Bamboo is iconic. I meet very few people who are not intrigued with the plant. Some are clear about the source of their fascination. Others are not. The fastest growing woody plant, bamboo shoots! Growing three feet in a day as it rockets out of the ground. This is the story of my lifelong fascination with bamboo and how it might help save the world. Do I sound like a crusader? I am. And as John Lennon says, “I am not the only one.” “I hope someday you will join us. And the world will live as one.” Bamboo has played a large role in my life, taking me on an adventure that continues today. Through these stories I hope to share my enthusiasm for the giant grass and how it can play a role in all our lives. In 1970, I started college at Washington and Lee in Virginia as an art major. My professor I-Hsiung Ju was from mainland China. From him I learned the art of brush painting. The first subject was bamboo. Considered one of the four gentlemen, bamboo represented the perfected human being as Mr. Ju described it: strong yet flexible with an inner emptiness representing the essential Buddha nature of existence. All the strokes used in brush painting were found in the bamboo, in the culms, the branches, and in the leaves. My childhood in Florida was been linked up with bamboo. Our family friends had a large clump of bamboo near their lakeshore. The older inner culms had died leaving an empty center to the clump that was perfect for a fort. The bamboo culms made great material for making tree houses and a thousand other uses to be found in our childhood imaginations. After reading about Kon Tiki in National Geographic, the raft that was sailed from South America to Polynesia by Thor Hyerdahl and crew, we harvested culms and bound them together as a raft with the idea of paddling or sailing across the lake. Loaded with kids, the raft barely broke the surface of the water and we found ourselves paddling furiously with very little forward movement as the culms took on water and dropped deeper into the lake below us. The fun was in the trying, and nothing was lost in our failed effort to cross the lake. Later as a boy scout we harvested the bamboo and built towers and suspension bridges for the Camporee’s where different troops would gather and demonstrate their wilderness skills. The methods of securing the bamboo with various lashings has stayed with me throughout the years, all done with a variety of knots each suited to a particular purpose. Upon graduation from college, I moved into a yoga ashram community. My life began to revolve around my daily yoga practices as it does even to this day. The image of bamboo as an icon of the perfected human being continues to inspire me. Strength, flexibility, and inner quietude guide my efforts to make myself, and the world, a better place. We are currently in the midst of launching a new venture in Brazil called Bamazon that will be using bamboo to help save the Amazon Rainforest. David Sands, AIA
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