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THE BAMBOO CURTAIN
June 10, 2004
 
Q and I stand in the cool of the morning, clippers in hand, surveying the piles of cut bamboo. He was out there cutting them down almost all day yesterday; Q is not a person who minds the heat. There must be at least fifty of them, in several piles, sorted by length. We clip the branches off the main stalk, so that they can be used for staking things. Q's tomato garden has its own skyline: his bamboo stakes are tall, in anticipation of the tomato vines that will, before they are finished, climb all the way to the top of a twelve-foot pole.

I also use bamboo stakes for curtain rods, in certain rooms. And our flag pole is bamboo. I don't make bamboo cookies, but I do what I can.

That leaves about thirty unemployed bamboo stakes. Not counting what we already had. Bamboo is rampant on the Geranium Farm, sending out shoots yards away for the other plant in a single night, growing a foot or more a day.

The man who cuts what little grass we have wants some bamboo, he says. He does? I ask Q incredulously. Well, I tried to tell him, Q says, In fact, he's seen it. His wife wants it in their yard. Q packs some bamboo roots in a box and keeps them damp.

Wow. The guy must really love his wife. He'll be digging bamboo out of the peony patch for the rest of his life.

It's hot work. Dirty work --not the bamboo, so much, but other garden tasks are dirty. After a morning of stuffing sharp twigs deep into tall paper bags, my arms look those of a nearsighted heroin addict.

But it is joyous. It smells green and wonderful, the cut edges of plants. The birds dart back and forth from nest to feeder, and the cats gaze longingly at them. The bags fill up with the product of our work, and at last we are finished. It looks lovely back there.

But of course, we are never finished. Grass grows. The bamboo is already plotting its next move as we walk away. You have to be comfortable with the concept of a task that does not end in order to love the garden It never ends. There will always be something to do out there, another task that brings us outside into the beauty.
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