Bamboo Blossom

I curse the bamboo outside my bedroom window – a relentless creeping assault on the yard, destroyer of drainage tile and soil – reigning nemesis to a well ordered garden. A scourge defined by brazen fortress, taunting several feet below the surface. Eliciting howls of outrage as shovel handles splinter, and axes bounce of fibrous tendrils in defeat. Every year the same – well planned attacks in spring, fade to surrender by mid- summer. Twelve to fifteen foot renegades slap windows at the slightest breeze, powerless as it swallows lavender, daisies and day lily. ¬† Refusing to use poison as a final solution, I’ve played this game for 15 years. Bamboo knows who’s boss.

Today I learned an astounding fact, a little snippet responsible for seeing bamboo with new eyes. Bamboo kicks ass. It defies all reason – pulling off one of nature’s biggest head scratchers.Ponder this – bamboo has a life cycle of up to 120 years or more, spreading from new shoots deep at root level. Bamboo flower or “blossom” rarely, perhaps every 65-120 years. When a species “blossoms” , they flower, produce a “fruit” of sorts called bamboo rice, then die. Now for the punch line – species blossom at precisely the same time. It doesn’t follow a discernible pattern – any bamboo cut or propagated from the same “cohort” regardless of location in the world, blossoms at the same time. It can’t be explained, somehow they all simply blossom and die.

Weirder still, the blossom period lasts longer than the lifespan of rodents feeding on copious amounts of bamboo rice. In places like China and India, bamboo blossom produces a spike in rodents – one that can cause disease and famine in human population as rampaging rodents gobble stored crops.

Tomorrow I’ll wake to a battalion of bamboo warriors. Instead of cursing, I’ll pause to consider one of nature’s mysteries – then fingers will cross in hope that somewhere on this planet, my bamboo’s distant cousins are ready to blossom. Acutely aware of the trouble it may cause, my sincerest apologies for hardships resulting from selfish desire to rid myself of bamboo.


Flat Rat

My childhood was spent on a farm; quiet, secluded, well away from the city limits. Gophers a common sight, occasionally a skunk , sometimes a deer nibbling on the fruit trees. Coyotes high on the hills punctuated summer evenings with their unmistakeable wails, though I can’t recall ever seeing one. There were frogs, rabbits, and the owl nesting in a crab apple tree – once a bear followed us home from our school bus.

Other than in a pet store I had never seen a rat. There was the story of the Piper of Hamlin, I knew they carried fleas responsible for “the plague” in medieval Europe, I suppose if pressed I would have said they could be found in garbage dumps or slums.

Within a few days of moving to Vancouver I saw my first rat; not at the docks – running along a telephone wire in a swanky part of town. I quickly realized; where there were people and garbage, rats would come. They cared little for demographics – rats were equal opportunity vermin. Discouraging rats is common sense – contain your garbage, don’t leave piles of brush or garden clippings around to encourage nesting, and in my case a dog – one who’s caught a rat or two doesn’t hurt.

Well used to the notion of rats in the city, I thought nothing of leaving the back door open on a hot muggy day. My son, home sick from school lay on my bed as we watched a movie together. I caught sight of the behemoth from the corner of my eye; I swear this rat was the size of a cat. Perhaps momentary hysterics embellished the girth of my intruder. I leapt for the phone, calling my husband at work to report a rat in the bedroom – “what am I supposed to do about it?” he replied. He had a valid point – it was entirely up to me.

The commotion forced rat into a defensive position beneath the morning paper at the side of the bed. Snapping into “rat slayer” mode I ordered my son not to take his eyes off it as I ran out to the garden. Unsure what I was even looking for, all became clear when a cement cinder block was carried back to the bedroom. Screaming like a ninny, I gauged an appropriate distance for my one shot at a fatal blow.

Never in my life have I been so pleased with myself ¬†making that second call to my husband’s office. I assured him the problem was taken care of, and asked only that he clean up the flat rat when he got home.