Today was strained. So was yesterday. This whole week has been...interesting. In the Chinese sense of having an interesting life. I had planned all day on a rather scathing post about Tubby, aka Corn Chip, aka Butter Troll II, but you know, right now I couldn't give a fuck about that post or her.
I came home in a rather downcast mood, because I'm not as good as most at removing my work persona at the door. What finally rescued me was my pipe. My dear companion, my briar friend.
My formerly gigantic collection of pipe tobacco, left over after I closed my online shop is suffering severe hits. I'm already out of my favourite blend, and just opened my last 100g tin of my second choice favourite. It got me thinking, though, about ritual, about the ritual of the pipe.
See, opening a tin (if you smoke tinned tobaccos) is a ritual up there with a cigarette smoker tearing the cellophane off a new pack. Some may do it automatically, without a thought, but for some that first crinkle, the sensation of pulling that plastic wrapper off and opening the foil...it's a new beginning, a step in the direction of pleasure. For me, the guy who likes the little things, that new tin opening step is a real pleasure. Taking the fresh can off the shelf, easing the plastic lid off, catching a finger under the pull-ring, and that first sharp POP! as the seal is broken, and the long metallic tear as the lid is rolled back with a tug and that first strong, almost vinegar/ketchup smell hits the nostrils.
Then the selection of the pipe, the preliminary cleaning, the joy of loading the pipe, letting the leaves dribble and trail through your fingers, and the first sharp SKRITCH of a wooden match across the sandpaper roughness of the ignition paper. The slow, religious passing of the flame over the tightly packed shreds, a benediction of cleansing flame, and then the wonder happens: all those small bits and pieces rise in the flame like so many tiny red and orange and brown flowers reaching for the sun, worshipers in a fiery pit reaching skyward for redemption.
When tobacco is ignited, the first application of flame makes the damp, compacted ribbons and flakes expand, and the formerly level plateau of leaf is suddenly a glowing, burning orange and grey and red mountain of burning individuals, each expanding into and being devoured by the flame. A few puffs and it's time to tamp them down into a flat, grey cap for the furnace burning in your bowl, but for those few magical minutes the leaves seem alive, reaching scorching fingers up toward the black and curled head of the match.
Simple magic. Simple pleasures.