At age 13 I started to smell an earthy, sweet, even ambrosial scent, the aroma of an inner distillation. When it was most strong I would ask my parents, brothers, friends, whoever was in the room with me, “Do you smell that? What is that?”
No one ever smelled it. The occasional flood of inner liquor lasted for several weeks. Its deliciousness made me happy and delightfully spirited about being alive. It was more than an aroma or taste. It was a deeply interior elixir, more like an initiation into a secret of the natural world, the secret of non-separation.
In later years that nectar-like aroma would be re-discovered.
I’ve always had a fascination with cigars. In my early 20s I lived and worked in Santa Monica, California, home of the Tinder Box owned by Ed Kolpin. I was a regular customer, trying various cigar brands and enjoying almost everything.
One day in the mid-1970s I was standing in the Tinder Box humidor, eyeing the varieties of cigars, when Ed walked in and told me about some cigars that had just arrived. He was excited to tell me they were Cubans that had been warehoused in Florida in anticipation of the embargo at that time, 1960. I don’t know if the term “pre-embargo Cubans” had yet been invented.
It was an expensive cigar, 65 cents, but his enthusiasm sold me and I bought one of the Armas del Casa pre-embargo Cubans. I was always one to enjoy smoking while driving. I got into my 1969 Dodge Charger and lit up an Armas del Casa. After a few puffs, I had recognized something.
That nectar-like aroma/feel; that inner liquor of happiness: What was it doing in a cigar? The next day I went back to the Tinder Box and bought a box of Armas del Casa. Almost every cigar presented the nectar-like remembrance, some quite strongly. Over the next few months I bought perhaps another ten boxes, one at a time. Back then I smoked two cigars a day.
I have never again found the elixir in any other cigar, Cuban or otherwise. Yet I can taste the elements of the nectar in almost any cigar, and within those elements I find the remembrance that I am not separate from nature. Nature is what I am. In my world view, the nectar is an expression of the sap of the tree of life, which is the tree of all life, all existence.
A cigar is a connection with the eternal, unspeakable, smokable sacredness of everything that exists.