We have done a lot of walking over the last few days. MUCH more than I typically do, and it is starting to wear on me. It has been too long since I lived in BKLYN, and I am not used to walking five or ten miles a day like I used to be.
Does not help that my body is not as young as once it was, I suppose.
But the walking is getting us to some pretty great places, and we are seeing some pretty incredible stuff. Like bamboo forests.
As I like to tell my students, a tree is not so much a plant as it is a lifestyle for a plant. There are lots of plant families that over the millenniæ have developed the characteristics that we think of as a "tree." These plant families also have many members that do not have woody stems, which is why I say that being a tree is a lifestyle for plants, not a plant in itself. Trees have been around for at least 200,000,000 years, which means that they are also a link between humans and dinosaurs, which I think is pretty cool as well.
One of the plant types that has developed a tree lifestyle is grass, and one of those lifestyles is bamboo, which is of course ubiquitous over here. We have a lot of bamboo in the states as well, of course, but it is not embraced in teh same way, I think because there is no native bamboo in Europe, so when the settlers got here they did not really know what to do with it. And there were so many other trees that there was no shortage of building materials available.
Here, though, it is used structurally and decoratively. Paper is made from it, it is eaten, it is used to make implements. Bamboo is everywhere. It is quite pretty.
Yesterday we went to Arishiyama, where there is a bamboo grove with a path cut through it. I had never been in a grove like this, it was captivating. The linear quality of the stalks (or culms as dendrologists call them) against each other receding into the dimness was spooky, but good spooky. Relentless multiples of anything feel spooky to me, and there was a relentless quality to the forest that I am really taken with.
Thousands of green stalks, each about four inches in diameter grew straight up and receded into the distance. It was really quite a sight. It made me wish I could be there without all the other tourists, so I could hear the hollow knocking of the stalks together and the swish of the leaves above. It was really the first time I have been around bamboo as a living thing and really contemplated it in this way, and it was pretty profound. This is going to be hard to articulate, but it helped me to understand something about how the Japanese think about traditional architecture. There are similar qualities between the way that the bamboo grove looked and felt and the way that the architecture looks and feels. Not sure how to put my finger on it, but it just sort of made sense. I'll have to think more on that.
|The top of the rhizome of a cut shoot.|
|Path through the forest.|
|Geishas in a rickshaw. The usual.|
|Saw this fabulous dude on the train. I don't know his story but I bet it's awesome.|
|Laundry day for me.|