A few nights ago I returned back to the cabin after doing a bit of traveling over the holidays. Layla and I stopped in a town on the way home with gift-cards to a mall there that we received for Christmas. We took turns shopping as we felt like someone should keep watch over the over-loaded pick-up complete with chickens and dogs. Both of us ended up buying tobacco pipes and pipe tobacco. The man at the counter in the tobacconist shop seemed a bit confused and gave me the raised quizzical brow. “So, your going to start smoking a pipe?…”
I replied with a firm yes.
When I was younger I used to smoke like a chimney. I quit a few years ago but over this winter started smoking cigars.
There’s something to be said about sitting outside on the cabin’s front steps staring up at the starry bright winter’s sky while tendrils of aromatic smoke flume around you dissipating into the cold air.
After I brought Layla home, for the first time in a week and a half I felt alone for the first time. For the majority of time, I am alone, and got used to having her around over the holidays. I put on a Garth Stevenson score and drove the old logging road home through fresh snow and darkness. For whatever reason the loneliness came in full on. I tried to quell the feeling and focus on the cabin. What would I work on when I got home? It wasn’t that cold out, -5, but when I got home the inside of the cabin creaked with a chilly -8. Someone had dropped off a load of fire-wood by the front door. For whatever reason, that alone was enough to push me over the edge to tears.
The idea of living off-grid in a cabin somewhere in the woods is so romanticized for many. One pictures warmth, comfort and simplicity. Images of a happy couple hauling firewood with rosey cheeks and toothy smiles, eyes gleaming. Loneliness is my worst enemy out here. It is a constant weight on my shoulders when I get home. It resides heavily in between my ribs and resonates in every disheartened sigh. Cabin life shouldn’t be romanticized. I want you to know that cabin life, real life, is a constant battle with ones self. In the every day tasks stretching those heavy ribs and pushing forward. I knew the cabin wouldn’t be warm at any point in the night and that I wouldn’t sleep well.
Trying to keep warm, sitting in the pick-up while a fire freshly lit in the cabin gets going. I flash my head lamp over my new tobacco pipe. How does one smoke a pipe? It seems like some age old craft that’s secrets are passed from man to man. I quickly you-tubed the answer:
One pinch of tobacco packed lightly, like tucking in a baby. One pinch on top of that, soft but firm, like a woman. The third pinch of tobacco is to be packed firmly and strong, ending with a turn of the thumb to pack it all in, said the internet anyways. I tried it. Dry hot burning smoke found its way to the back of my throat burning through to my lungs. “This can’t be fucking right“, I muttered as I inhaled the scent of the tobacco from the pouch. I remembered a friend of mine that smokes a tobacco pipe and sent a message. He replied, “Forget the baby and the strong man, and pack three soft, firm women into the pipe’s bowl.” Flumes of aromatic smoke puffed from the pipe. I felt as if I had mastered an art. A tasty, pleasant art. Now to find a claw foot bath tub for the cabin. For whatever reason the idea of smoking a tobacco pipe has me imagining a bathtub sat in front of my wood stove, and me floating away with that pipe.
We got to talking and we laughed at the fact that his cabin for the winter is set up on the other side of the mountain outside my front window. “meet you at the top!”, we laughed. Sighing heavily I realized I was in for a miserable night should I stay home. We made plans to meet up and smoke our pipes together (I feel as if I’m one step closer to becoming a “man’s man”). I walked into his small cabin and warmth entered my cold bones. I felt my skin start to happily, slowly thaw. We laughed and talked into the night.
Good company, warmth and well crafted smoke.
The topic of hope and miracles arose in the early hours of the morning. I feel as though I’m a realist. Miracles don’t exist for me. Think about the last time something happened to you that made you feel so very blessed. I guess somewhere along the way I’ve lost faith, in humanity, in myself. But don’t you believe in God? Memories of times at the cabin spent not as lucky as that night in cold, waiting for morning to come. Memories of times when the loneliness began to be too much. The light at the end of the tunnel, fading and growing dim. Reaching out for help, nothing.
“To believe in God takes some kind of faith, and that in itself is a miracle.”
It doesn’t happen often, but I felt a genuine smile grow across my face.