Traditionally, March has been one of my favorite months of the year. I must admit that it’s purely out of selfish reasons, as March is my birthday month. Though most people will tell you it’s immature to be excited for your birthday; I’m still a kid at heart, so I can’t help but look forward to it every year.
This year has been a bit of a downer, as I came down with a particularly nasty chest cold the Monday after my birthday. It’s the lingering kind of chest cold that’s persisted ever since— not strong enough to keep you in bed, but persistent enough to keep you from doing what you want to do. I’ve had multiple moments where I think it’s almost over, only for it to hang on like an unwanted guest. Even now, I’m still fighting the remnants of it.
Originally I had a different blog post in mind, one that involved a bit of research. However, due to my cold, I ended up spending most of March indoors, putting my pipes and writing on the backburner while I recovered. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I don’t smoke when I’m sick. If I’m not feeling well, then I’m not going to waste good tobacco. As a result, I’m saving that post for a different month.
I normally don’t have much of a chance to smoke outside during the daytime. Due to my job and household responsibilities, by the time I’m ready to write and have a pipe, it’s pitch black. However, with spring and the end of Daylight Savings, there’s more sunshine to work with when I get home from my commute. So today, when I arrived home after a long day, I decided I’d smoke a pipe before getting ready for dinner. My job is a bit mind numbing, so I needed a bit of a mental recharge.
I changed out of my work clothes into something more comfortable and headed outside with pipe in hand. After going into my garage and lighting my pipe, I was ready to sit down with a book and read for a bit. However, as I glanced over towards the garage door and saw the sunshine peaking through, I made an abrupt change of plans.
All winter long I’ve spent cooped up in my garage, huddled in front of my computer screen trying to stay warm. Now that spring’s here, the snow has melted away, and there’s a mild temperature outside. After months of the same environment, it was time to get some fresh air. So I snatched my pipe tool and lighter, and off I went for a short stroll.
I took a walk down the driveway and into my backyard, which leads to a small channel and pier. Just last week, most of the channel was frozen over, but now there’s not a single trace of ice left on the water. I stepped on the pier and began walking around, puffing away as my mind drifted along with the smoke.
I stood on the edge of the pier and glanced out over the water’s horizon, watching tree branches sway all around the channel. I could hear the cries of seagulls as they lazily landed on the water’s surface. Nature surrounded me on all sides without a single computer screen in sight. At that moment, I felt completely at peace, puffing contently on my pipe as I basked in the sunlight. After being stuck indoors for most of the month, I felt unshackled from the burdens of life and my current illness, relishing the freedom of being outdoors and enjoying the simple comforts of a pipe. Spring is known as the season of rebirth, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was reborn at that moment, but I felt alive.
In my momentary reverie, I recalled the beginning to one of my favorite novels, The Wind in the Willows. In the first chapter, Mole is busy in his home working on some spring-cleaning. Tired of the banality of his surroundings, Mole escapes his home and charges down to the waterfront, where he becomes enamored with the world outside his humble home. Here, he meets the Water Rat, and the two form an instant friendship over an interest in boating. In that moment, Mole escapes his solitary life and begins a great adventure.
No, I didn’t meet someone in a boat and go on an adventure myself, but I found myself relating to Mole at that moment. It’s easy to get sucked into a repetitive lifestyle, sticking to routine and never venturing outside. With our modern comforts, there’s a temptation to be passive and simply absorb artificial entertainment. As an introvert, I’m especially susceptible to these feelings, but a life spent indoors is a life wasted.
Likewise, it’s easy to get into a routine with pipe smoking. For me, I can take my pipe to my garage and enjoy it there without much thought. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about that, but sometimes a change of scenery can add something to the smoke. Taking a stroll with a pipe won’t change the flavor of the tobacco, but adds to the experience.
There’s a reason why there are multiple sayings about pipes and recharging the soul. For example:
“A pipe is to the troubled soul what caresses of a mother are for her suffering child.” –Indian Proverb
“There is nothing like being left alone . . . to walk peacefully with oneself in the woods. To boil one’s coffee and fill one’s pipe, and to think idly and slowly as one does it.” –Knut Hamsun
“Smoke your pipe and be silent; there’s only wind and smoke in the world.” –Irish Proverb
The answer is simple, really. A pipe forces us to slow down and take in the world around us. As we puff our briars and cobs, we catch the little things that others pass by without thought. So next time you decide to fill your pipe, go somewhere different from your usual spot and take the scenery in for a while. Who knows, you just might gain a new appreciation for life.
Until next time, happy piping!