Category Archives: Father Tom Stories

A collection of Father Tom stories that I have written over the past years. New ones will be added regularly. One of my writing instructors used to say write about things you have lived – so I have. The Father Tom stories incorporate experiences I have had over the years as a Presbyterian minister with my love of the pipe. Many of the circumstances and events of the stories as well as the settings are part of the regular story of my life. They are here for your reading pleasure. It is my hope that they will give you a bit of pleasure as you read them. If they do, they have achieved what I imagined for them. Enjoy!

Father Tom – Thinking through the news, surprised by a gift


Blog by Steve Laug

Father Tom woke up and was surprised to find that he had fallen asleep in his recliner the evening before. He remembered sipping a scotch and his pipe while thinking through the news that the doctor had given him. Even as he awoke he realized that he wanted to talk with Doctor Mac when he returned to find out a bit more clearly what he was facing. He remembered that the biopsy and scans were scheduled before Mac returned. He sighed and began to feel a bit more awake. He wondered what had happened to the scotch and the pipe. He looked down on his lap and had to laugh. His pipe had fallen out of his mouth and landed upright between his legs. He must have laid the scotch on the table before he went to sleep because it was sitting on the table next to the chair.

He put the pipe on the table next to him, stood up and stretched out the inevitable kinks that come from sleeping in a chair. He took the glass to the kitchen and made some coffee. He went to the shower while the coffee was brewing and washed away the remnants of sleep. He dried off and stood looking at himself in the mirror thinking how quickly life could change. Just yesterday as he stood in this same place he was just apprehensive as he always was when he had to go to the doctor. But today he carried with him the news of yesterday – he potentially had cancer. The awkwardness of the locum made it seem to him that potentially was a weak word and that she had believed that he did indeed have cancer. Cancer… what an awful word that conjured up many ghosts for him. He thought of all the friends he had buried who had succumbed to cancer. He knew that prostate cancer was one of the “better” cancers but it was still cancer.

The beep of the coffee pot announcing that his coffee was ready brought him out of his motionlessness. He quickly dressed, took his meds and went to the kitchen for his coffee. He filled his favourite mug with the hot brew, added a bit of cream and went back to the parlour. He picked up his pipe from the table, cleaned out the dottle in an ashtray, ran a pipe cleaner through the airway and reached for some Virginia tobacco to light up. He packed his bowl while sipping his coffee and when everything was right he touched the flame of his lighter to the tobacco. Soon he was wreathed in smoke, sipping his pipe and his coffee. He had decided that today would be a day of rest – a day when he would not go to the office or visit folks. He needed time to process what was ahead of him. He sat in silence letting the pipe and coffee both calm and waken him. He was in no rush today so the quiet was good for him.

When he had finished his coffee he refilled his pipe and got ready for a walk around the neighbourhood. He put the coffee cup in the kitchen sink, put on his jacket and cap and headed out the front door. He locked the door behind him, turned and stood on his front porch long enough to observe the life on the street in front of his house. He tamped and relit the pipe and headed down the steps and out the gate. He had decided to head over to the park around the corner from his house. There was a nice bench there and the sunny day would make that a great spot to stop for a while and think. He walked to the far corner of the park and settled on the bench under the tree there. He tamped and relit the pipe. Once again his mind went over the news that seemed to interrupt his thoughts repeatedly since yesterday. He worked over the implications of the news. He knew that nothing was certain until after the biopsy but he believed in working through the worst case scenarios first. He knew that he had lots of holiday time left because he rarely took any time off. He also could feasibly take a leave of absence to go through the recovery… hmm he thought recovery. There were just too many unknowns for him to wrap his head around. Would he need surgery or radiation or…? He had no idea. He repeated his 3rd Step Prayer of Surrender to God and puffed quietly on his pipe.

As the smoke drifted around his head and up into the trees he felt a deep quietness begin to settle into his soul. The prayer and the pipe together worked to quiet him. He knew that nothing was certain – not the cancer, not the treatment regimen, not health, not work and certainly not life. He let the uncertainty go and was able to empty his head. The smoke from his pipe was almost prayerful as it curled heavenward. It was not impeded by branches or obstacles and he had a deep sense of being heard. He sat quietly just sipping the smoke from his pipe until the bowl was empty of all but ashes. Even then he continued to sit for a while. If you had seen him that morning you would have seen and older gent with a pipe in his mouth that had gone out, a distant look in his eye and a quiet, relaxed posture sitting on the park bench.

A pair of crows flew by and their cawing called him back to the moment. He tipped out the ash from his bowl and absentmindedly put the empty pipe in his mouth. He stood up and walked up the hill and out of the park. He thought he might head over to the pipe shop and pick up some pipe cleaners and see if there was anyone there he could chat with. Maybe he would pick up another tin of tobacco but time would tell. He had a couple of lane way paths that were a short cut to the shop so he headed in that direction. He walked along quietly. His mind was no longer spinning as the time alone with his pipe and prayer had come together to bring quiet. He enjoyed the sunny day and the silence. This combination was something he sought and savoured, so the moment was perfect.

He turned down the first lane way on his short cut across the neighbourhood. He stopped and reloaded his pipe, lit it, tamped and relit it. Once it was burning well he continued on his way. Sometimes he would kick rocks or debris on the ground just for fun – reliving a childhood habit of kicking stones or cans as he walked. He kicked a crumpled bag that lay on the side of the lane expecting to hear the crackle of paper but instead it was quite solid. It had more of a thunk sound like there was a can in the bag. He was used to seeing bags in the gutters and lane ways around his home so he figured it was just an empty that someone had thrown there. He figured he would pick it up and put it in a bin nearby so he bent down to grab it. The bag was a bit heavier than just an empty can so it made him wonder what was inside. He opened the bag and peered into it. To his surprise there in the bottom of the bag laid a small round tin. It was upside down so the only thing he saw was the small price tag on the bottom. It looked like it was a tobacco tin. But there was only one way to know for sure. His curiosity got the better of him and he tipped the contents of the bag into his other hand. He had a hard time believing what was in his hand, but there it was – a sealed tin of Dunhill’s Elizabethan Mixture.

