the STINKER came through, a bunny goes to heaven, and a Grizzly’s meal is kind of grizzly

When friends ask me what we’ve been up to, I am never really sure how to answer. We have full lives, but we aren’t very flashy or exciting. We have very few really “spare” moments, and our only true intention is aimed towards being present to whatever occurs around us.

Remember This?

For weeks, enthusiasts eagerly anticipated the blooming of Li’l Stinker at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The collection includes 44 corpse flowers, but this 15-year old specimen failed to flower, despite all previous signals that this was THE year.


A sibling of Li’l Stinker, simply named Stink, unexpectedly bloomed. And yes, it reeks!

In its natural environment (Indonesia’s Sumatra island rain forest) the plant attracts dung beetles, sweat bees and flesh flies with its scent–decomposition! When the insects crawl into the flower they’re covered in pollen, and finding no meat, they move on spreading the pollen in their wake.

The Huntington houses 44 of these mature, blooming size plants, and they’ve been one of the more popular attractions in year’s past, gaining worldwide attention through their social media presence.

Nature is efficient. And fascinating!

But there were some disappointments, too.

This summer our 7-year old rabbit, Pinky, died, leaving two  broken-hearted girls in tears and dread. “I don’t want any more pets! I don’t want them to die. What about Zena?” I let mom handle the questions.

Although Pinky was extremely well cared for and even provided her own do-it-yourself air conditioning of frozen water bottles placed in the cage, I think she was heat-stressed. I hope it was just “her time.” She is missed. Even Zena eventually made peace with her position in the family.

The following week we traveled with Sophia and Karina to Oakland for one last “hurrah” before school started.

This is where the Grizzly experience comes in.

With their aunt and uncle and baby cousin we planned a trip to the Oakland Zoo and the new California Trail exhibit.

The 56-acre California Trail is accessed by a very exciting gondola ride providing a fabulous view of the San Francisco Bay area. The exhibit acreage features expansive new habitats, among the largest in the world, with homes to native California animal species selected for their historical significance to the state.

Pretty great!

So what happened next?

We didn’t know why the Grizzlies were in with the other bears and not in their own well-publicized habitat. We watched them in interest for a time and then moved on.

Suddenly, from a higher view we watched the Grizzlies running into their area.

Boy can they run!

We “hot-footed” it down to watch and suddenly, Sophia SHRIEKED!

It took my brain a moment to catch up!

They were galloping alright! Right to their dinner. And dinner was rabbit!

We are city slickers, you know! Although we may know there isn’t a “Purina Grizzly Chow,” well, I don’t typically think about it!

Sophia took off in another direction with Papa, while I stayed near to see how Karina was handling this.

Her response was typical Karina. Very matter-of-fact, but she’d revised what she saw into a more acceptable version.

Her eyes were wide and her vision riveted as she said in a calm and level voice, “Nan, I don’t think that was a real rabbit. I think those are just for play. See? They’re in the water getting fish. I think they’re just eating fish.”

Nature is indeed fascinating. And this is an excellent teaching environment, however, not all information is easy for children–or their senior citizen grandmother.

This really wonderful video shares how some of the bears were brought from Alaska to Oakland, and why. It’s not long and I think you’d enjoy it.

I need a little rest. Then I wonder what we’ll do next?

37 thoughts on “the STINKER came through, a bunny goes to heaven, and a Grizzly’s meal is kind of grizzly

    • You made me laugh, rivergirl! LOL! you have a point. I was at the Huntington again today to meet some friends and was surprised that another one of the Corpse Flowers had bloomed. There was a crowd of at least 50 people packed into a small space just to observe. I think we all must be starved for something unusual to see and experience. Too bad these blooms don’t coincide with Halloween! That could provide a wide range of possibilities. 🙂

  1. I can totally hear Karina saying that. She’s a hoot.

    And corpse flowers? I didn’t think those things actually existed. Thanks for providing photos. I’m imagining the worst dead smells mixed with skunk. Ick.

    • LOL! It basically smells like strong body odor, but then again, that’s not a pleasant odor! And Miss Karina was really funny about the incident. She was determined not to react the way her older sister did. She was also more stoic when we told her about Pinky. It’s been fun for me that you have spent time with both Sophia and Karina. 🙂

  2. “When friends ask me what we’ve been up to, I am never really sure how to answer.” ~> Amen, sister!

    I never know what to say either. Our days seem “full,” we’re rarely bored, our “To Do” list is still long enough, etc.. But when people ask what we’ve been “UP” to, I can’t think of anything flashy or exciting enough to share.

