Tag Archives: Short stories

Putting the finishing touches on my book…

A Short Story by Steve Laug

One of the challenges that I give myself when I have the time for it is to build a story from an old photo. I have written stories about tobacco shops, pipe men, relationships and buildings and rooms by looking at old photos and weaving a story. The photo I have chosen for this story is the one below. In it is a pipe smoker sitting at his desk with an array of photos around him and working diligently writing. His pipe is in his mouth. Sometime if you want a challenge give this a whirl – craft a story from a photo. Here is the photo and the story follows.Outside, the sun was shining and the rain had stopped. Inside, the old house was very quiet. My wife was visiting her mother for the day so I called the office and let them know that I would not be in today but would be taking a day off to get some personal work completed. I went to my study and got ready to work. I had a plan and it was pretty simple. Today would be a day to do complete the work on my book. I had already written twelve chapters and the prologue but I needed to put some final touches on it and write a concluding chapter. Before I sat down at the desk I adjusted the shade on the window to my left to block the bright light that hit my desk top. I put a fresh pad of paper and the file of completed chapters on the desk top. I sat down and looked out the window in front of me while I loaded up a pipe with some of my favourite tobacco. I tamped it down with my finger and lit it with the matches on my desk. I dropped the burned matches in the ash tray on the desk and sat back to enjoy the initial puffs on the pipe. Once it was going I would start to write.

To give you a bit of an idea how my mind works I want to describe the room I am working in. I have photos and pictures on the walls around the room that give me inspiration but those are not the important ones for the book I am currently writing. Rather, for each book I write I have a practice that has served me well. On the fireplace screen behind me I pin up photos that I use to get the ideas for my stories flowing. I have found that a good photo can add depth and dimension to my writing. Photos seem to give me ideas and concepts that otherwise may not have surfaced during my work. In this case the old family photos, office and building and the central photo of a contraption that looks like a gun all fed ideas that already graced the chapters of my book. I moved them around the board often and also added to them regularly as I moved through the writing process. It always amazed me when I looked at the finished book and then turned around and looked at my pin board. I could see the flow of the story in the photos I chose.

The rest of the room is suited to my tastes. The cupboards on either side of the window hold my writing supplies – paper, notebooks, and file folders. I placed my desk at an angle between the windows to maximize the natural light in the room and also to give me some much needed air circulation on hot days. The desk is kind of my kingdom. I have my frequently used reference books on one corner so that I can quickly look things up without losing my train of thought as I write. I have an inkwell and fountain pen there for writing. I have a stack of paper that I can quickly access. But most importantly of all to my left is my pipe rack with a selection of some of my favourite pipes and a humidor filled with tobacco. I also have a small container to hold the matches I use to light my pipe and an ashtray for the dottle.

I puffed slowly on my pipe as I made the necessary edits to the completed chapters. This was my fifth or sixth time going through the chapters to make sure everything flowed and the content did no contradict itself as it unfolded. It is so easy to mix up names of characters and moments in a story if you don’t consciously check for that as you work. I had caught most of the errors but I am such a perfectionist that I wanted to make sure one final time. I found that it also prepared my mind to write the concluding chapter and wrap things up. I got lost in the writing, almost oblivious to the world around me. I added a few touches to the earlier chapters that the later ones brought to light. I crossed out things were too obscure and rewrote those sections. Before I knew it the morning was gone and the sun had moved to the front window. I stood and stretched out the kinks. I dumped out the dottle in my pipe which had long since gone out. I refilled it and lit it again and stood working through the flow of the book in my mind. It was working well.

I sat back down and wrote out the first draft of the closing chapter. It really did not take too long because of the all the work I done all morning. The pieces came together nicely and when the bowl went out on my pipe the chapter was finished. Not too bad. I once more dumped out the ash and refilled my pipe. I lit it and sat for a moment just resting. I turned and looked at the photos on the fire-place screen to make sure I had not missed anything important in any of them. Things looked good. I quietly puffed on my pipe while I sat. It was good to just be silent.

I got up and went to the fire-place mantle and filled a cup with a little bit of scotch. I took it back to the desk and sipped it as I read the book from front to back yet again. I wanted make sure that the closing chapter pulled together all the loose pieces and did not start new unresolved ones. I read through the pages while sipping and puffing. I was so focused on the read that I did not notice that the pipe was empty until I sucked in some ash. Just as that happened I heard the door open. I checked the clock and saw that the afternoon was gone. I had been so involved in the writing process that I had forgotten to stop and eat. It seems like that happens a lot when I am in this mode. I feel a bit hungry now; perhaps my wife would like to go to the local pub for an early supper. I finish the last page of the book and put it in the folder. I empty the pipe and set it in the rack. I take a deep breath and walk out to the parlour to make a plan with my wife.





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.