He turned the tin over in his hands examining it and he could see that the tax stamp was unbroken. He looked around to see if there anyone in the lane that could have dropped it. But the lane was empty of people other than him. There was no receipt or anything in the bag to give him a clue as to who had left the tin behind. The bag was crumpled up as if it had been pitched so it seemed like it was ownerless. It looked like it had become his. If you are a pipeman then you can imagine where his mind went now. All thoughts of his cancer or anything else were left behind. All thoughts of heading to the pipe shop were left behind. All thoughts regarding the future were left behind and he was immersed in the moment. He turned the tin over in his hands. He loved a good mixture of Perique and darkened Virginias and this was blend he enjoyed. He kept walking as he knew there was a park bench not too far away and he intended to savour the bounty of this new tin and enjoy the morning.

He got to the bench in short order. It was a great place to watch the world pass by while he enjoyed a bowl. It was not near a bus stop so he could safely smoke without being bothered by others. He looked the tin over to see if he could get a feel for the date of it… he was surprised to see that it was made by Murray’s so it was an older tin. He felt even more blessed than before – not only was it a tobacco he liked, but it also was an older tin which he liked even better. He popped the tin open with a quarter he had in his pocket and heard the characteristic puff of air as the lid lifted. He savoured the pungent aroma of the mixture and laid the lid aside. He opened the paper liner, lifted the card, held the tin to his nose and inhaled the aromas of the tobacco. To his mind there was nothing like the rich smells of a freshly opened tin of tobacco.

He loaded his pipe with a bowl of the new tobacco, tamped it lightly and gave a charring light. He tamped again and gave it another light. The tobacco caught fire and began its slow steady burn while sipped and tasted the richness of the older blend. It was a really good smoke. Soon he was lost in identifying the flavours of each of the tobaccos that made up the blend. It was a ritual that he always went through with a new tin of tobacco. It never mattered if it was one that he had before or if it was something new to him. It was a challenge to try to figure out the components of a blend as he smoked it. He sipped the smoke and let each part play its role on his tongue and mouth. All other thoughts were gone from his mind as he was lost in the moment.

When he finished the bowl, having lost all track of time he reached for his watch only to find that in the morning rush he had forgotten to put it on. He did not even have a cell phone to check. He rose from the bench and walked down the hill to the nearest Vietnamese restaurant. He suddenly realized that he had not eaten breakfast and his stomach reminded him. When he arrived he nodded greetings to his neighbours and ordered his favourite pho with meat balls and rare beef. He sipped the tea that they brought him and cleaned out his pipe on the extra napkin. He ran pipe cleaners through the stem and airway, folded them, swabbed out the bowl and put them on the napkin as well. He folded the napkin and laid it aside while he sipped his tea. He was looking forward to his bowl of soup.

The waitress served the large soup and he quietly sat and finished his lunch. He was finally at peace with what lay ahead of him. It amused him how easily a tin of tobacco could change his whole perspective. But as he thought about it he realised that the pipe and the prayer had begun the process of his surrender of something beyond his control and the tin of tobacco had merely taken his attention at the right time… ah well time to head out. He thought he might head down to the tobacco shop after all and see what they had on their shelves. He was up for a day out on a walk about. He reloaded his pipe, paid his bill and headed outdoors. He stood in the door way and lit the pipe and waited until he had a good coal going before walking. He was enjoying the day. People walked by and nodded their hellos; one older woman even said she loved the smell of his pipe as it reminded her of her dad. He stood quietly waiting for the tobacco to start burning well before he walked on.

Once the pipe was burning well, he tamped his pipe, relit it and started down the next lane way on his trek across the neighbourhood to his favourite pipe shop. Yes indeed, though much was still uncertain in terms of the days ahead for him, there was a lot to be thankful for.

 

 

 

 

 

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Father Tom – Life in Ordinary Time – Interrupted


Blog by Steve Laug

I have been working on a few Father Tom stories that address some of the inevitable issues of growing older. This is the link to the first one (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/05/19/father-tom-after-the-prayers-have-been-said/). The second one looks at a health issue that I have gone through and survived (and I am sure others of you have as well). I reflect on how the pipe ritual of loading, lighting and tamping seems to bring calm and enable perspective in an otherwise tumultuous experience. The act of slowly smoking the pipe brings quietude that makes room for clarity when processing these and other issues. Thanks for reading. — Steve

When he left the house he had enough time for a leisurely walk to his doctor’s office. He could stop along the way and grab a coffee and sip it as he walked. He could puff on his pipe and as he was pretty much oblivious to the anti-smoking folks he would be uninterrupted in his quiet. He had unconsciously put on his clerical shirt and collar this morning after breakfast but it would serve him well. Nothing was to be avoided more in Vancouver than someone walking down the street looking like a priest. It almost guaranteed that he would be left alone and could smoke his pipe without intrusion.

The path he had chosen took him through the Olympic Village and along the water front of False Creek. He ambled along deep in thought enjoying the slight breeze and the cool of the morning. He was smoking a dark Virginia flake that he had lightly rubbed out and stuffed in his pipe. He had learned that trick somewhere along the way. Once it was smoldering it was a good long smoke and the flavours shifted and changed as the fire burned through the various mixed strands of tobacco in the bowl. He slowly puffed his pipe as was his habit – he did not have to think about it any more it was just normal for him. Some people puffed to the cadence of their pace as they walked but he had learned to separate the two and just slowly savoured the tobacco as he walked.