    You, in contrast, can say you’ve been UP to Oakland where you went UP in a gondola ride! 😀

    Sorry to hear about Pinky. Pets never live long enough . . .

    • It’s true that with “whatever it is” that I do, the days still never feel long enough! LOL! We do enjoy our trips to Oakland and I’ve commented to my son and daughter-in-law that if they chose not to live closer I’m very glad they live in a part of the state we can visit frequently enough and other people go for vacation!

      Thank you for the thoughts about Pinky. It’s funny how attached to her we were. She didn’t do much either, now that I think about it. But she had value. 🙂

    • We love our little pets, Andrew, as I know you do, too. I don’t think she directly overheated, but I think over the entire summer her little system just worked harder than it should for such a small animal. 😦

  3. I’m the same way when people ask me what I do with ALL my time (as if I get more than the standard 24 hours in a day). The things I do aren’t flashy or even interesting to others yet I don’t have spare time. Just this week I’ve come up with a standardized list that I can use to give people an idea. Up to now, my answer is always “whatever I want!” As for pet deaths, it’s never easy but you can’t not want to be involved to spare the pain. It’s nature’s way and it prepares us along the way. Poor Pinky. As for the bear, I would have run for the hills! There must be a bear chow out there!

    • It’s true that caring for animals and eventually experiencing their death is a valuable teaching tool for children. I think it was a shock to the girls how much it hurt their little hearts. And they immediately made the connection that one day we’ll lose Zena, and that was alarming to them. On the side I said to their mother that when that day comes I’ll be the worst! Probably true! I noticed rabbits in some of the other habitats at the zoo as well. It is a teaching environment, and as such I think I understand, but I think perhaps there should be a warning. Maybe we wouldn’t have run right to the area to be witness! I think we created quite a scene! LOL!

  4. I’m so sorry about Pinky. It definitely stinks when we lose a pet. As for the story of the grizzlies’ dinner, I think I would have been with Sophia all the way. “Knowing” about nature in the wild is a tad different than viewing it!

    • Now that the bear-rabbit incident is in the past I can picture it and almost laugh, Karen. I’m sure we created quite a stir! LOL! Sophia shrieked like we’d stuck her with a large pin and took off running. It wouldn’t surprise me if others didn’t even see the rabbit and wondered what happened to upset her. It all happened so fast! When she is asked what she thinks she would like to study in school and perhaps choose as a career she always says “something with animals,” and the rest of us, behind her back, shake our heads. She continues to be so sensitive towards them that I’m not sure she’ll toughen up for the more difficult aspects of animal care. I think that describes me, as well! 🙂

  5. Definitely an exciting way to end the summer! Love the way the Stink is linked to other organisms. Yes, just another of countless examples of nature’s brilliant design … and a closer look would probably reveal coevolution.

    • It is fascinating to me, as well, Frank, the way that nature works in patterns of complex design and synchronicity. I enjoy observing and labeling the systems I am able to understand, and at the same time I’m aware of how little I know. This makes the whole of nature all the more incredible. Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. 🙂

  6. The bear video is lovely, Debbie. 🙂 🙂 It looks a magnificent zoo and I would love that cable ride. I have to admit to being pretty squeamish when watching wildlife programmes on TV. I have to keep my eyes on the laptop when big cats are going in for the kill. 😦 Life! Enjoy your little rest.

    • I’m so glad you watched the video, Jo. I was so interested in the way the two zoos worked together for the safety of these wonderful animals. And I’m with you on the wildlife shows. I usually cover my eyes and ask my husband to tell me “when it’s over.” LOL! We can know all about it without taking in the visuals, right? LOL!

  7. I have a feeling you won’t struggle to find things to do. They seem to find you!

    One of my childhood nicknames is Pinky, so I feel an affection for your lost bunny.

    I love the idea of the corpse flower…..but I will take your word for it’s ‘aroma’ and leave that to my imagination. 😉

    • What a sweet nickname, Colleen! I would think it to be a very affectionate way to be known.
      I think you’re right in observing that activity and interests just find me! That’s probably true for all of us, but once retired it feels like the possibilities are more plentiful. I’ve definitely moved beyond the stage life where I feel like I have anything to prove, so it does kind of come down to whatever is right under my nose. 🙂

    • You’re right, of course, Jim. I was appreciative of the zoo’s intention towards providing these magnificent animals with a meal experience that at least simulates what they’d expect in a natural setting. I do wish I’d been prepared, however. LOL! We might not have run right up to the habitat at precisely the moment of the kill! Next time we’ll be more cautious.

