The fizz and crackle of a wooden match. A pungent aroma as the fresh, earthy tobacco sizzles and begins to smoulder. Smoke beginning to rise and obscure his face. These things are favorite memories of my grandfather’s golden years. He quit long ago, but I still miss the smell of his smoky kitchen. The sight of him lighting his pipe while never taking a pause in his work. The sight of a delicate smoke curling and drifting into the fresh New Hampshire air. I can still smell it.
I bought a pipe when I turned eighteen, just to remind myself of those days. I put it on a shelf and admired it. It was a Dr. Grabow, just like the ones that constantly adorned my grandfather’s jaw. Before long, I came home with a tin of tobacco for my briar holder of childhood memories. My grandfather was not doing well, I needed something to help me cope. I needed to once again, smell the soothing scent of leaf and wood.
It did not go well. Packing the bowl was a chore. I scorched the rim with the match as I tried to light the savory tobacco. The ember would die again and again as I tried to settle into a contented pace. After a week of failure, I gave up. I returned to my cigars, only to quit even them when I tired of paying for them.
It wasn’t long before I came home with an armful of England’s finest, and the resolve to master the briar. There would be no dishonor in quitting this time. After months of effort, I succeeded. I couldn’t pack my pipe with seemingly no hands like my grandfather, but I was doing well. It was rewarding like nothing else in this world.
Smoking a pipe is an experience. The sound as a fresh tin sucks in its first breath of air when opened. Aromas entice you as you pause to sniff the sweet, earthy contents. The feel of the smooth briar as you begin to crumble the spongy and moist ribbons into the charred bowl. Sulfur hits your nose and a match sparks to life, the delicate flame flickering in your fingers. Tobacco sizzles to life; smoke begins to billow. Memories of childhood dance in your head. Your muscles relax, anxiety is driven away, and your mind becomes free and clear. The focus on the ritual of lighting has driven anything cluttering your mind away. That accomplished, you are free to think as you puff, slowly, contentedly.
A pipe is a study in everything gentle and calm. No hurries, anger, or excess. Your life for the next hour is simple. You run your mind wherever you want it to go as the flavors and aromas swirl about you. No distractions, everything is distilled down to one thought, one focus. It is meditation in fire and smoke.
The pipe is not an addiction, it is not a hobby, it is a soul-cleansing experience. It is a study in frugality and at the same time, luxury. It is Ying and Yang. A pipe as cheap or expensive, plain, or ornate, as you please. The finest tobacco the world has to offer, less expensive than the cheapest pack of cigarettes. A little box of wooden matches, not an ornate brass fire-machine, is used to summon the fire god to you. The ember burns in your hand, yet the pipe is only warm, and soothing to feel. A pungent mass burns buttery and sweet. You must constantly attend your delicate ember, yet you are free to think and focus. A pipe has a soul; it is a companion.
Bliss is a mountain sunset with a pipe, a friend with his, and a good dog at you feet as you breathe the fresh air in this land of freedom.
Perfection is when a child joins you both and looks on in admiration and says that he wants to be just like you as he sits and watches the fire in the sky die away and give life to the stars.