.A Grand Day! (Part 7... The Last Post on this Subject) [Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to the May 25th entry where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]
It was disheartening to me to find the pipe so very dull. To me, at that age, I called things "dull" when they were boring, unexciting, and very different from what I had hoped. And this certainly qualified. There had been no amazement, no feelings of relaxation, no vibrant flavors, no anything of merit to the activity. I could not understand why it was so clear that my father relished this activity and yet for me it was nothing but DULL.
Yet, the day was still young, and I wanted to explore the fields for new creatures. I left the platform of the treehouse and went toward the creek. Very quickly I spotted a very large walking stick (insect) and a praying mantis. I was already fairly eagle-eyed about seeing these creatures in the woods and saw them more readily than others in my family. Since they were not new creatures to me, I did not bother to collect them, but instead went to the edge of the creek to look for any salamanders and amphibians that I could find. Although I worked for probably two hours or so, I only found two yellow spotted salamanders and a bunch of bullfrogs... nothing new, as these were the most common varieties in our area. Likewise I did not find any amphibian eggs (they are a helluva lot of fun to watch develop, and even to this day I enjoy watching the process and have included it as part of the work my students study in lab).
Without much success in finding anything new to examine, and having left my insect net back at the tree house (platform). And also being that I was hot and muddy from all my efforts, I decided to head back to the tree house and eat and read for a while before returning with my insect net later in the afternoon.
By the time I walked back to the tree house, I was powerfully thirsty... but then I remembered that I had left the sodapop in the creek to cool off. I raced back to the water, scooped out the bottles and raced back to the tree house. This added activity only exacerbated my thirst, and when I finally got back up on the platform of the tree house I immediately opened one bottle and gulped it down in less than 30 seconds. I didn't even bother to open my sandwich, and opened another bottle of sodapop and drank half of it at an equally fast rate.
I had just unwrapped my sandwich when (as my mother had warned me about), I started to have strong hiccups from having consumed the drink too rapidly. Even to this day, if I "guzzle" any carbonated beverage (sodapop, beer, etc) too quickly, it will cause me to have hiccups. These hiccups are very strong and usually last 20-30 minutes. It was very hard to eat when having a strong hiccup every 15 seconds or so, I knew I needed to postpone my sandwich and decided to pick up my book to read (hiccup)
. The book layed next to (hiccup)
my father's pipe that I had "borrowed" and again I remembered how dull the experience was and felt somewhat sad. Why was it that my father found pipe smoking so enjoyable (hiccup)
and yet I could not find anything exciting about the activity? I decided to try it one more time, to see if I could figure it out.
Striking the match (hiccup)
was a little bit easier this time around. Fairly quickly I was able to draw little puffs of smoke from the stem. Again, nothing very interesting about the activity. "Perhaps," I wondered in my mind, "I needed to take lots and lots of puffs quickly to make it more fun?" I decided to try this, even though in the back of my mind I did not anticipate much as this was not a behavior I had seen my father engage in while he smoked his pipe.... his manner and behavior was always very methodical and patterned when he smoked his pipe. But, by this time, I figured I might as well try.
Puffing more rapidly on the stem (hiccup)
did little to improve the experience. I did notice, however, that I was able to pull thicker, denser clouds of the smoke from the stem. The rapid puffs had apparently pulled the ember deeper into the leaf, ignighting more of the bowlful of tobacco. I had just drawn another large puff of the smoke into my mouth when I hiccuped again... (hiccup)
... the hiccup caused me to involuntairily breath the puff of smoke into my lungs, which felt an odd thing to do, but not
unpleasant. Suddenly, I started to feel quite different. There was a tingly sensation that began to spread throughout my body. My mind also felt this tingle, but also I started to feel a bit dizzy... not unpleasantly so... in fact it was rather pleasant. It took me a few moments to realize what I had done... I had inhaled the smoke into my lungs. All of the time I had spent observing my father, and yet I had not quite realized the mechanics of what he was actually doing when he smoked his pipe. It was more than just puffing the smoke out of your mouth, you also would inhale the smoke.
Now, I deliberately tried to inhale another puff of the smoke, and more of those feeling washed over my body. The additive effect was a bit strong for me, and I layed back on the platform of the treehouse and stared up into the leaves and sky. The dizziness was a bit stronger, and yet it was very pleasant as long as I layed down. I set the pipe aside and simply continued to experience those feelings throughout my body as I layed there. It was truly beautiful. As I looked up through the leaves of the trees towards the sky, the colors seemed more vibrant and vivid than they had only a few moments before. I felt much more aware of and more a part of my surroundings. My body felt both stimulated and relaxed simultaneously. This was what my father felt! I knew this was the magic, and I could imagine that my face must have held a similar relaxed expression on it as I had seen in his eyes and face so many times. The total even was blissful, and peaceful, and exciting all at the same time.
I layed there for a while and I eventually dozed off for almost an hour. When I awoke, the feelings were (sadly) gone, yet their beautiful memory remained. I looked around for a while, ate my sandwich, and drank the last of my sodapop. Then I struck another match and tried the pipe again. This time, I inhaled one of the puffs shortly after I had the pipe lit. Once again, the beauty of the leaf did not disappoint me... I felt that utter magic, that blissful relaxation that I had wondered about for all those many weeks after becoming aware of the expressions on my father's face as he indulged in his briar pipes. The day, the experience, the whole series of moments are seared indelibly into my neurons, and it was a beautiful, wonderful, life changing experience. From that moment on, I knew in my heart, my mind and my soul, that I was a pipe smoker, and from that moment on, I was.
Today, the 17th of July, is the anniversary of that vividly magical experience for me. All those decades ago, when I was but a kid, and yet, at the same time, I was finding one aspect of my destiny. I cherish the memories.