Spring '01 Issue 17
My Father's Clouds:
On The Path:
Live Foods for Life
Building with Oregon Cob
Listening to the Wildflowers
On The Path by Bob Czimbal
"Bamboo is inherently sturdy and its strength is enhanced by its flexibility. I have seen it bow gracefully to the ground from the weight of ice and snow."
My first experience of bamboo was as a young boy when my dad bought me a fishing pole. I loved its smoothness and lightness when I saw its slender tip yield as I caught my first fish.
Several years ago, while walking in my neighborhood, I noticed a beautiful green stand of bamboo in a dry, narrow curb strip. The bamboo measured one inch in diameter and was fifteen feet tall. When I went for a return visit, I was shocked to see only stumps. I knocked on the door and inquired whether I could dig up the special roots, rhizomes, to see if I could get them to sprout. The family said their grandfather had just died and they had to sell his house. I learned that he had transplanted himself and his bamboo from China in 1901. With pick & shovel I sweated for hours and loaded the rhizomes into a grocery cart for a ride up the street.
I planted the bamboo in my backyard. Once the rhizomes became established, bigger and bigger shoots came up each year. Every spring, they break the surface at full diameter seeking the light. With extra care, my bamboo is now three inches in diameter and thirty feet tall. You can watch it grow a foot a day in the summer!
There is an equally amazing growth occurring silently just below the surface. The rhizomes can sprint long distances as they travel underground before emerging. The system of interlocking roots gives the individual pole the support it needs to grow. The canes stand alone yet are deeply connected. Their network of roots adds stability to soil during floods and earthquakes.
Their speed is matched by their determination to grow. Many varieties can tunnel under and over most barriers. I’d been warned that my bamboo could not be easily contained. It took years of secret plotting for my bamboo to find its way out. Once out, it sent a forty foot long probe into my basement before I discovered it. First I was angry with the bamboo for invading my house and causing me much extra work. Then I became mad at myself for the mistake of letting it escape. Eventually I learned to laugh at myself as I came to accept the nature of a being that grows in any available direction. Once my upsetness subsided, I realized that all these new rhizomes could be cut into sections and planted in pots. I dug a deeper trench surrounding the grove and doubled the thickness of the barrier. As I patrolled the new enclosure, I could sense the bamboo watching me and plotting its next escape.
Bamboo is inherently sturdy and its strength is enhanced by its flexibility. I have seen it bow gracefully to the ground from the weight of ice and snow. The kitchen skylight provides a great view for watching the leafy tops moving in the breeze. The invisible wind spirit might otherwise pass unnoticed. As the wind picks up the tempo, the canes are like dancers swaying in several directions all at once. Then, as if on cue, they return to stillness.
There are a thousand varieties of bamboo that have learned to adapt and flourish in many environments. Besides the roots in my basement, I have noticed bamboo in every room of my house. Bamboo thrives in the kitchen as chopsticks, a tea strainer and a can of edible shoots. In the living room hangs a Chinese scroll of a panda bear who eats only one variety of bamboo. On the dining room table bamboo has been fashioned into a vase I made myself. Soap dish and laundry basket bear evidence that bamboo has climbed to the second floor bathroom. In my home office is the logo for my consulting business, a calligraphied depiction of it. The beauty and practicality of this plant are limitless.
Every day as I wash my dishes, I enjoy looking through the window at the slender, green poles. I experience a sense of peace and I am reminded of my kinship with life. Poems have been written that praise the plant’s virtues of nobility and simplicity. Bamboo represents the qualities that I admire and hope to manifest.
If I wish to grow, I need to be nourished and supported by my community. To grow FAST, I especially need to be open. I must not allow any barrier to stop me from fulfilling my destiny. To be truly strong I must also be flexible and graceful. Activity in life needs to be balanced by time for stillness. To thrive, I must adapt to many different environments. The tendency to get caught up in the practical matters of life can be offset by an awareness of beauty.
One hundred years ago a man traveled to a new country with some bamboo, a symbol of his homeland. His one action triggered a sequence of events culminating in many of my friends owning an offspring of the original start, complete with instructions on care and handling of this wild being. I’ll be curious to hear of the lessons the new owners glean from their bamboo.
Site updated Spring 2010