He was not purposely dragging his heals, he just wanted to take the time to process and think through what may be ahead of him at the appointment with his doctor. The walk was perfect for processing and the pipe provided the smoke screen that gave him space to quietly work through things. Strangely enough his mind had not gone to the “what ifs” but rather he had spent some time reflecting on his life. He had to admit that it had been amazingly uneventful for an aging priest in his mid sixties. He had spent the better part of 35 years as a parish priest in a variety of locations in British Columbia, Canada and a young trainee for the priesthood before that. Even his upbringing to get him to the point of entering the priesthood had been unremarkable. He could easily say that his life had been lived in ordinary time – no real interruptions or troubles other than the occasional bumps in the road relationally or within the parish. But truly he had faithfully and dutifully walked/plodded through the years. Until now his health had also proceeded along quietly and oddly uneventful. He was thankful for that.

Despite the long walk, Father Tom arrived at the doctor’s office early. He sat on the wall in back of the office and finished up the bowl of tobacco he was smoking. He quieted the intrusive white coat shakes that were vibrating through him by letting the pipe do its magic. As he puffed slowly on his pipe he found his anxiety lessening and his heart quieting. When he finished the bowl he went in and greeted the woman at the desk and took his place on the Chesterfield in the office underneath the huge Rodin painting of the dancing women. He closed his eyes and sat quietly, unconsciously fidgeting with his pipe in his pocket. He stirred when he heard the receptionist tell him the doctor would see him now and he could go back.

As he walked down the hallway he stuck his pipe in his mouth – it was an unconscious action on his part and certainly a way of giving himself some comfort. As he walked into the office he had a vague memory that the doctor had said he would be away. The person sitting at his desk was a locum who was filling in for him. When Father Tom came into the office the doctor turned to greet him. Now the problems began…she was obviously uncomfortable. He did not know if it was the collar or the pipe hanging in his mouth or what, but she did not seem able bring herself to tell him about the tests. She fumbled around with the papers on her desk and had a hard time looking him in the eye. Finally, she commented that the results of his blood work were back and there were some concerns. That was it and she left him hanging without continuing. It was awkward to say the least. There was a silence that seemed really long to Father Tom. She sat looking down and he stood in the doorway waiting. He made his way to the chair beside the desk and sat down. Still nothing was forthcoming.

To help her get to the point he started guessing – was it the thyroid test? No. The liver and kidney specific tests? No. The blood chemistry in terms of platelets and white cells? No. Hemoglobin tests? Cholesterol? No. Diabetes? No. He went through each test that he had undergone and to each one her response was no. Finally, he got to the last of the list after all of the above elicited a negative response. He knew before he asked, by process of elimination that the answer would be yes. So he as if was the PSA test – the Prostate Specific Antigen tests which contained markers for Prostate cancer… slowly she nodded yes. No further explanation seemed to be forthcoming so he asked what it meant… she swallowed and said that the numbers had shown a significant increase. What did that mean? No answer… he had enough, he stood and said if she was done he was leaving and would wait until his regular doc came home. She said no… she wanted to schedule a biopsy and an appointment with a urologist for him before he left the office. He sat back down and looked at her… what does that mean? Is there cancer? Again no answer… this was absolutely crazy. He was stymied with what to do next so he just sat there.

She got up and left him sitting there. She did not come back so he walked out to the waiting room and the receptionist. She at least was communicative and handed him his two appointment cards. The first was for the biopsy that she had scheduled for early the next morning and the other for the urologist on Monday afternoon the following week. She assured him that the urologist was very good and a colleague of his regular doctor. She bade him goodbye as the phone rang. He sat on the edge of the Chesterfield and reloaded his pipe. He put the pipe in the pouch of tobacco and pushed it into the bowl. It took longer than usual this time around but he had done it for so long he did not have to think about it. His mind was just whirling.

One of the other patients sitting in the waiting room told him that the office was a no smoking environment. He did not even acknowledge her when she spoke, for he was too numb to care. Once the bowl was right and he tested the draw he rose to his feet and went out the door. He lit his pipe and stood in the entry way puffing on the pipe until he got a good burn going. He started walking home in a thick cloud of smoke. This time he took a straighter path home – up Arbutus to Broadway. Once he was on Broadway he walked until he got to Granville Street. At Granville he stopped a small pub and ordered a pint and sat in the sidewalk café. He had no idea what time it was as his mind was swirling. He finished his pint and relit his pipe. He made his way to 16th Avenue and walked East until he got to Main Street. He was not far from home now but he could not keep up with his own thoughts…he sat on a park bench on 16th in the park between Main and Fraser. The lack of information he had been given rattled him and his normal tendency to assume the worst was not helpful. His head was spinning and he could not quiet his fears. He quietly recited the Serenity Prayer as he sat there. Long ago he had memorized the long version of the prayer as he found that the second half gave him much hope and expressed the desire of his heart. It was that version that he recited there in the park.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

He took a deep breath and slowly let the breath out. He felt a calmness coming back over him that had deserted him since he had received the news. It was a calmness born not of denial but of trust. H repacked his pipe and slowly puffed away while his thoughts became more focused. He knew the “C” word was not final until after the biopsy and the appointment with the urologist but it felt final to him. He would need to set aside the what ifs until that time as they were unproductive now. He knew that whatever happened in the next few days, that his until now ordinary life had certainly been interrupted. All of the ordinary life experiences he had enumerated previously during the walk to the doctor, his quiet uneventful life, suddenly faded into the mist of the potential threat that reared up in front of him now. It seemed strange that only a few hours before he had found comfort in his rituals of the morning. Now that morning seemed ages ago and he had been reeling inside. Somehow the ritual of the pipe and the prayer had brought a new calm over him.