  8. Oh, Debra, so much adventure here.
    I’m so sorry to hear about Pinky. It is always sad when we lose a pet and, while we know it is part of the cycle of life, it still hurts.
    Then, there’s Stinky. The same thing happened with the copse plant at the Chicago Botanical Gardens a few years ago. I wonder if the larger plant sends off some vibes to the smaller ones to go ahead a start smelling. They are such interesting plants. Love the signs – STINK and STUNK.
    Our zoos do so much to care for animals, don’t they? How interesting the video is and the rationale and care to move the bears. Karina’s response was so sweet. How fast she thinks, especially in rather difficult situations.
    You’ve been busy, my friend, and we think of you all with the heat you’ve endured this year.

    • It has been a busy summer, Penny, and the heat has been difficult, but this week I’ve really noticed a hint of fall in the air, at least in the morning. I’ve loved it even if by noon it’s no longer all that observable. 🙂 You’re absolutely right to note how the zoos work to care for the animals and to teach the public about their needs and our place in helping to preserve their best interests within the zoo and in their natural habitats. The California Trail exhibit at the Oakland Zoo is brand new, and they’ve gone all out to create habitats that are as natural and properly accommodating as any could be for animals in captivity. I value the teaching aspect of all the zoo offers, but I think seeing them capture their dinner was a whole new experience I wasn’t prepared for. Poor Sophia was really upset. And Karina holds her emotions in most of the time and it was interesting for me to see how she soothed herself. And next time we’ll be better prepared. 🙂

  9. What a fun and fascinating place! I lived for 20 years in the San Francisco Bay area and went to the San Francisco zoo often with my children, but then a few years ago went to the Oakland zoo with my grandchildren and loved it. But I never saw the California trail exhibit with gondola ride. Its definitely on my must do list for next time I go out there. Had a laugh about the bear and the bunny rabbit. Sorry bunny rabbit, but it is a great lesson on nature and survival of the one who runs faster. Also, my guy and I are like you and your guy. A slow peaceful life that is plenty busy for us.

  10. Debra, I’ll bet your immediate calendar was filled the minute you hit “post!” There is rare down-time (that I’ve observed), just a little breath between Northern and Southern CA trips. I’ve got to entice you out East!

  11. Sorry to hear of Pinky’s passing Debra. I know how upsetting losing a pet is and you will probably still be missing her. The heat is not good for our furry friends and I’m sure Zena hasn’t been enjoying it either. Feathers are far more adaptable to climate extremes though even the birds will be glad of a cool bath 😉

    I enjoyed the bears video 🙂 They look really great and their keeper seems to have a rapport with them.

    • Thank you, Martin. A modern zoo is dedicated to education and preservation of these animals, and I really appreciate the reciprocal nature of different regions looking out for one another’s needs. And your comment about even the birds being ready for some cooler weather made me smile. There was one particularly hot day when I told my husband that I thought the birds looked like they were panting with heat exhaustion. I’m sure that wasn’t the case, but I do think they could have been stressed. Today was a truly cooler day and it finally feels like fall is in the air. Relief. 🙂

  12. Sometimes nature can be a little overwhelming for kids, whether it comes in the form of death of a grizzly bear. But it’s all a learning process, isn’t it. Cool with the Stinker, by the way, although it my have been a double edged sword…

  13. Your days sound perfect although perhaps nature could be a little more gentle. Sorry to hear about Pinky, it had to be especially hard for your granddaughters.

  14. Sorry to hear about Pinky. Hard to imagine the summer and covered in fur. The heat doesn’t seem to slow you down Debra. It sounds like the girls will have a lot of details to write about when the teachers ask about their summer.

  15. It’s a very good explanatory video showing why the grizzlies were moved. Nature can be surprising and I hope Karina is OK after the experience. Some years ago we used to visit a “progressive” zoo and the chunks of meat fed to the tigers were all a bit realisitic even for me!

  16. Oh my! Yours wasn’t a tale of Lions and tigers and bears but it almost felt like an Oz experience, Deb! 😊
    I feel bad about the bunny as my grown children had about 4 bunnies and they did fairly well in their hutches outside, usually two in side by side cages. We would let them run around the yard and play in the cool of the evening since we had a fence. When we went to the county fair with their bunnies we would daily come over with a frozen 2 liter bottle and their food. Only one summer did we withdraw our bunnies due to the fans not reaching their cages. I was a girl scout but my 3 kids were 4H 🍀 members. ❤️

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