By: Cheng Tong - Jun 08, 2023
A freak June storm, an ever-more-common aberration in these times of climate change-induced storms, befell the northern Berkshires last week. It offered five inches of rain, and an hour’s worth of half-inch hail that left the ground looking as though it had snowed. The results were devastating to the meditation garden I have been building for 4 years. It surrounds the red deck where I train each day and teach Chinese martial arts to those who come to me.
The leaves of the many hostas in the garden were perforated, as were the leaves of the pieris japonica; lambs’ ears were flattened, as were foxglove, bleeding hearts, and poppies; the red butterfly bushes and white butterfly bushes were snapped in half and will not bloom this year.
The rock and water feature I had been building for a couple of weeks was washed away, and so I will have to begin anew. A branch from a swamp maple fell on my house and perforated the roof, and so I climbed up with a sealing patch and requisite goop to effectuate the necessary repairs.
Such was the damage wrought.
Yet, the three clumps of bamboo, fargesia rufa, native to northwestern Sichuan Province, remained intact, and showed no signs of damage when I surveyed the garden the following morning. Rather than fight the high winds and heavy rains, it lay down on the slopes. None of the new shoots, six feet grown in six weeks, were damaged, and only a few of the small and delicate leaves were torn loose.
It remained standing tall. It yielded with strength, knowing it could withstand anything nature could throw its way, and when it had taken nature’s best shot, it stood up, dusted itself off, and continued on.
In December of 2021, I wrote and published a poem entitled “Be Bamboo.” I claim no prescience, of course, and have actually used bamboo in my teachings for a number of years. I commend the poem to you and hope you will take it to heart in your life.
Relying on our inner strength, and remembering that all things change, always, can get us through storms in our life that we might otherwise believe would deal us a deathly blow. It requires only that we know ourselves – not as we present ourselves to the world, but as we truly are, and having nothing to prove to anyone. It is necessary only that we be. Just be, and keep on breathing.
All of the plantings in the garden are either trees or perennials, and they will come back next year with no memory of the storm or their struggles. As Jeff Goldblum’s character in “Jurassic Park,” said “Life finds a way.”
That is what we must do in life. Rely on inner strength and know we can withstand life’s best shots. Any other choice is unacceptable. Life is filled with both joy and sorrow, the yin and yang of things, and if we are lucky, they come to us in equal measure. We do what we can to endure, knowing change is constant, and in the meantime just keep on breathing.
In the garden this week as I cleaned away the debris, the bamboo reminded me of this. Yield with strength, knowing we can take what life offers, good and bad, and continue on our path.
In other words, be bamboo.