If you had been near by you would have heard him repeat “living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time…trusting…”. You would have seen an elderly priest, pipe in mouth, talking to himself, deep in thought. He sat that way for a long time, nothing moving other than the imperceptible rise and fall of his chest as he puffed on his pipe. The smoke rose around him and engulfed him in his thoughts. Then suddenly it was if he came to life, he came back to the moment, tamped his pipe, stood up and started walking the remaining blocks home. His mind was quieter than it had been all day. Really nothing had changed but him. Somehow the pipe and the prayer together had given him the space to stand apart from his problem and be quiet. He knew Mrs. Conti would have prepared dinner for him and laid it out. It would be ready for his arrival. He knew that his pipes and his books would be on the table next to his chair. He knew that he had a quiet evening ahead of him. He knew he would face the biopsy in the morning. And he knew that he was not alone as he walked through this.

He went up 16th to Fraser and then up Fraser to his block. Once there he crossed Fraser and made his way home. He opened the gate and climbed the stairs. He unlocked the front door and went inside. He put his hat on the hall tree and went into the kitchen to see what was laid out for supper. He fixed a plate and took it to his chair in the parlour. He sat down, put his pipe on the rest and quietly ate his meal. A thought went through his head and he said it out loud – no, even this is still ordinary time – just interrupted.

Father Tom – After the prayers have been said


Blog by Steve Laug

Avatar3It has been a long time since I posted a new Father Tom story. I have been fiddling with this one for quite a while now. I think it captures the thoughts that I wanted it to so I am putting it up here for those of you who have enjoyed the earlier stories to read. I am in the process of putting the earlier Father Tom stories into a book. I had hoped that it would be finished by now – but it is not. I may well get it done this summer as I have some time that I can spend writing as my travels for work are less this year. Besides that, I have three or four more Father Tom stories that I am working on that I will post here in the days ahead.

Father Tom closed his prayer book and stood quietly as the last people left the graveside and dwindled away. There were just a few people who had come out to the graveside for the burial service of the older woman he had just committed into the ground and God’s care. She had no family and very few friends in the city. She had outlived most of her peers in her hometown and had only lived in Vancouver for a few years – not a lot of time to gather close friends.Those who had come out were an odd assortment of people from her retirement home. Even the ones that came to the cemetery were mere acquaintances and really they had no fond memories of the deceased. It seemed to Father Tom that funerals always seemed to bring out interesting spectators. He had learned this through the years of his ministry. He waited in silence by the grave as they made their way back to their cars.

It was a sunny afternoon with no wind – an unusual respite from the normal October rains. The grass was dry and the gravel paths through the Mountainview Cemetery were nicely laid out. It would be a great place for some time to walk and think. He had ridden with the funeral director to the graveside and had told him he would walk home. He was looking forward to some time alone without interruptions or demands – just the quiet that only cemeteries offer. He needed the space and time to think and reflect; and God knows that he had lots to think about today. He had received some disturbing news yesterday.

As the backhoe appeared at the graveside to refill the hole he stepped back and reached in his pocket for his pipe and pouch. He opened the pouch and loaded a bowl with some new tobacco that he was trying. It smelled wonderful and the few bowls he had smoked of it already were delightful. It was just what he needed to move him from a place of fretting to quiet. He pinched some tobacco with his fingers and stuffed it into the bowl until it full. He put the pipe in his mouth and checked the draw as he lit the tobacco with his lighter. He tamped it and relit it. The second light took and soon he stood lost in his smoke, oblivious to the sounds of the backhoe.

He mulled over the news that he had received from Doctor Mac aided by the distance that a pipe gave him. The doctor’s office had called about some of the results of his recent physical. The doctor had wanted him to go for a bit of blood work prior to the physical and he had complied. The trouble was that the lab had not sent the results in time for the doctor’s visit. That was no big deal normally. His blood work was usually clear so it had caused him no worries. But the doctor’s office had called and said they wanted him to stop by as there some concerns regarding his blood work. He always found that kind of call unnerving. His mind spun through a list of horrible possibilities. He hated that tendency in himself but that was where he always went. He hoped that the walk home through the quiet cemetery, smoking a bowl or two of tobacco would take his mind off his worries and give him some much needed perspective. The pipe always gave him the ability to look at his concerns from a distance and weigh them objectively. It was one of the reasons he loved his pipe and considered it his favoured companion.

As he walked along the path through the cemetery he was transported from the uncertainty of the doctor’s news to a place of quietude that a good pipe delivers. He was lost in the flavours, the textures of the pipe, the smells that invaded his senses and the cloud of rich smoke that gathered around his head and trailed behind him. His mind was quiet and his scattered and anxious thoughts slipped away with the cadence of puffing his pipe. Slowly he disengaged from his fears and troubles, calmed by the familiar comfort of his pipe. In the quiet space that it created he recited one of his favourite prayers from the AA Big Book – The Third Step Prayer and relaxed. The words like the smoke lifted his thoughts outward. Here are the words he prayed.

The Third Step Prayer
from page 63 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Praying those words and puffing his pipe he made his way homeward. Finally he was able to have a bit of perspective that enabled him to cease struggling and be still in the midst of the questions that had earlier plagued him. He would face tomorrow as tomorrow came. He had well learned the lesson that each day had trouble enough in its own right to have to borrow more from tomorrow. He finished his first bowl as he crossed King Edward and headed down the hill on Fraser toward Kingsway. He paused on the north side of the cross walk and loaded another bowl of tobacco to smoke for the remainder of his walk.

When he arrived at his home, he opened the gate and climbed the stairs to his porch. Standing at his front door he found himself wondering about what to do for dinner. He had given Mrs. Conti the day off so he was on his own. He put his keys back in his pocket and sat on a chair while he surveyed the options from the comfort of his porch. He continued smoking his pipe without a thought of the concerns that had captured him in the cemetery. With his mind made up he went down the stairs, out the gate and headed up the street to his favourite Chinese noodle house. A chicken hot pot with some spring rolls on the side would do him well. He could sip some nice Oolong tea and enjoy the quiet space while he waited for his dinner. Besides that, Eva, the waitress there knew him well and knew how to keep him on his toes.