Helping fulfill the “Gandalfian” Dreams of a Hungarian Friend

Blog by Steve Laug

Last month Laci, a friend from Hungary, came to our offices for training and work related ventures. We spent quite a bit of time together in training sessions over the course of his stay in Vancouver. Each day I picked him up at the bed and breakfast where he was staying and drop him off again in the evening. We talked, walked and ate together. The first day he was here he was sitting in my office next to my desk and we were planning our week. At this point in the visit I was utterly unaware that he was a pipe smoker. He noticed the pipe on my desk and asked about it. I told him about my love of restoring old pipes and all things pipes and tobacco. We started talking about pipes and tobacco and he shared what he liked to smoke and what pipes he had in his collection. He was by and large an aromatic smoker as he liked the sweet tastes that came with the tobaccos.

That evening we went out to dinner near his bed and breakfast and continued the conversation we had begun at the office. He spoke of the friends he had in Budapest who he met with to enjoy a pipe and the conversations to be had while smoking their pipes. He talked about the pipe he had and what shapes he particularly like. The conversation was no different from a hundred other conversations that I have had with pipe smokers around the world. You can probably fill in the blanks of the conversation and pretty accurately because I am sure you have had the same conversations yourself. Eventually the conversation came around to the types of pipe he dreamed of one day owning. He spoke of liking apple-shaped pipes whether bent of straight. He spoke of his dream of one day acquiring a Lord of the Rings style churchwarden pipe and smoking some LOTR tobacco. He said it like this “…the ultimate dream of mine is something like what Gandalf had…” At the moment he had no plan or date in mind for acquiring the pipe but he knew he wanted to get one.

We parted company that evening and I went home and looked in my pipe cabinet. I had several churchwarden pipes in my collection and most of them I smoke regularly. But there was one that I rarely picked up. There was nothing wrong with it but I don’t often pick up a CW to smoke and the one I made with the pipe I had purchased the day my eldest daughter was born always seems to get the attention. I took it out of the cupboard and turned it over in my hands. I waxed it again with a new coat of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buff. It is stamped either VI-RA or VERA but it is hard to be certain of the spelling. I have hunted down both names online and in my reference books and have not found any information on the brand. The stem is vulcanite and the bowl is a sturdy briar with a rusticated finish. The base of the bowl was flattened so that the pipe can be set down on the desk or table and it remains upright. The stain is a medium brown with some black undertones. It was clean and had only been smoked once or twice since I bought it.

The pipe was my first churchwarden. I had been looking for one for quite a while and I purchased the pipe at an antique mall in Langley, British Columbia many years ago for a pretty decent price. The stem was badly oxidized and the bowl was dirty and worn. The finish was gone and the stain was spotty. I cleaned and restained the bowl with the brown stain. I polished and waxed the stem. The shank had a small crack in it on the right side so I pressure fit it with a nickel band. The band really sets off the pipe nicely and gives it a touch of class.VarioWarden Several days later Laci came to our home for dinner with the family and I presented him with his wished for churchwarden. I wish I had taken a picture of the look on his face when he took it in his hands and turned it over to take in all he could. He was excited with his new pipe. I included some tobacco with the pipe to further meet his wish – a Tolkien LOTR blend from Burlington on Whyte Tobacconist of Edmonton, Alberta called Longbottom Leaf. It is a gentle aromatic with a delightful smell in the bag and a great room note for those who are in the room when it is smoked.

The next morning he brought his pipe to work and we were able to take a walk along the Fraser River and smoke our pipes. He packed a bowl of the Longbottom Leaf in the CW and entered the world and realm of LOTR. We walked for about a half hour and then settled on a park bench overlooking the river to enjoy the rest of our bowls. We walked back to the office when we had finished quite satisfied with the day. I could tell that once he went home this new pipe would occupy a central place in his pipe collection. I gave him several other tobacco samples to take home with him including one made by Robert Boughton who writes on the blog. These will be shared with his Hungarian pipe smoking cadre the next time they gather.

Laci, if you happen to read this post let us know how the pipe is smoking for you. Give us a glimpse of the folks you smoke the pipe with and be sure to give them our greetings.

A Short Story: A Blend of Tobacco at the Root of a Friendship

One of my side hobbies is to collect old photos of pipemen (both hard copies and electronic versions) and try to craft a story from them. I love to try and imagine the lives of the men and women in the photo and then write a short story from there. This particular story came to me from a photo I have had on my hard drive for quite a while. One day this past week I sat down and looked at it and the story came to me. You might imagine a totally different story and so might I on a different day. That is the fun of the process for me. As for this version of the story I am sure it will be revised over time but I thought I would share it as it currently stands. Thanks for taking time to read it.

2friends Henry and Paul first met at the local pipe shop in Gastown. Henry had come in to replenish his supply of his favourite tobacco and Paul was behind the counter working as a clerk. They were close to the same age and both had a love for their pipes. Being young they did not have a large collection of pipes. In fact if you had followed them home from the shop and seen where they each lived you would understand that like many young men renting a room in the city and working long hours they did not have much more than a change of clothes, a few books and a pair of boots. These two each had the pipe in their mouth, a pouch of tobacco and a match safe full of dry matches in the pocket of his coat. They both had a nail with a large head that served as a tamper as they smoked.

The day they met it was a rainy Vancouver day – normal for November. Henry was on a lunch break from his office on Cordova Street and had run over to the shop to pick up some tobacco. As he came through the door he was surprised to see that Richard was not working that day – or at least he was not out front. Rather, behind the counter stood a dapper young fellow with a waistcoat and watch fob. His sandy coloured moustache matched his hair perfectly. Henry had always wanted to grow a moustache but just did not have much luck with it. Once the young man had finished with his customer he introduced himself to Henry.

