This was my winning entry in a contest on a forum last month. It’s nothing special, but I thought it quite descriptive of our hobby, so I figured I would share it with you here. The goal was to describe what we thought “Brotherhood of the Briar” meant… here is my interpretation.
I believe Brotherhood of Briar is an intangible thing. Oh, surely there is that aspect of trust, and appreciation and kindness that is associated with the phrase, but I think that it runs deeper. To me it is quite simple, yet complicated in the way that others who do not experience it could not describe it or understand it. I think it goes something like this…
"Your pipe, so smooth, so familiar, you notice every detail about your venerable acquaintance, the curve of the stem, the smooth subtle round of the bowl, the gnarled look that you see in an old tree that has enjoyed life and weathered every storm with you, yet still stands strong and proud. Others may look at your pipe and see an object, but you know that it is more, there is a kinship there, unspoken but communicated with ease. This simple tool is a friend.
You do as you have done time and time again, placing that old friend ever so gently into your soft, worn, sweet smelling tobacco pouch. Carefully, you fill your bowl, not with the same fervor of lighting a cigarette but with the patience of a surgeon, noting when you have just the right spring in the pack. As you roll your pouch up and place it into your pocket, you set your friend in that familiar spot, just off center in the right of your mouth, clenching it where it has been for the last decade. Ah, the part that you both anticipate, now it is time for you and your old friend to start your conversation. You strike a match and carefully lay flame to the soft strings of tobacco peeking from the top of the bowl, puffing, thinking, relaxing… contemplative.
This is a conversation you have had many times, and you and your old friend always see eye to eye. These conversations are not always deep, but they are always meaningful and moreover enjoyed by both of you. That old friend has always been there, in that same spot for oh so many years and hopefully many more to come. With the pain and cruelty in the world the two of you share a serenity that is unmatched by anything else, a silent understanding unparalleled by the darkest night and the deepest midnight sky. This is truly friendship, one of silent contribution. Helping without a word and without the need for acknowledgment. You have taken care of your friend, and your friend has done the same for you.
Standing but a few paces away a man watches this conversation. He does so in silence and with understanding, for he has had this conversation before. Firmly held in the corner of his mouth is his friend, swirling that safety net of thick blue/gray solidarity up around his head. He smiles a wry little smile and offers you a nod, for he knows what kinship you enjoy… "The Brotherhood of the Briar”.