With his pipe still in his mouth he pushed open the door of the Noodle House, greeted Eva, the waitress he had come to know from years of eating in the same establishment and went to his normal booth. Eva brought him a glass of hot tea, and without a comment regarding his pipe laid a menu down in front of him. Both Eva and Tom knew he did not need the menu but it was part of their ritual. He took his pipe from his mouth and laid it down, picked up the menu and thumbed through its pages. Eva chuckled as he finished and ordered his usual. He sipped the tea and turned the pipe over in his hands while he waited for the hot pot to arrive. Once again his mind began to worry at the impending doctor’s visit but quietly repeated the prayer he had prayed earlier in the afternoon. Just as he finished Eva brought the clay pot of chicken and vegetables. She gave her standard warning as she placed in front of him, “Be careful, very hot, very hot”.

She turned and left Tom to his own devices. She had long ago learned that he liked to at least pretend he knew how to use chopsticks and the soup spoon. He picked the tools up and opened the lid of the hot pot. The aromas of the baked mixture rose to his nose and he began to navigate the bowl. He ate in silence and savoured the meal. It was always good to eat a hot pot at the Noodle House. It satisfied his hunger and left him feeling satisfied. When he finished he tamped the tobacco in his pipe, put it in his mouth and went to the counter to pay his bill. He stood inside the door and lit the pipe, waved to Eva and headed home.

He hesitated on his front porch, not wanting to go inside and have to start thinking again. So he sat on a chair and finished his bowl of tobacco and enjoyed the end of a good bowl. He tapped out his ashes over the edge of the railing and went to the front door. He turned the key in the lock and went into his home. He hung his hat and jacket on the hall tree and went to change into his comfortable clothes. He shed the collar and black priestly uniform and put on his favourite flannel shirt, cardigan and jeans. He slipped on his moccasins and headed out to the parlour. It was time to have a sip or two of good bourbon and enjoy another pipe while he read for a while. No one knocked on the door, the phone did not ring and as the pipe went out he soon fell asleep in his chair. In the morning when Mrs. Conti came in to make breakfast she found him fast asleep in his chair. He still clasped the pipe in his hand and the empty bourbon glass sat on the table next to him.

“Poor man. It must have been a hard day with the funeral and such. Not an easy job for any human being. Hmmph”, she said as she made her way to the kitchen. She went about her morning ablutions of creating Father Tom’s standard fare. She knew what he liked and as a creature of habit rarely if ever veered from his normal pattern. She made a pot of fresh coffee that brewed while she fried the bacon. She sliced some of her home made marble rye bread and prepared it for toast. She laid out the table for the breakfast and waited to cook the eggs until the good Father finished his morning ritual. She had worked for him long enough to know his routine. She knew that very soon he would make his way to the kitchen. She waited to hear him rouse and then would pour a cup of coffee and have it in hand when he came through the kitchen door.

The smell of coffee and bacon soon roused Father Tom and he sat up with a start. It took him a few moments to orient himself to where he was. He rubbed his eyes and took in the parlour and had to chuckle at himself when he realized that he had slept in his chair. He emptied the pipe that he had in his hand and refilled the bowl to smoke with his coffee. He lit the pipe and once he had a good burn on the tobacco he got up and stumbled to the kitchen for the cup of coffee. When he came through the door Mrs. Conti held out the cup of coffee to him and he took it with a nod of his head. Not a word came from his mouth. The smoke billowed from his pipe as he stood there with cup in hand. He took his first sip and sighed with contentment. Mrs. Conti had long ago learned that he did not communicate until he had had that coffee. He sipped the first cup of coffee as he made his way to the shower and finished it as he adjusted the water. He stood under the water for a long time just letting the spray wash over him; slowly but surely he began to wake up and his mind began to recognize his world.

He turned off the water and dried himself off. He brushed his teeth and then reached into the tin of tobacco that sat on the counter top. One of his habits was to leave a tin in almost every room. That way no matter what room he was in he could load a bowl. He filled the pipe, packed it and drew on it. It was perfect so he lit it with the lighter in his pocket. He ran a comb through his hair and adjusted the clothes he had on and made his way to the table. As he passed through the kitchen he could see the eggs were frying in the pan. He poured himself a refill of coffee and took a pull on the pipe. He savoured the good taste of the tobacco and sipped his second mug of coffee. He felt almost human. He finally was able to say good morning to Mrs. Conti and made his way to the breakfast table.

The place had been set; he laid down his coffee mug and took a sip of the orange juice that was waiting. He set his pipe on the table and took a deep breath. Mrs. Conti brought him a plate of bacon and eggs with a side of toast and jam. He settled into the morning ritual of breakfast. There was comfort for him in repeated patterns. He repeated the prayer from the day before and finished his breakfast. He pushed back his chair and sat for a while finishing his pipe. He was quiet and thoughtful this morning – no harm in that. He thought about getting dressed for the day and then walking to his doctor’s office. All would be okay with the impending doctor’s visit today. He would move ahead a day at a time and see what awaited him.

Before he left the table he refilled his pipe and lit it. He sat quietly for a few more minutes until he had the pipe smoldering well. He sipped on the smoke and let the cares of the day ahead fall off him. It never ceased to amaze him how the smoke of a pipe seemed to slow down his mind and give him the ability to cast off his cares. It seemed that there was something sacramental almost in the very act of smoking a pipe. Whatever it was it had the ability to lift a pipeman above his troubles and give the space needed to refocus his thoughts. He dressed and went back to the kitchen to tell Mrs. Conti he would see her later. He closed the front door behind him and headed out the gate for the walk to the appointment. The distance to the office would give him time to enjoy a bowl or maybe two and prepare for whatever news that awaited him there.