“Good afternoon sir, my name is Paul. I am new in the shop so I have not met many of the regulars yet. By new, I don’t mean I am new to the trade. I have been working in Victoria for several years at the Old Morris Shop and just moved to Vancouver. I stopped by and introduced myself to Richard and he hired me. What can I help you with?”

Henry replied, “Good to meet you Paul. I just came to pick up a couple of tins of my regular tobacco. I am quite taken with Dunhill Nightcap and I am just about out. I will take two tins of that if you have them. I am also interested in trying one of Richard’s blends that is kind of like Nightcap. Do you have any recommendations?”

They both made their way to the tobacco counter to see what Richard had available. Henry looked and smelled a few of the blends but nothing quite caught his fancy. So instead of one of the regular blends Paul decided he would custom blend a batch for Henry. He took down the recipe book and found the blend he was looking for. It would provide a base for the mixture he had in mind. He had a few additions of his own that he would put in the new blend. He took down the jars of tobaccos that he would blend to make the batch for Henry. He mixed the components noted on the card on the blending board, added his contributions and then tossed them together to mix the pieces. All the while Henry was watching the “chef” at work. He was amused at the drama of the production in front of him. Paul was so intent on his work that he almost forgot that Henry was there. He just mixed and checked the recipe and when he was done looked up. He had to laugh at himself.

“Sorry about that old chap. I was so intent on the mix that I totally lost sight of the customer. Have a whiff of this. Do you have your pipe with you? Dumb question, I know but it has happened so often that I always ask. Load a bowl of this and see what you think.”

So Henry did just that, he took his pipe from his coat pocket tamped out the dottle and then loaded a bowl of the “recipe”. He took his time packing the bowl – mind you it did not take too long. The whole thing from the question, to the mixing to the filling a bowl had taken a few minutes. When he had a bowl packed he lit a match and drew on his pipe. The smoke curled around his head as he breathed out. He was quiet for a while as he tasted the new blend.

“Hmmm, this is good stuff. I can taste the Orientals, the Latakia, the Virginia and is that a bit of cigar leaf?” He contentedly puffed on his pipe. This was a good blend.

Paul answered, “Yes I put a dab of cigar leaf in – my addition to the recipe. I always have liked the added taste that it brings to a blend. What do you think? Remember it will only deepen in flavour as it sits in your pouch.”

Henry silently puffed his pipe, drawing the smoke into his mouth, sipping the flavour and letting it curl out around the mouthpiece. This was truly a good smoke.
“Excuse me Paul, what time is it? I need to get back to the office before I am late. Can you pack that up for me and I will settle up. I will continue to smoke it over the weekend and be back in on Monday at noon. I am thinking I will need to get some more of this if it continues to smoke this well.”

With that Paul picked a small tin from under the counter, packed in the 4 ounces of his recipe and sealed the tin. He wrote the mixture components on a card and put it on file with Henry’s name and a date. Next time around it would be just a matter of following the recipe – kind of a My Mixture Gastown style. He handed the newly tinned batch to Henry with the words, “Enjoy the new blend my friend. I am sure I will see you Monday and we will adjust things as necessary.”

Henry went out the door, saying over his shoulder, “Talk soon Paul. I am pretty sure this one will be a keeper. I just have a good feeling about it.”

The door bounced closed and once the chime over it was stilled Paul went back to work, cleaning up the remnants off the blending table and putting them in a jar that Richard kept under the counter. The jar was beginning fill up with a good bunch of tobacco and would soon go into the leavings bags that were sold at a great price to the daring pipemen who came through the door.

by Steve Laug 10/21/13

Reflections of an amateur refurbisher

This week after seeing George Dibos’(of Precision Pipe Repair) three part post on cutting a stem from rod stock that he shared on Smokers Forums I have to say that I am left to confess that I am truly an amateur refurbisher. I am not downplaying the work I do or the pleasure I get out of my craft but only wish to acknowledge that there are true masters of the craft. George is truly a master at what he does. His careful attention to minute details of repairing pipes makes his refurbishments some of the best in the business. He is able to replicate stems that are incredibly matched to the originals. I am in no way negating the value of doing the work ourselves but it is acknowledging those who are leading the craft and creating beautiful work. I stand in awe of him and others like him who make this work look so easy. I must say that in comparison to them I feel a lot like a bush mechanic in the company of truly gifted mechanics.

I have no trouble acknowledging the fundamental difference between the work I do and what these gifted individuals in the pipe restoration/repair community do. It is truly no different than recognizing the difference between artisans who carve pipes as a livelihood and those who do it as a spare time hobby. Both are artists in their own right. To a varying degree there is a difference in the skill level, if not by natural gifting, certainly by sheer volume of practice. The same is true with pipe refurbishment. Those who have well developed shops, days focused on the process of pipe refurbishment, and skill and gifts in using the tools that they have will certainly have more carefully honed skills than the armchair or weekend hobbyist. This in no way makes light of either one. Both are integral parts of the hobby we enjoy.

