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Consumption: Straws, Bullying, and Roman Pipes
Submitted by Joren on Thu, 4/5/2012, 12:32pm
Hidden conveniences: this week I went to the café and asked for an iced coffee in a glass (as opposed to coffee on the run) put some sugar in it and sat down. Then I noticed I had unmindfully taken a plastic straw, opened it, and put it in my glass without even batting an eye.
Straws. Convenience. I recall hearing Chozen Bays Roshi saying “problems all begin with the mouth; what goes in, and what comes out.” This, what comes out , ends up in landfill or floating in the ocean, in a plastic island the size of Texas. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch)
My fond memories of straws: creating scrunchy “snakes” of the paper covering and magically making them squirm with a drop of water; or blowing bubbles in the bottom of my chocolate milk like a volcano, or those fabulous silly straws that looped around and around. And what about history? Images come to mind from the 1950’s, lovers sharing chocolate milkshakes, egg creams, root beer floats, slurping through straws from the same glass, 60 years of plastic straws. Mmm. Straws are actually ancient; the Sumerians had them 5000 years ago.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_straw)
Frankly, petrified wooden plumbing pipes circa 100 A.D. (sideways straws?) still conveniently move water. This brought to mind a wonderful poem I heard many years ago that resonates now for new reasons.
Here it is:
Busted Pipe by Amy Holman (Somondoco Press, 2010)
The 11-year-old boy who drove 200 miles in his parents' car instead of going to school reminds me of the Roman pipe found at the archaeological site in England. He was unable to handle the bullying at his school, so he left at 5:00 before his parents would rise for showers and breakfast. He ran out of gas and was given more by construction workers along the way and I wonder if he's one of those man elevens, big, tall, with wisps of what he'll grow to be, instead of one of the boy elevens, unready to shift into the next phase, because what were the builders thinking? Then again, they gave him the fuel, they didn't sell it to him, so they were with him on his journey out of bounds. The boy said he'd driven a tractor before, not the family car, but this was in the conversation with the cop at the end of his drive, not with the builders, who, no doubt, wanted no such clarification to ruin their imaginary escape. Neither the boy's teacher nor his parents knew of any trouble, and that doesn't surprise me, at all, although I gather they try to know more these days. My entire 5th grade class, minus two, ganged up on me because they could, and they were bored, and picked on themselves at home, and we were learning about sex and it was ludicrous and had to be taken out on someone. Nobody in Northumberland, let alone at the Vindolanda Roman fort, knew that there were working alder pipes from around 100 A.D. still trying to feed the old hospital with spring water. They didn't guess because they were archaeologists working with what once was, 238 boots and shoes, 1,700 writing tablets. Every day, the trenches flooded and every day, they cursed and drained them, until, whoosh, it all made sense. Whoosh, the boy was gone from home, where the signs were ankle deep.
Who is the bully? Who is the boy? Where am I? We will miss it if we don’t pay attention. Let us not squander our lives. Much Metta Earth.
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