Father Tom – A Serendipitous Encounter in Frankfurt


Father Tom heard the announcement over the intercom at Heathrow that his plane was now boarding so he hurriedly left the smoking cage and made straight for the gate for his flight to Budapest. He knew that he would change planes in Frankfurt on the way and was hoping to get the chance to pick up some pipe tobacco from the Duty Free on the layover there. He also hoped that Jack Spratt and his wife from the Vancouver/London flight would not be on the same plane.  He was weary of obnoxious passengers. He wanted to have a little quiet down time to read over his notes for the conference in Budapest. His pipe still hung unconsciously in his mouth, though the tobacco was long since burned away and the dottle disposed of in the cage. He absentmindedly touched the pipe at different points in his walk to the gate. People would glare at him as he walked along oblivious to their stares and pointed comments about not smoking. If he had noticed he would likely have had some witty repartee to give back to them.

By the time he boarded the Frankfurt bound plane he had returned the pipe to his jacket pocket without much intention, so he had no further problems. It seemed too fortunate to be true that his troublesome travel companions were not on this plane, as he was used to a bit of hassle on his flights. He settled into his seat on the aisle so that his right leg could straighten out in the aisle once they were underway. His leg always gave him problems when he sat too long so he had learned to accommodate his aches and pains. The takeoff was uneventful and his seatmates were soon sleeping. While he read through his materials for the seminar in Budapest, he reached in his pocket and stuck his pipe in his mouth and unconsciously gnawed on it. The flight attendant made it a point to remind him of the no smoking rules.  He pointed to the bowl showing that it was empty and commented that it was his soother and would keep him quiet on the flight. As an afterthought he said, “You wouldn’t want a cranky old man whinging on this leg of the trip.” With that the flight attendant laughed, shook her head and continued down the aisle.

He settled into his reading and writing, interrupted only by the food and beverage service – some type of dark bread and a strong cheese,served with a thimble sized cup of strong coffee. He missed his mug of fine coffee and grimaced as he sipped the strong, dark, lukewarm brew. He was looking forward to finally landing in Budapest. The conference was scheduled for three days so he had booked several extra days following the conference so that he could do some sightseeing and visit the local tobacconists. He had searched online for and found some pipe shops that looked interesting. As he thought about that he took the pipe from his mouth, held it in his hand and looked out the window. He wondered how soon they would be landing. He was actually looking forward to the layover in Frankfurt – another bowl would be a comfort and maybe he could pick up some stout German lager as well. Within moments of his thoughts the plane began its descent and the announcement came over the speakers that they would be landing soon and should turn of electronic devices… He chuckled and said to himself, “That wish did not take long to be granted.”

The plane landed smoothly and taxied to gate. The passengers quickly maneuvered their way off the plane. About mid-stream among the disembarking crowd was Father Tom. His pipe hung from his mouth as he clutched his briefcase in his hand. He had put his flat cap on and he was a man on a mission. Once off the plane he looked for a smoking area where he could fire up his pipe. Seeing none, he asked at the information desk where he might find one. Somehow in his bumbling German he was able to understand where he was being directed…or at least he thought he understood. So he started on his way toward the spot pointed out to him. When he arrived he realized that something had been lost in the translation as he found himself standing in another queue for Security. He was trapped in a line that could not be exited so he moved forward with the crowd. When he arrived at the desk of the Security Officer he was asked to put his bag, coat and shoes on the belt to be scanned. He did as he was told but forgot to take the pipe from his mouth. The officer pointed at the pipe so he looked down to see his pipe in his mouth and placed it in the tray as well.

When he had passed through the scanner he realized that he was still in the gate area of the airport and had actually moved to the sets of gates where his next plane would depart. He went to the information desk and asked again for the smoking area. The attendant had a blank look on her face so he pointed to his pipe and acted out smoking… she nodded. She understood and pointed him to the area. Ah… finally he had accomplished at least a part of his mission. He expected a cage like the one at Heathrow so you can imagine his surprise when he found the newly renovated smoking lounge in Frankfurt airport. It was beautiful and new. He found a comfortable seat in an unoccupied corner of the room and soon was totally oblivious to anyone else in the room, happy to have achieved his mission. He filled his bowl, lit, tamped and relit the pipe and soon he was quietly enjoying the solitude of his smoke. He became almost invisible in a cloud of sweet Virginia smoke. No one sat near him so he could get lost in his thoughts and enjoy himself thoroughly.

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Suddenly his quiet repast was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. He came back to the present and was prepared to give a ready retort to anyone asking him to put out his pipe; but before he could speak the chap at the other end of the hand came into focus.  It was an older gentleman wearing much the same dress as he did that came around the chair to stand in front of him. He even sported a pipe in his mouth. He was saying something and Father Tom had to quickly shake away his surprise and listen. The older gent seemed to guess Tom had not heard him, so with a twinkle in his blue eyes he repeated himself.

“Good day sir. May I join you for a bowl while I am waiting? I have been sitting in this room in the opposite corner smoking a bowl by myself when I saw you come in. I thought to myself it would be a fine thing to have a word or two with a fellow pipeman. Do you mind?” said the old gentleman.

Father Tom shook his head in amazement and said, “I apologize for my speechless surprise a moment ago. I am so used to having to defend my right to smoke my pipe that I was shocked to see a pipe in your mouth. I had no idea there was another pipe smoker in the room. Certainly, it would be great to have you join me for a bowl. What are you smoking? What kind of pipe is that you have?”