I don’t have the tools, the space nor the skill set to do the kind of work that George and others like him do. I will probably never be the kind of individual who does what they do because, bottom line, to me it is a hobby and something I do for relaxation and not a vocation. I use what I have to do what I can and invent what I need as I go along. Part of the joy of the hobby for me is not just doing the work in the best way I can, but always learning new and better ways of doing things. I am a committed lifelong learner who has a hungry mind that is never satisfied with what I know and is always looking for new ways and new information. I love the creative process of refurbishment in that I can continually be challenged to work “magic” on new pieces that come across my desk. But another important part of the joy for me is the task that I have taken on willingly and freely to pass on what I learn to others in our hobby. It is a joy to see others take what I have learned and surpass me in their skill and expertise. To learn tricks from those who have learned from me is part of why I started the reborn pipes blog. I don’t just want to share what I have learned, I also want others to pass on what they have learned and their own refinements on the processes they experiment with. That is why I invite others like Al, Chuck, Fred, Rob, Ed, Bryan and more who share the love of reclaiming old briar and giving it new life.

For me the blog is a way we all can continue to learn from one another, share common ideas and issues and seek to understand how to address them as we work on the pipes on our desks. We can write about what we do and have others try it, refine it and pass on their knowledge. Thus, we create a living “school” in which to continue to develop our craft. It is a place for those of us who are amateur refurbishers, who love to tinker, love the process and the pipe, to continue to learn from each other. Lately I have been using Skype, an online web communication tool, to meet with individuals and work on pipes together. It is quite amazing to talk and work real time with another person on a pipe that they have on their work bench. It works with video and audio so that you can literally look at the pipes you are talking about. Worst case scenario Skype has an instant messaging component that you can type communications between several who are working on pipes. In my work I have used it with groups to have virtual meetings and can see that working really well to have a shop time gathering. I have written an article on one such experience and Part 1 of it was printed in the August issue of Pipe Smoker Unleashed Magazine – http://www.pipesmokerunleashed.com/magazine/august2012.html and is on the blog as a post. The second half of the article will be in the September issue and will soon follow on the blog. Skype provides a real time tool that we can also use to consult with each other on pipe repairs before and as we do them. This is a venue for us to use that is rich with possibilities. I am aware that others use “You Tube” and make videos of their work, but I am reticent to venture into that arena. I don’t know why, as I am sure it is helpful, but it just is not something I am interested in doing. Others may want to do videos and I can easily add them to the blog or they can start their own blogs.

As I close these reflections I have to say that when I look ahead at the future of pipe restoration and refurbishment I am excited to think of all the possibilities and all that there is yet to learn from one another. I also remain in awe of the calibre of work and craftsmanship of those like George. I delight to see the product of their skills and observe so that I can learn as much as I can in the process from them. I will always have to personalize their methods to work on my smaller scale of refurbishing but that too is part of the process I enjoy. I tip my hat to the masters and know that I will probably not live long enough to even come close to that kind of workmanship. However, I take my place proudly in the company of those who tinker at refurbishing and share their love of all things pipes with one another. My plan for the near future is quite simple, I will continue in my tinkering until I am no longer able. Why? Because it gives me pleasure!


Look What I Found

The lid came off the old tin with a whoosh of air. The bouquet of rich, earthy tobacco filled the small space under the stairs where my desk sits. I sat and inhaled that smell for the longest time… But I am getting ahead of myself.

That tin was a “treasure” I had found in an antique store by the railroad tracks in my home town on a yearly visit with family. I still remember visiting the shop and wandering through the three floors of detritus that has come to be called antique. Strange how the things that I grew up with and regularly threw away are now collectible and “valuable”. I have developed my own method of scoping out these old shops, sorting through the plethora of stuff, to find the pipes and tobacco items that catch my eye. As I enter these shops, I suppose I could ask the clerk if they had anything that might interest me, but that has always seemed too easy and it feels like it robs me of the thrill of the hunt. So when I come into a shop I scope out the sales floor and then begin the winding wander through the shop. I usually do a fairly quick walk through on the first pass just noting things that might possibly be worth spending a bit of time picking through. On the second pass I spend a bit more time at the likely spots.

On this particular visit to the railway shop I had passed through all three floors and saw a few chewed up pipes and old tins. On the second pass through I saw this old tin that I had missed on the first pass – a big tin actually – the old 1 pound metal tobacco tins of days past. It had the metal opener attached that allowed the pipe smoker to lever the lid off and then reseal it so the tobacco would not dry out. I picked it up fully expecting it to be a typical old empty. But it was not empty. I shook it carefully to listen to what was inside. I know you all will be saying I should check to see if it had been opened but I did not do that! I shook it. Over the years of hunting I have found tins full of herbs, spices, grass seeds, nails, screws, and any number of things that give it weight and can fool you, so I shook it! This time there was no loud rattle or telltale noise that would identify one of those inside. There was only the familiar sound of tobacco inside the can. Once I figured that out I began to get more excited.

