooting-the-names-of-the-dead/#ixzz2FNf8Bfc6 Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

And, how can life go on in the face of such tragedy?

In the early hours of Friday morning, I had written a post about commercials. This was before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  Many of you were kind enough to comment, and the comments trickled in throughout the weekend.

But, I found it very hard to respond to your comments, as suddenly a post about ads and soup seemed trivial and inconsequential. I couldn’t even bring myself to visit my blog. I just didn’t have it in me.

Another asked if I was ready for the holidays and I thought to myself, are you kidding? In light of this tragedy, how can I begin to answer that question?

And, then I thought of my own children, and how lucky I am that they’re okay. That I’ve been able to see them grow up. In a few days, my daughter will be home from school and I will be off from work so that I can spend time with her.  I’m lucky, too, because my son lives nearby and visits nearly every week.

I’ve had the chance to see them grow up and have them in my life.  But, there are parents in Newtown, Connecticut who were robbed of this.

There’s a six-year-old boy who lives across from me. He has a bright smile and I know he’s a good kid, for I’ve known him and his parents since he was an infant. Recently, he rang my doorbell and asked me for a job walking Henry. I was impressed with his desire to take responsibility and earn an income. So, now he walks my dog every once in a while, for which I pay him a few dollars. He came by this weekend, and I was reminded that he’s the same age as the children from Newtown.

On Saturday, I had plans to spend the day with my son and his girlfriend. We had planned this outing weeks ago, and a small part of me wanted to cancel in light of this tragedy. Yet I needed, to be with my children at this time and spending the day with them at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park proved to be just the thing.

Afterwards, we went out to dinner at a mall, crowded with holiday shoppers and of course, the parking lot was full. But there was something else: the parking lot was teeming with police, floodlights and police-lookout towers. It startled me at first, but I assumed they were there to protect from the many car thefts that occur in shopping mall parking lots this time of year. Then, on Sunday I learned that a man had fired 50 shots into the air, while in a shopping center parking lot at another mall in Southern California, and I wondered whether that incident was the cause for beefed up security at the mall we were visiting.  I can’t say for certain.

In my sorrow, I stayed away from this blog for two days, so I apologize for not replying to your comments sooner. But in the end, I know that life goes on, and life is beautiful and precious.

Why can’t we all value human life? Why did the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary have to happen? And, why oh why did the shooter cross the line and kill so many, including 20 beautiful children?

I’ve written an open letter to the shooter. You can find it on the Huffington Post site.  Please read it and then offer your comments there. Thank you, thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you, my readers.

Here’s the beginning:

Dear Adam Lanza,

What happened? Where did we fail you?

I’m assuming something went horribly wrong in your life, leading you to this horrific day in December, smack in the middle of our holiday season.

Did it happen at home, with the breakup of your parents’ marriage? Was it in school or during soccer practice? Were you pushed to take music lessons at a young age?  Or did someone forget to wish you a Merry Christmas?

Perhaps it was something deeper, beyond our sphere of understanding, that troubled you?

Whatever it was, I’m trying to comprehend, and asking myself how it led you to take it out on the youngest among us. Our future, our children…

You can read the rest at the Huffington Post.