I believe in pipes. Not the copper kind. The good old-fashioned briar pipes that you stuff full of tobacco and smoke. I know smoking isn’t popular today. But hey, I was never a big winner in popularity contests anyway. I’m not just a pipe smoker though. I am a pipe collector, seeking rare, unusual, and, too often, expensive pieces. God must have given my wife an extra helping of patience and understanding, because she manages to put up with my hobby. Although she often is exacerbated by the, in my opinion, perfectly reasonable prices of these pipes.
Believe it or not, we are living in a golden age of pipe craftsmanship. There are more artisan pipemakers around today than there have been in generations, pipemakers like Anne Julie, Trever Talbert and Bruto Sordini, whose collective work goes beyond the utilitarian into the realm of art.
But why pipes, you might ask. Artisan pipes are like few things today. They are both art and everyday tools. They are beautiful to look at and display. But they are also meant to be handled and smoked.
The art of the pipe isn’t the only thing that has advanced. There are pipemakers that view a pipe as an engineering problem. Designing it so that it provides the best possible smoke, melding the science of thermo- and fluid-dynamics with the grace and beauty of a flower or a nautilus shell. To smoke a high-grade artisan pipe is like having a Matisse painting in your home.
What’s more, these skilled craftsmen are approachable. They look forward to events where they can interact with fellow pipe smokers. For me, these interactions make the pipes more special. They add depth and meaning to each piece. The pipes are no longer simple objects, but living things with narratives to tell. Memories to recall and stories to share.
It’s in these moments that a pipe’s beauty comes to the fore. Quiet moments, sitting on my porch with pipe and book. Looking at the star-speckled sky. This silent time spent in near meditation brings me peace. It brings me closer to understanding myself and others. Seen through a haze of pipe smoke, the days problems don’t seem so monumental. The stress of work melts away, and the tribulations that every home knows become manageable. I feel at once relaxed and excited, eager to dip my paddle back into the river of life.
Some may argue that I can achieve this without my pipe. Maybe they’re right. But this works for me. I’ve read a multitude of medical reports. Heard innumerable lectures. Seen God knows how many PSAs. I know and accept the risks. The peace, relaxation, friendship and even joy my hobby brings me far outweighs the costs.
As I said earlier, we are living in a golden era of pipes. But very few know it. And that’s OK. Really. It means that there are more briar masterpieces that I can add to my collection. Just don’t tell my wife, OK?
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.