I examined the can for rust. There was none. I shook it again to listen to see if it was dry sounding. It was not. Then I checked the seal on it and found that not only was it still sealed but that the tax stamp was unbroken. It was sealed and not even torn. The date on the tax stamp said 1954. The paint and picture on the tin was in great shape with no scratches or dents. It was like being transported back to the 50’s to a time when the can was new. I was pretty excited because the odds were that I was holding a tin of tobacco from at least 1954 and it was sealed and available to me. I carried it to the front of the store and asked the clerk what they were charging for the tin.

“$10 is all for that old tin,” she said as she looked up sleepily from the romance novel she had been reading.

“Consider it sold!” I said. And with that I took out my wallet and paid the $10 and the obligatory share that the governor of the state claims as his due on every item purchased in his state. I carried it out to the car and placed it in the back with the other things that I had picked up on my hunt. It would sit there until I returned to Canada and carried it to my basement study.

Now fast forward to the opening lines of this tale. I popped the tin open and prepared to smoke a bowl of the aged tobacco. It was a nice crimp cut and it packed really well. The aroma was pleasant in the can and the bowl. It was a bit dry from the years of sitting but still hydrated enough for me. I lit the pipe and sat back and enjoyed the first of many bowls that I would enjoy from that big pounder. The nutty taste and the sweetness was not that different from the new versions of this old blend but the depth and fullness far outstripped them. I just sat with the tin open and smoked my pipe full and let the memory of the find carry me a bit. That was a banner day and a great find. It is finds like this that keep me on the hunt and always stopping to see what “treasure” the little out of the way antique shop might reveal to the searching eye.

Oh, you want to know what the old tobacco was. Some of you may have already figured it out but I probably ought to let the rest of you in on it. It was a tin of 1954 Prince Albert and it is still with me!


A Volkswagen Bus, a pipe and a Tootsie Pop

This is a piece I wrote on the anniversary of my uncle’s death.

The sun was bright and the temperature was already climbing on that Iowa summer morning in the early 1961. I was in Denison, Iowa visiting my grandma, Momo I called her, along with my aunts and uncles (my mom’s brothers and sisters). My cousins were older than me so I was pretty much invisible to them. The one person that stands out in my memories is my uncle Gene. He was always ready to spend time with his nephews and was fun to be with.

He had taken over my Granddad’s dry cleaning business after he died. It was one of those old school businesses that did pickup and delivery of items needing cleaning and having been cleaned for all their customers. He drove an old, green VW Bus for all of his deliveries. The console between the front seats held his pipes, an old bean bag ash tray and several pouches of Prince Albert and Carter Hall tobacco. His lighter and a box of matches also sat on it. What made this particular summer morning exciting was that I was going with Uncle Gene on his deliveries. We would spend the day together and share all the adventures that my 7 year old imagination could conjure.

Uncle Gene was my Mom’s oldest brother and my favourite uncle. He was a tall, lanky veteran of WW2 and a survivor of POW camps. He always had a pipe in his mouth, a habit he said he picked up in the camps. He loved his old pipes. I remember a pipe rack in the car filled with several old well smoked Grabows that he used throughout his day. He was a clencher and he always seemed to have a pipe in his mouth in my memories. I don’t remember ever seeing him without a pipe. As I recall, he even talked around the pipe as he told his jokes and stories. I can still smell the tobaccos and pipes when I close my eyes and let my memory wander.

Momo woke me early that morning and fed me her famous oatmeal and milk. I had eaten in a hurry. I still remember hustling to get dressed and find my baseball cap for the day. As I was brushing my teeth at Momo’s insistence (I mean, why did I need to do that! I was in a hurry to get to “work”) I heard a horn honk in the driveway. I left the tap running, threw my toothbrush in the cup on the shelf above the sink and ran out the door. The screen door slammed behind me on the back porch and I heard Momo holler, “You forgot to turn off the water…You behave now! Do what your uncle tells you and don’t make a fuss!” I ignored her and ran to the van.

My Uncle reached across the console and opened the door for me. As I climbed up into the van he said, “Whew, looks like escaped her clutches this time son. We better get out of here fast before she comes after you!” I looked over at him as he winked at me and the smile crinkles around his eyes and his mouth almost vibrated as he clenched his pipe and chuckled.

“Do you think she will come after me Uncle Gene?” I said.

“You never know with Momo… depends on what you did when you ran out that door. You didn’t go and get yourself in trouble now did you?” He laughed as he replied. “Reach down on the floor by your feet and pick up that bag will you.”

I did as he said and climbed back up on the seat.

“Go ahead and open it up. I picked something up for you for our day. I will smoke my pipe but you need something in your mouth as well.” As I opened the bag he used his old Zippo to relight his pipe. He was a master at doing it with one hand as he drove. So while a wreath of smoke filled the front of the VW I reached into the bag and lifted out a box of Tootsie Roll Pops. I don’t know if they were bigger then than now or if they tasted better but that day I began my love affair with Tootsie Pops. I remember that my eyes were as big as saucers as I lifted out a grape Tootsie Pop, unwrapped it and stuck it in my mouth. I held the stick in my hand just like Uncle Gene held his pipe! He looked over at me, winked and nodded and we were on the way.

