The Art of Seclusion

From my very first charring light, I've viewed pipe smoking as a solitary hobby, reserved for quiet moments and reflection. That's not to say that every bowl requires deep, existential thoughts or intense contemplation; just that it seems to be ideal as an individual pursuit. Though the argument could be made that pipes are themselves smoking companions, I've come to appreciate them as functional art that's best enjoyed in seclusion. However, I do of course smoke here in the office while I work because it helps keep me focused and calm during chaotic times, especially during inventory updates when we're adding fresh pipes to the site. But I most enjoy a pipe when I have the time to unwind and decompress, seeking solace in my favorite smoking spot — my front porch.

Most often I adhere to a schedule, since I'm a strong proponent of organization (contrary to the organized chaos that rules my desk), typically reserving a bowl for after dinner but sometimes preferring spontaneity, particularly on the weekend when free time is readily available. I'll crack open a tin of something special I've been meaning to try in my ever expanding cellar, or revisit a favorite that I haven't treated myself to in a while.

Though the argument could be made that pipes are themselves smoking companions, I've come to appreciate them as functional art that's best enjoyed in seclusion.

Next comes my pre-smoking ritual of packing the bowl with my selected blend, setting up a workstation on my kitchen table and diligently eluding disorderly chaos. Depending on the blend, I'll rub out flakes or provide drying time before packing my bowl, maximizing my smoking enjoyment and learning over time what best suits my smoking preferences and needs for the selected pipe.

Once the appropriate measures have been taken, I'll grab my lighter, pipe tool, favorite ashtray, and head outside to the front porch. It's a modest yet effective arsenal that has served me faithfully, the ashtray one of my prized pipesmoking acquisitions in particular. I purchased it at a local antique store, finding it randomly placed on a table with other vintage ashtrays, the majority of them from old hotels or defunct clubs from around the world. It's a French made ashtray, and as I recall, it cost less than a deli sandwich. It accompanies me each time I indulge in my porch pipe, providing a better alternative to dumping dottle and ash on the sidewalk.

I always make sure to leave my cell phone inside and distance myself from any unnecessary outside stimuli that might detract from the enjoyment I've eagerly anticipated. I never clench my pipes, so I'm rather flexible and comfortable with any smoking posture as long as I have ample time to thoroughly enjoy my pipe. Depending on weather conditions or the status of my aging body, I'll usually sit down on the lone step that defines my porch and take in the scenery of the front lawn or observe cars passing along my road. Other times I'll stand, typically leaning against the pillar that stands tall and proud in the corner, silently observing the activities along my street.

I always make sure to leave my cell phone inside and distance myself from any unnecessary outside stimuli that might detract from the enjoyment I've eagerly anticipated.

I'm fairly certain passersby have questioned what exactly I'm smoking or performed double takes to confirm they've indeed seen someone smoking a pipe out in the wild. But once I'm out there with my pipe, I'm in a world of smoking bliss where I'm unaffected by outside opinions or perceptions. I patiently puff away, taking in the flavor and nuances of the blend I'm enjoying and acknowledging the calmness that pipesmoking instills in me.

While solitary smoking is my preferred method, I'll occasionally bring a pipe with me to my favorite local bar. I typically avoid smoking a pipe in public venues due to the line of exhausting questions that typically follow once someone sees a pipe, and because I'm an overanalyzing introvert who finds excessive socializing to be quite tiring. However, I enjoy hearing stories about someone's father or grandfather who smoked a pipe and the fond recollections of people intrigued by the pastime. I've always been fascinated that pipesmoking provides common ground for complete strangers, even when one of them has never smoked a pipe in their life.

However, I enjoy hearing stories about someone's father or grandfather who smoked a pipe and the fond recollections of people intrigued by the pastime.

