Springtime had officially arrived in Vancouver. The tulips were ready to burst, while the snow drops were up and the cherry trees were budding and beginning to bloom. Even the rhododendrons were full of buds, waiting for a bit more warmth before opening. It was time, thought Father Tom, to clean off the winter mess from the front porch and get it ready for the spring season and the pleasures of summer smoking outside, for a change. For him this meant firing up a “work pipe” – one that did not require concern if it fell out of his mouth or was knocked out by an exuberant swing of the broom. He opened the door to his shop, picked a pipe off the rack of work pipes he kept there. He filled it with tobacco from the pouch in his shirt pocket, lit it with his Bic, tamped it down with his Czech pipe tool, and relit the pipe. Once done with this ritual, he got his broom and bucket and rags to clean off the porch.
He closed the door to the shop and walked back toward the front of the house and the porch while puffing away. Moving the chairs, table and planters down to the lawn, he prepared the porch for a good sweeping, still puffing on his pipe. He knocked down the cob webs and leaves that hung on the hooks for the planters. He swept the floor and the walls to get them ready to be scrubbed. He filled his bucket with hot soapy water and scrubbed down the walls of the porch which turned the water in the bucket a muddy black. He then washed them down with clean hot water, removing the soap scum. Again, he filled the bucket with more soapy water and scrubbed the deck of the porch. He washed down the porch railings and the steps down to the ground, pouring the soiled water on the flower beds below the porch, before refilling the bucket each time. Once done, he contemplatively puffed on his pipe and discovered that he had to relight it, as the task of scrubbing had caused him to forget to puff. He had found that puffing on a pipe made most things go much more smoothly.
While the deck was drying he went to work on the hanging baskets in the yard. He readied them for the new flowers he had picked up earlier that morning. He emptied the soil from the baskets into his wheel barrow. Then he sat on his chair and mixed in the new soil with the old. Once he had a good blend mixed he filled the baskets with the soil and transplanted the flowers to his hanging baskets. He sat back and took a pull on his pipe and looked them over. They looked promising and would certainly fill out as the summer came on. He looked around at his little patch of Eden – his flower garden. Things were really growing quickly, soon he would need to add more soil and clean out some of the weeds and volunteers. He had planted largely perennials so that came up each year and only needed to be filled in and thinned out a bit. He enjoyed the serenity that came to him in his garden.
By the time the baskets were finished the porch was dry. He brought the baskets up to the porch and hung them on their hooks. He carried up his planter boxes and put them on the railings. Things were looking a lot brighter and more alive. It was time to set up his porch. He went to the basement and got out the straw mat that acted like a rug on the floor of the porch. He carried out the wicker set – a love seat, two high back arm chairs and a table to hold his pipes, tobacco, books and drinks. Once he had it set up he turned on a little music and sat back on love seat with his feet on the table to enjoy his favourite time of the year. He tapped out the remaining dottle in his pipe and reloaded it with some good Virginia – McClelland’s 5100 that had 10 years of age. He savoured the scent of the tobacco as he loaded his pipe. He had done this for so long that he scarcely needed to look as he filled the bowl. He just sat and enjoyed the warm air, the smell of fresh soil and the flowers that that had begun to give off their fragrance. He put the jar of tobacco on the table in front of him and picked up his Bic lighter and tamper. He puffed on the pipe as he drew the flame into the bowl. The first light and the puff of blue smoke that rolled from the bowl told him it was a good light. He tamped it and relit it another time. Once he saw that it was burning well, then he leaned back to relax.
One of his favourite things to do as he quietly smoked his pipe was to quietly observe what was happening in his neighbourhood. He was sitting up above the street enough that he could watch unobtrusively as life went on around him. In his peripheral vision picked up a squirrel on the fence post busily washing it face and chattering away. In the birdbath on his left two sparrows took turns splashing in the fresh water he had put out. A female robin was in the cherry tree over the bath just waiting until, in her impatience, she chased the sparrows out the bath. In the oak tree overshadowing the porch a pair of crows were cawing and making a ruckus. It was a perfect morning. He was glad that he had started early and now could enjoy the time on the porch. On the sidewalk just outside his gate two little guys went rolling by on their bicycles with training wheels, laughing and racing each other. Behind them came a third boy, who by the looks of him was their brother, careening toward them on his scooter. He knocked the younger of the two boys off his bike. There was an expected uproar with loud crying and yelling. Within seconds their mom appeared from just beyond the hedge on the neighbour’s property. She came and picked up the fallen lad and brushed off the dirt, looked at the battle scars and wiped them off with her hankie. After a quick scolding of the older brother for his carelessness the foursome were off down the street as if nothing had happened.
Silence encircled the porch world once again. Out on the street, across the parking lot, the metro buses came and went, as trucks and cars hurried back and forth. The pleasant smell of jasmine incense wafted in on the breeze from the altars in front of shops owned by Vietnamese Buddhist shopkeepers. Two houses down a group of elderly Chinese women chattered back and forth. His world was truly a global village. He had read that in his neighbourhood alone there lived immigrants from 60 different countries. It was a good place to live and see the world without leaving his porch.
Laying his pipe down, he went inside to get a cup of tea to enjoy with his pipe. He fired up the tea kettle and filled a tea bag with some bulk Earl Grey tea. He put a wee bit of milk in his mug, put the tea bag in and poured the hot water over it to steep. When it was the way he liked it he returned to his seat on the porch. He picked up one of his books off the table and contentedly puffed his pipe while reading, with a pause to sip the Earl Grey. He could not imagine a better way to enjoy his day off than this sublime repose.
When you want to find Father Tom early or late on a Spring or Summer day, check his porch first. Follow the smells of the tobacco smoke and listen to the music filtering over the garden and you will find him on his porch of tranquility.