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Poem: "The Bamboo That Bends" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Bamboo That Bends"
This poem is from the August 1, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman and [personal profile] librarygeek. It also fills the "family portraits" square in my 7-1-16 card for the Winter Fest in July Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"The Bamboo That Bends"

One day Dao Liáng showed up
with a folder of things for Turq.

"We were cleaning house today
and turned up some old family photos,"
Dao said. "I thought you might like copies."

"Yeah, that would be nice," Turq said,
looking at Ansel for reassurance.

"Why don't we sit down together and
take a look at them," Ansel suggested.

So they sat down on the rug, and
Turq hauled out his scrapbooking supplies,
and Dao opened the folder he brought.

There were three black-and-white photos,
one of a newlywed couple, one of an old man,
and one of an old woman. "My parents,"
Dao said, "Gen and Yanyu Liáng."

There were also several diecut frames
in their own page protectors.

"I remember Yanyu," Turq said,
moving the photo of the old woman
to the Grandmother frame.
"She was nice to me."

"She was nice to everyone,"
Dao said, a little hoarsely.
"I'm glad you remember her
with such affection."

"She looks so pretty here,"
Turq said, putting the wedding photo
in the central Mr. & Mrs. frame and
leaving the side ones blank
for journaling later.

"I think so too," Dao said.

"I never got to meet ..." Turq said,
hesitating over the old man's image.

"Gen," said Dao. "That's okay,
he was still your grandfather.
None of the younger kids
got to meet him either.
He was very brave."

Turq fit Gen's picture
into the Grandfather space.

"Here's another snapshot that
I think you might enjoy," Dao said,
turning over a new one. "It's from
the Memorial Forest near Chengdu."

"Xióngmāo!" Turq exclaimed.
"We have pandas?!"

Dao grinned at him. "Yes we do,"
he said. "There have been rumors
for a while, but the first photos from
trail cameras were taken three years
after your grandmother's funeral, and
twelve after the sanctuary's founding."

Ansel watched Turq put the picture
carefully into a diecut frame that had
a panda on one side and a space for
a photo or journal entry on the other.

"So what's this about pandas and
a memorial forest?" he wondered.

"Well, my mother was really into
bamboo," Dao explained. "She used
to make crafts with it. So we did
the traditional wake and funeral ..."

"I remember!" Turq said, grinning.
"Instead of spending a ton of money on
flowers and joss paper luxuries, we asked
everyone to bring a piece of dry bamboo
and a traditional white envelope."

"We rented a firepit in a nearby park and
built an enormous bonfire with the bamboo,"
said Dao. "Then we used the funeral donations
to buy 9,999 bamboo seedlings to plant in
her memory near a panda reserve in China."

"That sounds expensive," Ansel said,
thinking about the price tags he'd seen on
bamboo in nurseries, although they were
doubtless much cheaper in China.

"Oh, it was no trouble at all," Dao said.
"My mother knew she was dying --"

"She was really sick for a long time,"
Turq said quietly. "All the time I knew her,
we had to be so gentle with her."

"Yes, you did a wonderful job of that,
and she loved you very much," Dao said.
"Anyway, Mom had funeral insurance to cover
all the costs, and she spent her last couple of years
meeting regularly with monks to make arrangements
so her death wouldn't leave behind a big mess for
her children to deal with. That was ... helpful."

"She sounds like an amazing woman,"
Ansel said. "I wish I could have met her."

"She would have liked you," Dao said,
"and probably filled your little house with
more bamboo furniture than would fit."

"Do you still have the rocking chair?"
Turq asked, leaning forward.

"The rocking chair, the coffee table,
the coat rack ..." Dao recited.
"Mom made a lot of stuff."

Ansel looked around at
his living room, and thought
about the people that he would
leave behind if he died unexpectedly.

He was careful, but police work was
risky in general, BASH more so,
and cape fights most of all.

Maybe he should make
more thorough plans,
just in case.

He thought about
Turq and his other forms,
especially the shy deer
who liked to hide in trees.

"Can I get the contact information
for that memorial forest?" he said.

"Sure," Dao said. "Here, I carry
their business cards, because
they're popular in our community."

Turq plastered himself all over Ansel.
"I don't want you to leave me!"

"I know, and I don't want to leave,
but let's not ignore the possibility,"
Ansel said gently. "It's good
to have contingency plans."