One particular pipe experience at my local watering hole continually stands out to me. After enjoying some beverages with my buddy, who likes to occasionally partake in pipe smoking, we headed outside to the establishment's porch. We sat down in a pair of rocking chairs, lit our bowls, and chatted while sporadically drawing from our briars. Nearing the end of our bowls, an older, bearded gentleman came walking along the lengthy sidewalk that led to the front door. I immediately noticed a well worn corn cob clenched between his teeth, a rare circumstance where I've seen someone other than my coworkers smoking a pipe in public. We exchanged pleasantries and he followed up with, "I see there's some old souls out here," before heading inside. My friend and I nodded our heads gently in agreement and I thought to myself, "Well, maybe I should start carrying a pipe at all times." Not only because I could possibly run into other pipe smokers and we could share the camaraderie of the hobby, but it would also afford me more smoking time. Seems like a win-win to me.

Do you prefer smoking alone or in the company of others? Where are some of your favorite smoking spots? I'm always looking for new ideas.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Pipe Basics Pipe Culture Tobacco


    • Zuldeh on March 19, 2020
    • I smoke everywhere. At home, in the shed, walking downtown, while driving, on the trail among other places. I would even smoke in restuarants and stores were it permitted.

      I do get bewildered looks, but no complaints or harassment. I do it to feel normal. Our world has become too artifical and I feel that any pushback against modernity helps. Men smoked pipes for 500 years in the western world and Indians even longer than that. What we have now is artificial. Not smoking is a fad.

      Or maybe I am just a massive hipster, who knows?

    • Steve S. on March 19, 2020
    • I am an old retired guy and therefore have the luxury of being able to enjoy one of my pipes anytime, day or night. Sometimes this is on a quiet morning or afternoon on my patio, weather-permitting, but the times I prefer most of all are during a cold winter day in my den, surrounded by my favorite books, with my three canine companions napping around my chair (I swear they love the smell of G.L. Pease Quiet Nights). It is in this setting that I contemplate on the 72 years that I've resided on this planet; the victories won, the humiliating losses, my own spirituality (or lack thereof), cars, hunting trips, and beautiful women of many years ago. Not to mention how very fortunate I've been to have successful children and grandchildren and a still-beautiful wife that understands that sometimes a guy just needs to be alone with his pipe and his dogs.

    • Daniel S on March 19, 2020
    • Nice article. I'm lucky to have a job that allows me to smoke a pipe at work; I work in a rock quarry and spend the first 2 hours getting my plant ready to run(longer if I encounter problems). Once my plant is ready to run and monitor I can sit up in my conex where all the controls are and enjoy my pipe rain, sleet, or shine. I've taken in a stray kitten at work that doesn't mind the smoke at all, it can be such a serene experience smoking outdoors alone or with a pet near by. At home the couch is my spot; I'll open the windows, set up my coffee table (ashtray, pipe rest, and a good drink... coffee, bourbon, or beer), put on a movie, and relax and enjoy. I also take a pipe to the laundry mat and will enjoy a bowl in my car while washing my clothes. A functional work of art is right.

    • Jim on March 19, 2020
    • @Daniel S: Sounds like we could be twin sons of different mothers! I work in an office, so I can't smoke at work, but everything else you said above I could've said myself!

    • Dan on March 20, 2020
    • @Jim: It's good to know that I might have a doppelganger or a brother from another mother out there who enjoys the pipe hobby in the same fashion as myself. Working 6 days a week, those are the three main places that I will smoke a pipe and decompress from the daily grind.

    • Greg on March 21, 2020
    • Having just celebrated my 60th Birth Anniversary and 43rd year of enjoying pipes and cigars, I still have a sense of euphoria whenever I light up a bowl. I make every attempt to ensure, when I do light a bowl, I can dedicate the necessary time to said bowl and just let life flow. I shared recently where I was sitting on my front porch cutting some Jack Knife Plug on a wooden plate I use with my trusty tobacco cutting pocket knife and a few kids passed by, staring and I know they were thinking "what the hell is that old guy doing with the knife and plate"? Seems like yesterday when as a teenager, I vividly recall our across the street neighbor doing the exact thing and I thought "he's always sitting on his porch smoking that pipe (which I later found out was a Falcon) just doing nothing but smoking that pipe". Isn't life amazing!

    • ROB CURTIN-SINCLAIR on March 22, 2020
    • Steve S, you're a very lucky guy.