I don’t recall what we talked about that day, but I do remember that Uncle Gene was great to hang out with. He always had a ready story and a joke going as we went from house to house and back and forth to the shop. I must have sucked on half a dozen Tootsie Pops between the morning and lunch and then between lunch and the time he took me back to Momo’s house. I have no idea how many times he refilled his pipe or if he changed pipes between smokes. I kind of don’t think he did but then memory is a funny thing. All I know is that to this day, whenever I get into a VW van I always smell my Uncle Gene’s pipe. I see his face and hear his chuckle every time I fire up a bowl of Prince Albert. When the pipe is lit and the smoke fills the room I am transported back to that day in 1961 and the VW, the pipe and the Tootsie Pops.

Uncle Gene died many years ago now but my memory of that day lingers with me like the taste of my last smoke on my moustache. I will never forget him and his kindness to me as a young boy. I raise my Tootsie Pop, er… my pipe in his memory.

A Medico Lancer, Prince Albert and the birth of my first child

Today, it is a quiet day at the office. Everyone has gone home or out to do work outside the office. It is raining and grey outside. In the warehouse, my daughter is working on designing new jewelry for our foundation. We send the designs to Nepal and the women who our organization has rescued from human trafficking make beautiful pieces for us to sell for them in Canada. I had an urge to write this story for her this afternoon and the muse was active. I want to share it with you. Thanks for reading this.

This week was my eldest daughter’s 30th birthday. Now that means a couple things to me – she is getting older and also I am getting old. When I am in that space I get a bit introspective and reflective. I found myself taking a trip back to the day she was born – February 1, 1982. I remember it well for a bunch of reasons beyond the obvious that she is my eldest!

My wife and I drove to the hospital like all expectant parents a few times with false alarms before the actual event was upon us. But when the time arrived we drove to the hospital – It was the last evening of January 1982 and we were ready for this birth. It was a bit of a circus at the hospital. My wife went through 20 hard hours of labour before they decided to do a C-section. I was the first dad they let into the operating room for a C-section birth. I was robed and ready and the surgery happened about 2am Feb. 1. We were amazed at the beautiful little girl that was our new born daughter. To this day we are still amazed by her – just so you know. I stayed with my wife for awhile and around 6am I headed out to go home.

It was a beautiful February day in Escondido, California. There was a light breeze but it was warm. I remember getting in the car and wishing I had a cigar to smoke or a pipe. It was time to celebrate my new daughter! That is not startling in itself, but what makes it an interesting moment is that I had not smoked my pipes in about 7 years. Somehow I had laid them aside during university days and not thought much about them. In fact I had no idea where they were at that moment – at my parents, at a thrift shop, in the trash… I did not know but I knew I wanted a pipe now!

So where does one get a hold of a pipe at 6am. I remember dropping the car in gear and heading to a 7-Eleven Convenience Store not far from the hospital. In those days they carried pipes and tobaccos. It did not take long to get there. I remember pulling into the store parking lot and getting out of my car. As I did I heard a shout – “Up against the car, hands on the hood.” I looked around and it dawned on me I was the one being addressed. I raised my shoulders and hands in a question mark and the voice said, “Yeah you do it now.” So with that I did what I was told and was immediately frisked by a young police officer. He took my license and left me standing against the car hood. I tried to ask him what I had done but he refused to answer and told me to be quiet. So, contrary to my normal behaviour, I did as I was told. In what seemed like an eternity he spun me around and handed me back my wallet and a ticket. I was flabbergasted. I asked him what in the world I had done. By this time the store clerk and a few early morning coffee drinkers were gathered looking at me. All he said was, “It is on the ticket, read it yourself.” With that he turned and got in his car and left.

I could not believe what had just happened to me. I looked at the ticket and saw that according to him I had run a red light. Whatever I had done it did seem like overkill. I mean come on it was 6am and the roads were empty. And what about the “up against car” stuff? Ah well, I shrugged it off and went into the store. They had a fair assortment of Medico pipes and some over the counter tobaccos. I was not a fan of the carved Medico’s so I was looking at smooth ones and found a nice looking billiard that I liked. It was a nice dark brown and had a great feel to it. It was placed on the counter and I turned to the tobacco. I seem to have remembered that my uncle had smoked Prince Albert so I bought a package of that tobacco and a bic lighter. I was set to celebrate. I also grabbed a good cup of coffee and headed to my car.

I opened the pouch of PA and took a good whiff of it. Man did it smell good to me. I took a pinch and began to load the new pipe that I had purchased. It was loaded in no time at all and I touched the flame to the bowl and I was on my way to bliss. I sat and sipped my coffee and the smoke for what seemed like a long time. I was in the zone. It was heavenly. The first pipe I had had in a long time and a perfect way to celebrate this morning’s event. I pulled out into traffic and headed for home. It was about a 20 minute drive so I stopped at least one time I remember and repacked the bowl. I spent the better part of the drive on that second bowl. When I got home I pulled up under the palm trees. As I got out of the car my dogs came to me and we sat on the porch and enjoyed the new morning. What a day. I don’t know how many bowls I smoked that morning but I do remember it was quite a few. I fell asleep with the pipe in my mouth and a last bowl going. I slept that way until a good friend woke me to see how the birth went.

