Pipes, The Past, and Slowing Down

I've always had a certain fascination with pipes. Some of my oldest memories are of my father sitting in our ratty, ancient, armchair by the woodstove, smoking his pipe in the short, icy afternoons of the Kentucky winters. I remember running down our steep, rickety stair that curved down into our living room, and watching him smoke by the windows and look out at the woods. And once I got to try his pipe even and I thought it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever tasted. I couldn't understand how something so pleasant and comforting to see and to smell could taste so terrible!

The other fascination came from my family again, but in a more fantastic way. Every fall, my grandmother would read, out loud to us, the entirety of the Lord of the Rings, chapter by chapter, every friday evening after our dinner that always consisted of roast chicken, salad, potatoes, mushrooms, and onions roasted alongside the chicken, and Challah Bread that my grandfather made every Friday morning and we ate warm and fresh from the oven in the evening. It was magical. Stuffed from dinner and dessert, and after the adults had their coffee, someone would inevitably make the suggestion to read. And so my siblings and I would pull out old sets of blocks and plastic dinosaurs. Small soldiers that my father and uncle had collected in their youth, setting them in tiny rows and knocking them over, as the sonorous tones of my grandmother rolled over us and into our imaginations, recreating Tolkien's characters for our use later in our adventures between the trees in the woods. In those evenings, exploring the world of middle earth, the mention of the pipes was not one of note. Later I would pay more attention as a teenager, watching the movies for the first time, which popularized the long stemmed churchwardens that have recently come back into fashion.

My first pipe though, was given to me by my mamaw, and was my great uncle Dickie’s. A short, stout briar. Perfect for the summer and for smoking while writing and working. I heard once that you never own a pipe, you’re just the caretaker of it until another comes along to pass it to. I can’t say that I’m going to endorse smoking a pipe for my kids when, if, I have them, but I would love the opportunity to continue that small piece of family history to another generation. I’d wanted to try out smoking a pipe for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity after receiving the pipe. I knew nothing about tobacco, nothing about how to smoke a pipe, heck, not even how to light a pipe. So I sat down and learned. With much relighting, consternation, and frustrated finger burning. But eventually I got the knack of it.

With all of this being said, when I decided to go to Ireland, I knew that I would have to pay a visit to Peterson Pipes in Dublin. One of the finest crafters of pipes in the world, I set about researching the company and what I would want. I thought that a nice churchwarden would not only be a great childhood dream lived but a fine memento of my trip. I knew that I wanted a long stemmed churchwarden since I already had the short stemmed briar of my great uncle Dickie, and wanted something that would be an excellent memento of my time in Ireland. I decided I would stop by at the beginning of my trip so that I could christen it while still in Ireland, cementing its place in my heart. I went to Peterson Pipes and browsed their selection, not only selecting for myself my pipe, but smelling the various glass jars of different delightful tobaccos.

Over time I’ve started to learn the difference between different tobaccos such as Virginias, burleys, and cavendish and the delightful nuances of each. It’s interesting as well since it really does matter to my smoking experience, not just for myself, but for those around me if they sit with me while I smoke. It’s been interesting to learn something more… Sensory in its content. It is definitely a most welcome break from the abstract concepts that I constantly find myself wrestling with in my work and in my schooling.

I love smoking a pipe. It smells nice, it’s a great way to relax, and it gives me a chance to think. Every time I smoke a pipe, it makes me take it slow for a second. When you’re smoking a pipe, smoke it too fast and the bowl will get so hot you can’t hold it. You might hear someone say that they’re popping out for a quick cigarette but you can’t pop out for a quick pipe. When you light up a pipe, you’re making the decision to sit and relax for a good 30 or 40 minutes while you enjoy watching the world pass by. It’s also a wonderful conversation starter with people I’ve never met. Someone comes up to you in public and comments on how pleasant the smell is, or asks a question about pipes, or simply starts up a convo because you’re a little out of place, since pipe smoking isn’t so common anymore.

As I travelled Ireland, sitting and smoking and contemplating the experiences that had been accumulating over my travels, I started to get the idea to do a series of videos called Pipes from Places. I’m a huge fan of the Thoughts From Places videos that many people put out, and I thought that instead of writing more about my thoughts in a place, I’d simply record a session of smoking my pipe and talk about whatever had come into my head. The idea has grown on me as I’ve been travelling more and more, and would alleviate some of my own fears about only putting up written content out. I wish that I could rely purely on the written word but I need to be able to use vlogs, podcasts, and other mediums as well since those are the mediums by which people are more likely to pay attention. And by extension, allow me to spread out further. My hope is to try this on my trip to Turkey along with my future travels as a trial and see how it goes.

I'll write more on my trip to Ireland, as well as my other adventures this past year, and on my growing affinity for pipes, but for now that's all. I thought that I would give the origin story for my love of pipes, and why I might try to do some pipes from places videos in the future.

Good luck and have a great day!

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