Friday, July 18, 2008

From the archive - July 28, 2003:


We have dialogued, bamboo and I.

Since I moved here the bamboo (the 3-meter tall 2-cm thick mountainside kind that creates an impenetrable green wall traversable only by wild pigs, foxes, pheasants, ferrets and snakes), I've learned much about bamboo relentlessness and singleness of purpose.

Don't let that subtle yet elegant demeanor, that Asian inwardness, that quietly sophisticated, golden segmented curvature fool you. Don't be deceived by that slender arching tallness, that timeless sheen. Bamboo works 24 hours a day.

Just because it's made into delicate cages for crickets, or into hair-thick wickets for catching tiny freshwater fishes, or shaved into feathery whisks for ceremoniously stirring green tea into an inviting froth, don't conclude therefore that bamboo is a delicate, effete, lily-wristed wisp of a plant. It is not. It is rooted with cables of steel.

You know this when you live with it growing on the land beside your garden, into which the bamboo subterraneously insinuates itself day and night, sending its long cableroots silently across in the dark a foot or two beneath the so innocently clear-looking soil; then one day when at last you are naively priding yourself on having won your battle with that puny weakling of a plant, your golden nemesis sends up here and there all over your garden its many silent green flags of conquest, which it then proceeds to celebrate with practically visible growth upward. Some species grow a meter a day.

Bamboo is in fact a single-minded, deeply rooted, relentless rocket of a plant, with a patience much older and deeper than our own; so patient that some species bloom only once in a century or so. No need for hurry, when such power is yours. I am temporary; bamboo prevails. And strong? Ask me, who have tried to cut its stalks, root out its roots, for years now. It is stronger than earthquakes, let alone me.

It is so strong that in Japan it is traditionally grown like big living mats on hillsides, so that its deep tangle of steel-cable underpinning holds the hillside in place while the earth rolls and roils like a just-caught eel. Such strength must be honored.

So although I know that one day my mountain garden may very well be a flourishing bamboo thicket once again, in the blessing of the meanwhile the green army and I do battle of an ancient and honorable kind, that I learn much from, and do not really want to win.


Chancy said...

Sort of like our Kudzu, here in the southern USA.

Bob Brady said...

We have plenty of that around here too; in fact kudzu (according to Wikipedia) "was introduced from Japan to the US in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant." At least it has many practical uses and is easily kept out of my garden... smells nice, too...

Maggie said...

Sly stuff that.