Each Feb. 1 I still get that old Medico out and fire it up in memory of that day. Today, I know that it is made of Brylon and not briar. It is what many would call a cheap pipe. And it is certainly not one I would ever buy today but it has a beauty to me that goes beyond its appearance. Plus it has a magnificent story attached to it that comes back to me every time I smoke it. I return to that corner parking lot in Escondido in my memory and enjoy that first smoke on a glorious morning – I was a new dad! Many years have gone by now, my daughter is 30 this year. But the memory never fades for me. A few years ago I had to make a new stem for the pipe because I had chomped it up to a point that it was not repairable. I think it actually looks better than ever. It is now a nice looking church warden with a brass band; sports a good hard cake and smokes extremely well.

Happy Birthday to you my dear daughter. I raise a bowl to you.


A Pipeful of reflection

Yesterday I had an appointment with the old Doctor for some problems I am having with blood pressure. I have this inordinate white coat syndrome that sends my blood pressure soaring when I go to see him. So when I woke up and throughout the morning wait for the doc I was reflecting on all of the things I was “sure” he would tell me to give up in light of the impending visit. I don’t know about you, but when I am in those settings I always jump to the worst possible scenario and my mind works overtime on what is “certainly” going to happen. Not the best strategy for high blood pressure folks to be sure, but it is my way. After deleting wine and beer, red meat, adding more exercise, I was certain my pipes would have to go according to the new regimen he was going to give me. That caused me to pause and reflect for moment on my pipes and pipe smoking. I gave it some thought as to whether he would tell me to say good bye to this piece of my life in which I have come to take a lot of delight. As I thought about the possibility of quitting, I asked myself what my pipes and pipe smoking do for me. I mused for awhile and then I wrote this:

My racks of pipes are in the cabinet next to my desk in my study and a few on top of the desk and behind me. I can with a quick glance look at and enjoy them all. From my desk I can swivel my chair and look through my pipes for the one that is going to take the tobacco choice of the moment. It hit me that this for me is the point when the actual pleasure of a smoke begins. It doesn’t wait for the fire to hit the tobacco or the first puff. The entirety of the process is pleasurable and my particular restful time. The tactile experience of handling the pipes, moving through my racks and choosing just the one for the moment is a big part of the pleasure. Once the pipe is chosen I pick up a soft pipe cleaner, another tactile pleasure and run it through the stem and then place the stem between my teeth and blow any dust or fuzz from the bowl. The sounds of the air through the bowl, the slick feel of the stem, the smooth or rough or blast of the briar, all combine for a fine moment of quiet and pleasure. Often before I fill the pipe and put the match or lighter to it I just sit with the bowl in hand and reflect.

Then the tobacco of the moment is cracked open – the jar or the tin – I run the tobacco through my fingers and enjoy the feel of the flake or the ribbon or the cube cut as it drops between my fingers. As the tobacco is picked up there is a sweet aroma that slips into the room around my desk – the scent of fine Virginias, the aroma of a clean but smoked pipe. All of these combine in the moment before I pack the pipe. The tobacco goes into the bowl pinched between the fingers or rubbed out on a paper on the desk. The tobacco springs in the bowl, the feel of just the right pack, the quick flick of the flint on the steel or the match across the striker to get the light, the momentary spark and then the flame as it licks the tobacco and then the first puff of smoke. All these intersect with the just the right place to take my mind off of my troubles or my work and transport to a tranquil zone.

The amazing thing to me is that all of this occurs for me before the smoke begins to calm my soul. Before the bowl begins to warm to the touch as the fire in its belly consumes the tobacco the earnest smoke has begun. The rhythm of the puff and the exhalation of the smoke all build on the previous time to add to the pleasure of the restful thing we call pipe smoking. As the tobacco continues to burn and the smoke is blowing and snaking upward, the room fills with an aroma that surrounds the pipe and me. The aroma is sweet and satisfying. The cloud of smoke that fills the room adds to the mystique of the moment. I close my eyes and enjoy the quiet that this alone time brings to me. I guess at heart I am a solitary, an introvert and I need the retreat and the quiet to rejuvenate me in order to take on the rest of the day’s work.

The tamper and the lighter work together to bring the bowl to its maximum pack and burn. Just a bit of a tamp around the outer edge of the bowl, tilting the tamper just so to leave a crown in the center of the bowl, are part of the mystique of the smoke. Another light, with match or lighter, and the renewed cloud of smoke after the initial light has died down. The fiddling with the bowl to get it just so is part of the ritual for me that disengages my brain from all other concerns and sends me to a quiet spot. The tools of the piper are just as much a part of the ritual of the smoke as the pipe itself. It is no wonder that over the years I have collected an odd assortment of tampers, from the ordinary and utilitarian shape of the pipe nail to some beautiful sculpted tampers by a variety of tamper makers. For me the fussing with the pipe is all part of the process of the enjoyment.