"Remember what we say
about bamboo, Turq," said Dao.

"The bamboo that bends
is stronger than the oak
that breaks," Turq whispered.

"Exactly," said Dao. "That's how
you stay strong enough to bow under
pressure, and then spring back
when the situation changes."

Turq took a deep breath
and stopped trying to squeeze
Ansel's lungs out. "Okay," he said.
"How can I help you plan?"

"Well," Ansel said, "you can
start by helping me pick out bamboo.
I know nothing about it, and I think I'd
like to be neighbors with your grandmother."

"Sure, I can do that," Turq said.
"Maybe pick out a memorial statue too."

Ansel recalled that Chinese burials
sometimes used a statue instead of
or in addition to a headstone.

"No, I already know that one,"
he said, thinking of the caney.
"I want to get a fu dog."

* * *


"The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that breaks."
-- Asian Proverb

Family photos are important for many reasons. They are especially crucial for foster and adopted children, helping to establish permanence and transition into a new family. Know how to take and keep family pictures.

This is Gen Liáng as an old man. This is Yanyu Liáng as an old woman. Here they are as a young couple in their wedding photo.

Turq has scrapbook page frames for Grandmother, Mr. & Mrs., and Grandfather.

A traditional Chinese funeral includes a wake. Money is given in white envelopes, always in odd denominations, to help defray funeral expenses for the family. If the family is well off and/or has funeral insurance, the donations may instead go to a worthy cause dear to the deceased.

9 (九, JIǓ) - LUCKY
九 sounds just like 久 (jiǔ), which means “long lasting” and “eternity” in Chinese. At birthday and wedding celebrations, the number 9 is welcome as it represents longevity. 9 was also traditionally associated with the Chinese emperor. The emperor's robes had nine dragons on them, officials were organized in nine ranks, and the Forbidden City is known to have a total of 9,999 and a half rooms.
-- Lucky and Unlucky Chinese Numbers

The Memorial Forest Project is a charity that started in Terramagne-America but now has global reach. They buy a plot of land in an area which needs reforestation. The area can be consecrated to any tradition desired, but doesn't have to be, and most are nondenominational. Then they sell shares as a funeral service. Mourners buy trees, and either visit their nearest MFP park to plant the seedlings personally or have volunteers plant them. The package includes a memorial dedication service and a plaque designating that plot on behalf of the deceased. The growing forest becomes a wildlife refuge. There are also some local-American options for memorial trees.

See the panda in a young bamboo forest.

Here is the panda scrapbook page frame. Not visible from this angle, the other half of this diecut has a frame for adding a photograph or journal entry.

Pandas are a big part of Chinese culture.

熊猫 xióngmāo consists of the characters 熊 xiong (bear) and 猫 mao (cat).
-- Panda in Chinese

Local-Chinese habitat for pandas has shrunk dramatically. T-Chinese circumstances are somewhat better, although still not great, because people have been reforesting with an eye toward expanding their range. Biodiversity matters a lot to pandas, and anthropogenic forests are considered the least valuable in conservation but that refers to monocultures. The Memorial Forest Project offers a variety of bamboo and other plants which are native to each plot. Due to fragmentation of habitat, planting bamboo is essential to reconnect panda populations. There are collective and individual ways to help pandas.

Bamboo grows fast. It takes about 9 years for a forest-type bamboo plant to reach its maximum diameter and produce treelike stems. Explore the planting and care of bamboo. It's very expensive in America, where it isn't native, but quite cheap in China, where it grows wild over a wide range. Large nursery orders get discounts, and at 9,999 that's wholesale price -- probably less than a dollar a plant, in translation.

Many crafts involve bamboo. This blog offers posts on working with bamboo. Yanyu made such things as a Chinese rocking chair, coffee table, and coat rack.

Planning for a death includes taking steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Read about how to prepare a good death and set up arrangements for afterwards.

Chinese tombs may use memorial statues instead of Western-style headstones.

Fu dogs are protective symbols also sometimes described as guardian lions. Actual depictions span a wide range from doglike to lionlike to downright phantasmagorical. In caney form, Turq looks quite a lot like a fu dog, and in T-China, the inspiration may have come from an ancient shapeshifter. In addition to the traditional (and expensive) media such as ceramic and stone, modern ones are available in materials such as resin and cement.

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