And with those questions the agenda for the layover was set. The thought of a pint of lager quickly disappeared from his mind as the good father and the old fellow exchanged names and settled into the kind of conversation pipemen the world over enter into with one another with little effort. The older gent’s name was John and he lived in Oxford, England. He was also heading to Budapest for a business meeting regarding some materials his company was exporting to Hungary. They enjoyed a great hour and a half smoking and talking about pipes they owned or had sold, ones that were on the wish list and old tobaccos that they missed. They heard the intercom announcement for their flight and headed for the plane to Budapest. On the way out the door they tapped out the dottle from their pipes into an ashtray on one of the tables. They chatted on their way to their gate and made arrangements to get together after their meetings and check out the local pipe shops. They both had done some homework and had come up with the same two shops that each of them had on his list to visit – the Pipatorium and Gallwitz Tobacconist. It was likely a curious sight to behold for the other travelers, as the two older men, each with an empty pipe in his mouth, chatting up a storm made their way down the aisle. They were like long lost brothers reunited after years of being apart.  They traded seats with another passenger so they could sit together and soon were lost in an ongoing discussion. The flight to Budapest went quickly and soon they had landed. They left the plane, picked up their luggage and parted company for their respective hotels.

John said, “See you on Wednesday when I am finished and we can spend the evening laying out the plans for our walkabout on Thursday. Who knows we may find a couple other shops to check out as well. I know that Davidoff has a shop here and there is also a Cigar shop shaped like a tube that we can check out near the Vaci Utca. Hope you enjoy your conference.”

Father Tom responded, “Talk to you soon John. I am looking forward to Wednesday evening. We can have some dinner and a bit of Hungarian wine and layout the plan. Good luck on the business meetings.”

They left the plane, nodded to each other as they made their way to meet their rides. As Father Tom waited for his ride he thought to himself, “What a serendipitous turn of events to meet another pipe smoker in Frankfort and to have each booked extra time on their trip to visit some tobacco shops. The trip was going to be a memorable one regardless of the outcome of their individual meetings”. The random events of travel had come together to their mutual favor, for a change from the typical trials both had known.

Steve Laug 03/22/13 Copyright 2013

Father Tom – A Problem of Focus


Father Tom was having a hard time focusing. No matter how hard he tried he could not keep his mind on the work in front of him. That would not have been bad in itself had it not been that the work to be finished was his sermon for the next day. Because of that he did not have the luxury of putting it off to another day. But the deadline did not seem to give him any impetus and his mind kept wandering in a variety of directions – none of which converged on the text of the sermon. He found himself looking at the pipes that were on his desk that needed to have his attention. The older he got the more he found delight in the restoration of pipes that he would pick up on his travels. He loved handling them and trying to listen to their stories. He loved reworking them, cleaning them, refinishing them. But today was not supposed to be about that it was about writing the sermon for Sunday. He had to try to settle down to the work at hand. What was it going to take to get his mind on task? He had the outline that he had written sitting on the desk in front of him… along with about four pipes in need of various repairs, some remnants of sandpaper that he used on them, some tenons and stems… but none of that was getting the sermon finished. Try as he might he could not focus.

Finally he gave up and turned away from trying to work on his sermon text. He knew that eventually he would get back to it but it just was not happening at the moment. He left it on the desk in front of him, just in case he had the urge to get back to it. He rationalized that a good pipe of his favourite Virginia would help him focus. He picked up his old BBB bulldog and packed it with the tobacco of choice and fired it up. As he sipped on the smoke, tamped it a few times, relit the bowl he also picked up an old pipe from the repair pile sitting on his desk. It was a promising looking GBD billiard that he had found at a flea market a few days earlier. It did not appear to need a lot of work so it would not take a lot of time to get it cleaned up. He turned it over in his hands and looked at the rim and bowl. He sniffed the bowl to see if he could identify the tobacco that remained. He looked over the damage to the rim and noted that under the buildup of tars and juices it was still smooth. Ah, he thought to himself this would be a relatively easy cleanup. Without any hesitation he took out his cleaning kit and began to wipe down the rim and bowl with a soft cloth and his special mixture to loosen the grime. He continued to smoke his pipe as he worked on the old timer. Soon he was lost in the task in front of him. All thoughts of other things were pushed to the side as he wondered about what stories this old pipe would tell if only it could speak.

He was puffing on his pipe and talking to himself while working while he worked. The old pipe in his hands had a small wad of tobacco left in the bowl. In fact it was about half full and unlit. It was as if the pipe was being filled when it was set down. It made him wonder what had interrupted the process. Where had the pipeman gone leaving behind the half-filled bowl? Why hadn’t he come back to finish packing the bowl? While mulling these things over Father Tom had finished working on the rim. It was clean so he scraped out the old tobacco onto a paper on his desk – yes onto the sermon notes if you must know. He did not even seem to notice this fact. He took out a pipe reamer and gave the bowl a quick ream to smooth out the cake. Then he took the pipe apart and worked on the inside of the shank and bowl. He used the isopropyl alcohol that also sat on his desk next to the study books – kind of a ready bookend for what he was reading… in preparing his sermon. He ran pipe cleaners through the shank to clean up the tars and dust. He finished and laid the pipe aside then picked up the stem. He was fortunate as it was fairly clean. There was no oxidation to deal with and no tooth marks. He ran pipe cleaners through it as well until they came out clean. He then put the pipe back together and took it out to his buffer.

He kept the buffer in the laundry room so that he could access it quickly from his study. He buffed the pipe and waxed it until it shone. When he was finished he carried it back to his desk. At that moment he noticed the dottle and carbon dust on his sermon, mumbled to himself, shook his head and carried his paper to the waste can next to his desk. He shook the tobacco and carbon into the can and then took a tissue from his desk, wiped off the remaining dust and tried to remove the stains from his papers. He shook his head while mumbling to himself that it did not matter and went back to the desk. He laid down his now finished pipe in the pipe rest and took the jar of tobacco from the corner of the desk. He packed the newly cleaned pipe, tamped it down and fired it up. He spoke his thoughts out loud, “Now to finish that bowl for you.”