When the smoke comes to an end, the pleasure continues for a bit. The taste of the tobacco is still on the lips and gums. The room note still lingers with memories of the taste in my mouth. The bowl of the pipe smells of it as well. The pipe itself is warm to the touch and worth a few minutes extra in the hand. The ash is tapped into the ash tray, or if I am on the porch into one of my plants. A pipe cleaner plunges into the bowl through the button and down the stem and shank and takes care of any ash or moisture in the airway. Folded in half it works well to swab out the bowl of any remaining ash or bits of tobacco. All of this ritual is still part of the pleasure. Once cleaned and wiped off the pipe is returned to the rack and I sit.

What is it about pipes and pipe smoking that relaxes me? The entirety of the ritual from the choice of pipe through the smoke itself and to the restoration of the pipe to its place on the rack is all part of the restfulness of the pipe to me. From start to finish and everything in between all are part of the pleasure.

Oh and the good news… the doc told me that he does not even consider me a smoker and that the pipe was not a problem for my BP… All my fretting was for nothing… or was it? At least I got to think about why I like my pipes! Now I am off to fire up another bowl, sip a good glass of red wine, and enjoy a good steak!

The Solitary Pipe Smoker

I know, a lot of pipe smokers love the comradeship of a gathering of pipe smokers who sit together and jaw away time as they chat about their hobby and the solve the crises of the world from the comfort of a wreath of smoke. But me, I need the quiet reflective time of being by myself. The rest of my life is full of people around me all the time making demands either implicitly or explicitly on my time and attention. I come home each evening tired of people and the demands of a day of work. To me at that moment the last thing I need is to sit and talk with anyone… pipe smoker or not. What I long for and seek is a quiet solace that is created by my pipe and a bit of time to disconnect from the day that has past.

I find a corner in the house, on the porch or under a tree in the yard whose only requirement is that it must be quiet – maybe the hum of passing traffic, maybe a dog barking or some other external noise that is non human is present as ambient noise, a white noise. That kind of noise is acceptable and a welcome addition to help quiet the noise in my head. In that quiet space I settle into a comfortable chair from which I can observe the life of the neighbourhood around me. The twittering of birds, the squabbles of the squirrels over the walnuts in my yard are a pleasant change. I take out a trusted and well broken in pipe and handle it carefully. I rub it down and feel the gentle curves and the variety of textures that make up stem and bowl. I sniff the warm memories of bowls that had been smoked in the past and just take time to savour the moment. Life is good. There is no rush to pack the bowl. No frantic need to get to the point. No sense of having to pack the bowl and smoke pressing upon me. I can move at my own pace in my own time with no one defining the time.

I take a deep breath and exhale slowly and just enjoy the pleasure of being for a moment. Far removed by time, space and mental thought from the demands of doing. I take out my pouch or tin of a good tobacco that I know will deliver a good smoke and begin the process. I remove a couple of flakes of sweet smelling Virginia and smell the sweet grassiness of the tobacco. I rub them out to the texture I love or I roll them into a ball in my palms and enjoy the feel of the tobacco as it is readied for packing. This ritual in itself is a moment of solitude that is hard to find in the norm of my life. Once the tobacco is just right I begin to load the bowl of my pipe. I want to make sure it is loaded just right, but I am not anal about it – that would wreck the moment. I take the tobacco and begin to tamp it into the bowl. I feel the springiness beneath my fingers and know from the years of the process that it is just right. I put the pipe in my mouth and feel the draw. While doing that I clean up the remnants of tobacco and roll the pouch or close the tin and set it aside. I sit like that for an immeasurable moment and just taste the tobacco – unlit in my pipe. There is freshness and expectancy in the taste. There is a promise of good flavour that will be released by fire. But I want to just take the time to enjoy the moment before striking the fire.

Then without knowing why, the moment of fire has arrived. I take my Zippo or a match – no reason for the choice, just what happens to be at hand. I circle the bowl with the flame drawing deeply on the pipe as the fire is drawn into the tobacco. I can feel the warmth in my mouth as it begins to catch fire. The tobacco begins to smoulder and the smoke curls out of the top of bowl and around the edges of my mouth. Ah the tastes and the sensations of that moment as the smoke rises from the bowl and I gaze at the world through the haze of a good smoke. I cannot quite explain the sensation of the moment for you – you just have to be there. There is no one talking. There is no demand on the time. There is no pressure to converse or respond to the need of another. There is no pressure from inside or outside to act. It is just the quiet moment of solitary time when my pipe delivers me to that place where I can be alone and unencumbered by anything or anyone. That is what I love about time with my pipe. It is time I cannot get in a group of pipe smokers. It is time I cannot get with another piper next to me. It is that sweet alone time that slows my life down and gives me renewed perspective to enter into the next moments of my life.

All too soon the embers smoulder out and the bowl is finished. The pipe is warm to the touch and the air around me is full of the smell of the smoke. Time begins to once again move forward. I can hear my wife and daughters moving around in the house working on dinner. I can hear their laughter and their bickering that is all a part of my life and I chuckle to myself. It is good! I can now fully enter into that piece of my life and be engaged with them. I have been able to lay aside the encumbrances of my day and become free to re-enter my family and enjoy them. Those private moments, those solitary times give me the space to disconnect from one moment and enter the next more fully. This is not to say I don’t enjoy the energy of a group of pipers together but it is these moments that energize me and keep me smoking my pipes. They have an uncanny ability to calm me and grant me serenity.