    • Allen on March 22, 2020
    • On the front porch watching cars or in the back yard watching the garden. I've often considered pipes to be works of art.

    • Todd on March 22, 2020
    • Great read, it definitely made me think about my pipe smoking in a new way!
      I’m a painter (fine artist/oils/contemporary abstraction), and as there is ventilation due to the nature of my work, the owners of my studio allow smoking. Out of 30 artists with studios in my studio, I’m the only smoker, and we are only divided by modular partitions, yet no one complains. I tend to smoke when I start working, put my pipe down, and then I don’t pick it back up for 8 hours or so when I’m done for the day.
      Occasionally, if I get a creative block, I’ll sit back, take out my sketch book, lite my pipe and think, although if it’s nice out, and I have a creative block, I usually take a break outside. The meditative and contemplative aspects of pipe smoking help. Typically half way through the bowl I’m running back in to get my idea on canvas.
      Other than work, I walk my dog for a 1.5 hour walk in the morning and after work, always accompanied by a pipe. I walk by many people, I live in the Boston area, but typically no one will say a thing. If they do, 90% of the time it’s positive. Occasionally I get someone who tells me I shouldn’t be smoking around others, I just smile, say “thanks for letting me know” and continue on, I don’t let others ruin my happiness & contentment.
      I’m going to walk my dog during this time of “social distancing” and contemplate aspects of this article!

    • Dallas on March 22, 2020
    • There is a lot to be said about spending quite time on the porch enjoying your favorite pipe and reflecting back on the events of the day. I find myself thinking of all the people in my life that I’ve learned the most from, the “old guys” that I now have become were all pipe smokers. Setting alone in reflection enjoying a good smoke and a cold drink is one of the biggest joys that all pipe smokers have in common.

    • Rafique Manji on March 22, 2020
    • Excellent article Jeffery Sitts👌👌👌

    • Stan on March 22, 2020
    • Smoke alone. In the back porch room.

    • Gary on March 22, 2020
    • Pipe smoking has always been something I do in private - at the end of the day - to reflect upon the events of the day and possibly tomorrow. I never smoke while I’m working, driving, socializing or sailing. Only when I can be assured of uninterrupted time alone.

    • Tampaholic on March 22, 2020
    • Sometimes I climb a long ladder up to my chimney to where I will cram myself inside with my fishbowl and pipe. There in that dark soot encrusted enclosure will I find the solitude I need to escape the world and yet unite with the universe. With pipe in hand I feel the texture of the briar and think about how it was hewn from the earth, when I pack my bowl and use all my senses as I handle the tobacco (while applying Zen like mindfulness) and acknowledge this also grew from the earth, and taking in everything and with a sense of gratefulness of how the earth, the universe, and human hands have brought this hobby into existence- i lose myself and feel at one with everything. All joking aside, smoking a pipe can be a meditative/spiritual experience. I want to thank all the people who work at and what they do to educate, provide, and offer a sense of humor with the comics and Chuck's articles that crack me up(Chuck, I think that you may be a bodhisattva). I envey Steve, with every pipe that I buy and tobacco tin that I cellar away, I look at it as a retirement investment; one day I will be able to retire and totally enjoy the hobby with all my beautiful little companions; commit myself to my hobbies, and have a hot live in nurse who will know that sometimes a man needs to be left alone with his pipes and his goldfish(I joke). Thank you Mr. Sitts for the write up.

    • DANIELCPITT on March 22, 2020

    • KevinM on March 25, 2020
    • Almost always by myself, there being a shortage of pipers in my vicinity. Out front, there’s a bench under Maples trees. Out back, facing West, is a nice deck overlooking my yard. I think it’s a good idea to visibly carry a pipe. It would help move this respectable avocation away from quirky novelty toward normal practice.

    • BRYAN WEBBER on March 30, 2020
    • I find smoking a pipe while the kids run around screaming and playing while the wife reads to be the most relaxing. I don't like seclusion. I work in the oilfield (electrician) and am gone 2 weeks from my wife and don't smoke while I'm away. To me, chaos of family is serenity.

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