Greetings, my friends, I hope all is well with you wherever you are. First, I must give my apologies for taking March off from the blog. I’ve been hard at work on the first draft of a new novel that I’ve been tinkering with, and it’s been holding my complete attention. Last year, I made it my goal to post an entry once a month for the entire year. While I’m proud of making that goal, it forced me to put my fiction writing on the backburner. I still have plenty of pipe related articles sitting on my laptop, waiting to be finished, so don’t think its been out of a lack of disinterest. As far as I’m concerned, as long as I have breath in me, I’ll be sticking here with new articles.
While pipes hold a dear place in my heart, so does writing fantasy fiction. I’ve had this story about a Redwall/Wind in the Willows type setting with forest rangers dealing with a lost treasure haunted by a long dead highwayman kicking in my head for a few years, and it’s about time I get it typed down while I still have the luxury.
The main reason for this is because… I’m going to be a dad in September! My wife and I found out we’re having a son, and I couldn’t be more excited. As a consequence, I know my writing and pipe smoking will be limited soon, so I’m trying to accomplish what I can while I have the free time.
In the meantime, it seems the world has turned upside down due to a certain virus that’s been wrecking havoc for the past few months. I’ve been following the news about this since mid-January. My wife and I were supposed to travel to China in February (not to Wuhan, thankfully), but we cancelled our plans once we caught wind of what was coming down the pipe. Back then, I had no idea just how much this pandemic would affect my life, not just with a vacation, but also with my way of life.
Already, my wife and I had to cancel our baby’s gender reveal party, changing it to a virtual party on Facebook with my Uncle and Aunt mere hours before Illinois went on lockdown. I most likely won’t be able to go along anymore for ultrasound visits with my wife, and we have no idea if we can even have a baby shower before our son arrives. Still, my wife and I are doing well, and, as the Brits would say, we’re keeping a stiff upper lip. We’re working from home, and I handle all shopping and trips to the outside world.
Thankfully, being an introvert and homebody, staying at home hasn’t been much of an issue for my mental health. I’m certainly concerned for the wellbeing for my wife and son, as well as family and friends, but thanks to work and writing I still have a schedule to follow. I’ve dealt with isolation before, having been laid off from work in 2016 and 2017, so I know how to pass the time. If I need some space, I just play games in the basement, or write in the garage with my pipes. I’m just fortunate that my two main hobbies are perfect for situations like this.
The pandemic has made a bit of an impact in my pipe smoking life, as the Chicago Pipe Show had to be cancelled this year out of safety concerns. I have no idea if any of the shows will go on as planned this year, which is a real shame for the pipe community. I have no idea how this will effect pipe tobacco supplies, but I keep that in mind as I plan on what to buy this year.
In the midst of all this chaos and uncertainty, I’ve found that pipe smokers in general are made of stronger stuff. While celebrities and people complain online about being stuck at home, pipe smokers have taken to social distancing like fish in water. Need to keep the neighbors away? Just light a bowl of your favorite English blend and watch as people keep their space. It’s truly wonderful.
While the pipe community was already online, we’re flourishing during the shutdown. I’ve seen many hearty conversations on social media and forums, talking about pipes and tobacco as much or more so than the worldwide crisis. The pipers give each other words of encouragement, and overall have a good outlook on the whole thing. On ChristianPipeSmokers.net, I’m seeing the brothers there praying for each other, and acting as the church should, no matter their denominations. Elsewhere, I’ve seen my brothers and sisters of the briar helping one another as much as they can, even offering tobacco to those in need. No matter where you go, there’s a comradery that encourages the soul, regardless of belief.
One aspect of pipe smoking that’s been harmed by the pandemic is pipe clubs, as public gatherings have been forbidden to stop the spread of the virus. Yet even here, pipe smokers are a creative bunch, finding ways to stay connected and smoke a bowl together.
Over on ThisPipeLife, Jfreedy started up a virtual pipe club on Fridays at 7 PM Central. Members from all over the United States have been getting together in front of their phones and computers over Zoom for an hour or two, smoking our pipes and having a drink or two while chatting about pipes, tobacco, and life. Before this, we only knew each other by our screen names and the pictures we’d post, but now, we chat face-to-face, as though we were meeting in person. Anyone that lives in the USA and wants to join is free to do so. Just sign up on the forums, install Zoom, and come join us for a chat. Sadly, TPL is only for pipe smokers in the USA, so those in Canada and other places have to find other places to chat.
However, if you frequent other forums or groups, feel free to start a group of your own and start chatting over video. I know the Country Squire Radio podcast is doing this with their patreon members, so the idea isn’t unique to just TPL. I can’t even begin to tell you the good that comes from just chatting with a fellow pipe smoker over video. Every Thursday, my podcasting partner Dave (of the D.R.’s Notes, go check his stuff out) and I get together over Zoom to chat about life and smoke our pipes. While we can’t record episodes about The Flash, we’re keeping our schedule because of our friendship. If you have fellow pipe smoking friends, and are in the need to get some social interacting in, this is a great way to do so.
If you’re a pipe smoker out there, and isolation is getting you down, consider joining a pipe forum and jump in the conversation. It doesn’t have to be ThisPipeLife, as there’s plenty of forums to find on The Briar Report. I know forums are a dinosaur in this age of social media, but they’re a great way to stay connected with fellow pipers. Likewise, join twitter and find the great pipe community on there, or join one of the many pipe focused Facebook groups on there.
Though we live in a time of keeping a physical distance from one another, the virtual world breaks these barriers so we can stick together. I hope you find a way to chat with your fellow pipe smokers, and can even make a new friend or two along the way.
Until next time, I pray you stay healthy and virus free, and partake in your favorite briar and tobacco.
Keep puffin’ my friends,