Tag Archives: Zoo

Close to Home: Adventures with My Sister

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Boston–an interesting town that I only got a tiny taste of because of the demands of the conference schedule and my own travel constraints. I’ve been to Boston before and hope to go back before too long just to explore and revel in all there is to see and do!

And my sister arrived here in San Diego Saturday for a short visit to my parents (who live near me), so we made plans for a little adventure to the zoo today.  My sister consistently visits twice a year, in the summer and at Christmas, usually with her family.  So this unexpected, solo, pre-Thanksgiving visit is a treat!  And although we invited our parents to come along with us today, when they declined we had a great time exploring, chatting, remembering…just the two of us.

Unlike Boston, San Diego is a place I know well–sometimes so well that I take it for granted. Today was a perfect November day.  It was mild and sunny, perfect for walking and talking. Kristie and I grew up in this town and have been to the zoo more times than we can count. We remember the days when the zoo was always free for kids 16 and under…and spent many a day exploring the zoo without an adult in sight.

And although the zoo has continued to expand and evolve, much remains the same.  We followed familiar paths and enjoyed watching the animals lounging and playing the early morning sun.




And when I caught a glimpse of the historic bridge from afar, I wanted to find a place where I could take a photo.  So we tried to remember a place where the bridge was visible…and as we walked down the path, Kristie found that perfect spot where we could see it through the leaves.


I love the way this landmark is framed by the oranges, reds, greens and browns of autumn in San Diego.

We headed from the zoo to lunch at El Indio’s, my sister’s favorite Mexican restaurant and then off to the beach.  Even though I live near the beach, I can’t go there often enough…and for my sister who no longer lives near the beach, an opportunity to smell the briny air, feel the sea breezes, and walk on the sand is a welcome treat.

We left our sweatshirts in the car and walked along the shoreline to the pier and back.  It was so clear we could see far off into the distance…breathtaking!  (Even when I see these views regularly!)


And then off we went to the glider port–a place we don’t remember going to as children, but a place with views that are amazing.  We rumbled down the dirt road to the dirt parking lot, which was surprisingly full for a Monday afternoon.  My sister called me optimistic as I navigated toward the end of the lot where we wanted to be…and she saw the perfect spot for us to park, just a few steps from the pathway to the cliff’s edge.


And although there were no gliders in sight today, we could see the pier where we had just walked.  We looked over the steep cliffs and noticed erosive handiwork of the wind and water.  The ocean sparkled and gleamed a brilliant blue in the November sun and we watched surfers hike up from the steep path to the beach…and walked partially down it ourselves for a closer view of the beach below.

We spent a few minutes watching someone get a hang gliding lesson, holding tightly to the giant parachute as he learned to control its movements.

It was a wonderful day to spend together, exploring this place that we know so well and yet has so many more experiences and secrets to discover.  This is the place where we spent our childhood together and as adults have to steal away time from our families and work to share time and space and memories.

So many people have been expressing their gratitude during the month of November.  During this week of Thanksgiving, I am thankful to have spent time with my sister on an adventure, close to home.

Habits…of Language

How many times have I used the phrase, “What a zoo!,” to describe a particularly chaotic situation? Just what do I mean by that?

Today I spent the afternoon at the Oakland Zoo, watching animals, learning more about their behaviors and natural environments, and generally enjoying spending time with family in the presence of these people and animals that I don’t get to see everyday. There was nothing chaotic about the zoo. Instead, the animals seem to be well cared for and the enclosures offered opportunities to feel like I could really see the animals while keeping everyone safe. The zoo was peaceful, relaxing, and educational.

I do have mixed feelings about zoos. The ideal environment for wild animals is their natural habitat. But I also know that zoos offer humans opportunities to learn about and protect animals. And the zoo as outing provides families and children ways to appreciate wild animals and learn about ways they can help prevent the destruction and encroachment on the natural environments of these beautiful creatures. I watched people of all ages enjoying their interactions with each other as they watched giraffes, tigers, meerkats, sun bears, and even bats.


So what do I mean when I describe a chaotic event as a zoo? I’m really not sure. And now that I’m thinking about the reasons behind this phrase, I will be breaking the habit of using those words. There are other phrases I am working to eliminate from my language use. One of those is that one about “killing two birds with one stone.” And “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” And any phrase that includes the word slave in it. I need to break these language habits and figure out more precise uses of language to describe what I’m thinking.

Being mindful about language also makes me more mindful about my actions. Habits can help us get things done, like my habit of writing every day. They can also make us less mindful and result in some thoughtless words and actions.

What habits will you be working to undo…and what will you try to establish as habits?

Boys and Bears

Today was a perfect July day at the zoo, sunny and warm with gently ocean breezes to keep things tolerable.  The animals were active and playful.  We watched the polar bears frolic in the cool water of their enclosure—so close you could almost touch them through the clear Plexiglas barrier.


I watched the animals, thinking about how the zoo personnel was careful to point out the ways they put the animals’ well being and health ahead of the visitors’ desires to take the perfect picture and get that close-up look.  I heard a similar message from the tour bus driver, the panda keeper, and the sea lion show trainer: these are wild animals, they are in this zoo so we can learn to take better care of them to ensure their continued existence.  The zoo is a place for learning.

I also did a lot of kid watching today.  And while there were usual instances of whining and demanding, there were also many kids fascinated and engaged watching the animals.  I observed some little boys near the polar bears for quite a while.  They stayed right up next to the glass where a polar bear was enjoying chewing on a bone right on the other side.  As the bear dunked under the water against the glass, the boys would run their hands against their side of the glass as though they were petting the bear.  As the bear emerged from the water, the boys reached their faces up alongside the bear’s.  A crowd formed with many adults attempting to get a close-up portrait of that bear—or line their own child alongside the bear for that illusion photo of their child with the bear.  You could feel and hear the frustration of those adults, wanting the kids to move out of the way.  After ten minutes or so, the parents of the boys seemed to catch on to the frustration of the crowd and urged the boys away from the glass so others could have a turn.

I understand the frustration of the adults waiting for the boys to move away.  And I understand the boys’ fascination with the bears.  I find myself thinking about how their physical interaction supported their appreciation of the bears…and how that may impact their future actions in the world.  If they had to stand back and watch quietly from afar, would they still find polar bears interesting and want to know more about them?  I’m also fascinated by the physical structure of the zoo and how that structure creates intimacy and relationships with the animals.

How can I think more carefully about the structures in my classroom to invite engagement and interaction rather than passive compliance?  Zoos and classrooms—I have a lot to think about!