Huffing and Puffing in the Wildwoods

Huffing and Puffing in the Wildwoods

You know the olde saw: April’s showers bring May flowers.” Just to let you know, Pundit is all in on May and the flowers. Not that Pundit is a knowledgeable horticulturist, but walking about the woods on a bright sunny May day with wildflowers blooming and blushing whilst puffing a particular pipe is what spring is all about.

So, to properly prepare in April, Pundit begins cleaning up several pipes that will make the wildflower walks this year. And never mind that I receive strange looks and snubs as I lean over to view up close and personal a beautiful wildflower and snap a photo. Pipe firmly clenched, natch.

For good reason, spring brings to mind a couple of notable characters. First is the poet Robert Frost and his poem Birches. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches, is the last line of this wonderful poem about young boys climbing birches and bending them down to nearly touching ground.

This lovely poem by the four-time Pulitzer Prize winner brings back memories of a crew of ragtag barefoot country boys swinging tall, spindly pine trees to earthly experiences. Yes, and falling from said pines, as well.

Now, Pundit is uncertain whether or even if Frost was a pipe smoker. The history of this is a bit confusing.

The other great original is one Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, who played 18 seasons with the Bronx Bombers. He was a 15-time All-Star, a three-time American League MVP Award winner, and a 10-time World Series champion as a player.

It is fairly well documented in photos that the great Yogi smoked cigars from time to time.

The Baseball Hall of Fame calls Yogi “a cultural icon whose fame transcended the baseball diamond. “Yogi-isms” such as it ain’t over till it’s over and a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore have found their way into everyday vernacular for baseball fans.

This neatly brings us to Pundit’s favorite Yogi quote this time of year: When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Let’s just call Yogi baseball’s Phrase Laureate.

I take the forks along the trails, looking for the rarest of wildflowers. Getting lost in the woods away from the madding crowds keeps dirty looks and slights shielded as I walk, huff and puff.

That’s precisely what a pipe-puffing Pundit does on his May wildflower walks. You never know where you are likely to wind up, but you will know when you get there. My best Yogism, doncha know.

You can thank me later.

And the best pipe that takes me along on these nature walks? Why a White Spot, a Northern Briar, an Ashton, or a Cavicchi. At times I also attempt my best Holmesian pipe look with a Peterson Calabash shape with its iconic flared rim.

Or all of the above, and then others tossed into the camera bag for good measure. It’s a big camera bag!

And now that we have had a nice walk in the woods, it’s time for some Pipe Smokers of the Past.

Starting things off is not a personality so far back in the past, J. Robert Oppenheimer, was born April 22, 1904, in New York and died Feb. 18, 1967, in Princeton, N.J.

The famed so-called “father of the atomic bomb,”  the Oppenheimer movie just walked off with a plane load of Oscars in this year’s tinsel town extravaganza. The biopic won seven, including Best Picture, Best Director for Christopher Nolan, and Best Actor for Cillian Murphy.

Oppenheimer, celebrated pipe smoker and theoretical physicist, was director of the Los Alamos Laboratory in the thick of the Manhattan Project in World War II. The atomic bomb was fully enabled by July 1945 and dropped on Japan in August. It was the first nuclear explosion in history, created by bombarding neutrons with plutonium and uranium which resulted in a nuclear fission explosion.

Uh, Pundit doesn’t profess to know fission from fizzling.

Allegedly, one of Oppenheimer’s most famous quotes, Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds, was either around the time of the first bomb test in 1945 or shortly after.

Another, softer quote from the great scientist, is Genius sees the answer before the question.

And finally, author, Gunter Grass, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in literature, was born Oct. 16, 1927, in Danzig, now Gdansk, Poland, and died April 13, 2015, in Lubeck, Germany.

Grass, also a poet, reportedly smoked Stanwell Extra Fine, an old Danish pipe tobacco popular in Germany, as well as W.O. Larsen Classic, Three Nuns, Mac Baren Navy Flake, and Dunhill Early Morning Pipe.

I’m always astonished by a forest. It makes me realize that the fantasy of nature is much larger than my own fantasy. I still have things to learn—Gunter Grass.

And a parting shot: Pipe smokers are the mind workers of the world!

Some pipes cleaned and ready to go in search of wildflowers. Bottom left: A Cavicchi; bottom right: White Dot; top left to right: veteran Petersons (Photo: Fred Brown)
Some pipes cleaned and ready to go in search of wildflowers. Bottom left: A Cavicchi; bottom right: White Spot; top left to right: veteran Petersons (Photo: Fred Brown)

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