If there’s one thing we can learn from this global pandemic catastrophe, it is the certainty of impermanence. Especially in cheerful San Luis Obispo, where it’s so easy to sink into a state of unflagging complacency, we now see just how transient our comforts can be. At the drop of a face mask, we went from Good Life to Good Grief.

It really shouldn’t require a disruption of this magnitude to make us appreciate all the good things we have. And yet it does.

And as I sit here alone in the darkness at Bambu Batu, I remain immersed in an otherworldly oasis of tranquility. But it’s just not the same. Of course, we still have an abundance of deliciously soft bamboo socks and shirts and underwear. And the images of Buddha and Tara continue to beam with serenity. And the fuzzy panda bears are as comforting as ever.

But something is missing. And that something is you!

The Ho se of Bamboo isn’t the same without YOU

One more thing we’ve learned from this month of Social Distancing — an Orwellian euphemism if ever I heard one — is just how vital human contact is for our well being. That much we already knew. But these drastic measures have really driven the point home.

More than that, however, I’ve fully come to appreciate what makes Bambu Batu such a uniquely wonderful place to work. Sure, the creek-facing windows are great, the underground zen den is a real hidden treasure, and the well-tuned Feng Shui has an unquantifiable calming property. But again, the best thing about Bambu Batu is YOU.

No, this isn’t just some cheesy marketing gimmick. This is a genuine reflection after being out of the country and the shop for nearly four years, and then coming back. Yes, Bambu Batu offers a distinct line of hard-to-find products. But the most important ingredient are the people, that special segment of the population who are drawn to the store, attuned to the higher vibrations of ecology and spirituality.

It’s not an enormous revelation to realize that people are more important than things. And yet, from the way so many people behave, this fact does not seem to be universally well understood. But it’s more than just that. It’s the way people come together here and contribute to something greater than the sum of their parts.

That’s the kind of alchemical magic that’s been taking place at Bambu Batu for the better part of the last 14 years. Those select individuals find their way up that less-travelled stretch of Broad Street, to the other side of the creek. And here they discover a setting like no other in downtown San Luis Obispo, and human connections ensue.

All things must pass

The friends I’ve made here at the House of Bamboo, like the seeds of a redwood cone, are too numerous to count. And inside of each one resides the wisdom of the cosmos. If I’ve learned anything from this great chapter in my life, it’s the value of each and every individual.

With every face that enters my front door — now closed for quarantine — comes a person with a unique story to share and lesson to offer. Without a doubt, we can say the same thing about any door whose threshold we may approach. And that’s a nugget of wisdom I hope to carry with me for the rest of my days.

After all, I don’t plan to spend many more days here at Bambu Batu. Once this coronavirus pandemic blows over and we’re able to resume some degree of commerce, I intend to liquidate the inventory and get back to my family asap. It’s a been a wild ride on the bamboo roller coaster, but nothing lasts forever.

Like the sand of the Tibetan Buddhist mandalas that they pour into the river (see main image, above), the House of Bamboo is about to dissolve and return to the source. From whence it came, so shall it return. And I too shall return to that picturesque village in the Spanish Pyrenees, where my lovely family is just dying to celebrate with a long-awaited batch of papa’s gnarly enchiladas.

Buddha and Bamboo for good luck

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PHOTO CREDIT: Tibetan Monks creating impermanent sand mandalas in San Luis Obispo