As he sat enjoying the smoke, the thoughts of the pipe’s previous owner went through his mind. There was a satisfaction about reclaiming an old pipe and putting it back into service. He wondered again about the original pipeman who had left his bowl half packed. What had happened to him? He shook himself and turned back to work on his sermon. He smoked the “new” pipe contentedly and picked up his pen. He scanned through his notes and made a few corrections to the text. He turned to the carbon stained page and put the final touches to the manuscript. He read through his final draft as he puffed on the pipe. “Not bad, not bad at all”, he said to himself. I have no idea if he was talking about his sermon or the pipe full of Virginia that was smouldering under his nose. I guess we may never know but in fact it does not matter at all. Time to light a bowl of my own and get back to working on the pile of papers on my own desk… now where was I?

Father Tom – an odd bird in the cage


It had been a long flight from Vancouver to London, made longer and harder to endure because of the seatmates around him on the plane, Father Tom was tired.  He had been seated across the aisle from a couple who seemed to have brought a picnic basket stuffed with incredible amounts of food on the plane with them. The man was a Jack Spratt type fellow and his wife was the direct opposite. They made a comical picture for the first part of the flight but the novelty soon wore off. The man sat quietly, almost like he was not present and the woman continuously ate from the moment she took her seat in Vancouver until the plane had touched down in London. You can now imagine the size of her food hamper. The eating would not have been unbearable, but the ongoing smells that kept wafting across the aisle, the cacophony of sound of rustling wrappers and crackling papers as one package after another was opened. Added to that was the visual image of her mouth constantly opening to take in yet another goody, before she was finished chewing what was already in it! On top of that, the man behind him insisted on reading the newspaper with it virtually sitting on top of Father Tom’s head. It seemed that each time he would doze off one or the other passengers would crackle, pop or hit him on the head. The snoring of the person on his right, and the envy of his escape…, you can imagine the frustration from the lack of any rest. Yes indeed it had been a long flight without rest or distraction from the chorus of poor travel companions!

It seemed as if he was never happier than when the rubber tires hit the tarmac of the runway and the plane landed. When the seat belt sign went off he stood and put on his Harris Tweed jacket, his flat cap and took his brief case and quickly headed for the door. Once off the plane, he hung the briefcase by a strap on his shoulder and rummaged through his jacket pocket to find his pipe and tobacco pouch. He packed the bowl with a nice thick Virginia flake as he walked down to corridor of the airport. He remembered that there was a smoking cage in Heathrow near the shoeshine stand at one end of the airport. He set his sights for the cage and the tranquility of being engulfed in a cloud of blue smoke. He had long ago learned that the most ardent cigarette smoker moved away from the blue cloud and he would have space alone.

His bag bumped along against his leg as he walked. Once the pipe was packed he stuck it in his mouth and clenched it as he walked. He was oblivious to the stares of people walking by staring at the aging priest with the pipe in his mouth. I am sure several must have said something about the airport being a non-smoking environment but Father Tom would not have heard that at all. His target was in sight and he was a man on a mission. If you had been close to him you might have heard him humming a song to himself as he walked – or at least you might have thought it was a song. I think though, in reality it was a countdown in terms of steps and paces from the gate to the cage – a series of steps that he had counted before and knew by heart.

He edged his way to the cage, walking in front of several people who seemed intent on blocking his way; oblivious to their words and comments about his person and character. He had made it! He pushed open the door to the cage and entered the smoke filled room. Just inside the door he fumbled for his lighter in his pocket and brought it out to light the pipe. He struck the wheel on BIC lighter and a flamed danced over the surface of the tobacco. The first plume of smoke came out of the pipe. He tamped it with his finger, long ago calloused and impervious to the heat of the burning tobacco. He flicked the lighter and lit the tobacco and drew the smoke into his mouth to savour. Only then did he look in front of him at the crowded room.

The place was packed with a relatively young crowd – at least in comparison to him and how he felt at this time in his life. At that moment they were staring at him – an aging priest with a pipe in his mouth and smoke billowing out around his cap and whiskers. I think that they must have found him comical to look at and were wondering what he was thinking of in his moment of relief. Obviously he was totally immersed in lighting his pipe and savoring the comfort of the moment. Only at that instant did he realize that he was the only one smoking a pipe, the only one over 30, the only one with a coat and collar in the whole room. He edged his way over to a side of the room where there was a ledge on which he could set his briefcase and lean in for the smoke. He nodded to the smokers in the room as he settled in for his retreat.

At that moment he cared not to give one thought to those around him. He did not care what they were thinking or even what they were talking to one another about as he puffed contentedly on his pipe. His eyes were closed and he was lost in thought – nothing profound or philosophical, mind you – just the thought of the long awaited pipeful. He sipped it and settled in comfortably to his corner. The smoke continued to billow out of the pipe and the corners of his mouth. At one moment he blew a couple of smoke rings and probably a soft sigh of contentment.

At the apex of his smoke he was rudely awakened to the crowd around him. A young chap was patting his arm and his shoulder, not softly either but almost roughly. He was saying something and Father Tom was brought out of his reverie to find that several sparks of his tobacco were burning holes in his Harris Tweed and not only was he smoking but his jacket was as well. The young chap almost doused him with some water but Father Tom stopped him and squeezed the sparks with his thumb and forefinger and extinguished them. He winked at the chap and thanked him for his kindness and waved off the crowd. To their amazement the pipe never left his mouth through the entire event. He made the comment that this was indeed one of the best smokes he had enjoyed in quite some time and thanks to the watchfulness of the group it had not been hazardous to his health!

With a twinkle in his eye he settled back into his quietude and finished his bowl before heading back out into the hallways of Heathrow to find a pint and some bangers and mash. He had a three hour layover in London before heading on to Budapest, Hungary for the meetings he was attending.

 

Father Tom – Spring Had Arrived


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.