I walked through the woods, the shafts of morning light piercing the crisp cold air. The boys, Canaan and Rohan, followed behind me, chattering excitedly as if some great adventure was afoot, their breath bursting out in billows of white vapour. In my hand I had my trusty double edged hand saw; the traditional Japanese style, with coarse rip saw on one edge and fine cross cut on the other. We had a mission, and now was the time, after the winter solstice and before the vernal equinox, when nature was dormant and saving its power deep inside. We were hunting wild bamboo!
As we crossed the no mans land between the ash grove and the bamboo, a brace of pheasants broke from the undergrowth, their thudding wing beats compressing the air, their raucous screeches shattering it. The boys laughed in surprise, and we cracked and crunched our way down into the shadows of the bamboo. We selected out several good, thick stalks, ones with a bit of dust encrusted above the segment rings and a satin sheen, not the shiny green ones. Bamboo is best when it is about three seasons old and the walls have become thick and hard. The young ones, still thin and glossy, are too weak for the task I have in mind.
Down low, close to the ground, I use the cross cut saw to sever the stalk, then thrust my shoulder against it and march forward in a powerful tackle that brings the fifteen metre giant crashing down behind me. We drag him through the brush, then cut him into 3.6 metre lengths, finally throwing his bushy head onto the ever growing pile we have started on the edge of the woods. This pile will rot down and compost over the next few years, deepening and enriching the soil, a home for stag beetles and lizards. When we have gathered a stack of poles enough to sate our needs, we tuck a pole under each arm and drag them back down through the woods, and display our booty on the lawn in front of the house and studio.
We now cut them to exact length and fit them into the empty shelf frames in the studio. The old ones have been removed after serving their time on the rack, some of them nearly ten years, supporting my pottery from it's birth on the wheel till it's trial in the kiln. The years of wood smoke from the stove in the corner have cured them so that they can now be cut down into bamboo dragon flies and other traditional tools. What is left over will be burnt in the stove to keep my family warm this winter. Nothing is wasted.
The sweet fragrance of the freshly cut bamboo fills the studio as I look at the clean empty space from the bedroom doorway. It beckons me, it dares me, like the clean fresh pages of new diary.