still trimming the sails;
a work-in-progress...

the canteen with a life of its own

barton cole with his canteen in the Olympic Mountains, WA, circa 1983

Up in the Olympic Mountains in Washington State, circa 1983. The canteen is about three years old, and still has the original blanket. We both look pretty fresh and young, don't we? I realize, now, that I still wear those same boots, which I bought the moment I had determined my feet had quit growing, around 1979, age sixteen - Raichle Robson's, entirely leather with a Vibram sole (resoled in 2003 by legendary Dave Page, Cobbler, in Seattle, Washington), with a 3/4 shank, suitable for some crampons and glacier travel. Amazing boots: old school; I still wear them, and will always.
photo by Daniel Cole

barton cole with his canteen on Whidbey Island, circa 1998

On the shore of Whidbey Island, at the north end of Puget Sound in Washington State, circa 1998. The canteen is on its second blanket now, and looks pretty good. It has become my constant companion [I still wear the hat, too, and have it on while I'm formatting this...].
photo by Joni Takanikos

barton cole's canteen, held in his hands -- PKBauer photo, ©2004

The canteen has never looked scruffier. Constant use, rubbing on my hip when I'm walking around with it, has worn the blanket off again.
Whidbey Island photographer, Penny Kaela Bauer, took the picture for her Gifts of Whidbey Island project in 2004 [look at those poor ditch-digger hands...!]
photo © Penny Kaela Bauer, used by permission.

barton cole's canteen in Amsterdam, on the grave of Rembrandt's wife, 2008

And there it is on Saskia's grave, in the floor of the Oudekerk (Old Church) in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. She was Rembrandt's wife, and I had just done pencil rubbings of her name on the stone, in July 2008. You can see that by now the old canteen is on its third blanket, some handsome upholstery fabric, and has a leather strap, fashioned from a thrift-store belt.
photo by Barton Cole

what about this canteen?

I live in a little town on an island off the coast of america; pretty much everyone knows who I am.
I've been carrying around a canteen for the last thirty years.
I've had it since I was seventeen, but in the early years, generally only had it with me on expeditions.
I suppose that's still the case, if I consider every venture out of the house an expedition.

And everyone in town that knows me knows of my constant sidekick, the canteen. When I go to our (amazing) little cinema, arriving in advance to secure my favorite seat (a seat on the aisle on the right, ninth row from the front), I'll drop the canteen there to save it, and then go walk around town, maybe head down to the water, or look in gallery windows. But everyone knows that the saved seat is mine - it's got my notorious canteen.

Sometimes, with the canteen strap over my shoulder, it might be obscured behind my arm when I encounter someone, and they often ask, "Where's your canteen?"
Or if I head down into town with the car to bring home groceries too heavy to walk with up the hill to my house, I might leave the canteen in the car, and in a few days, I might get a report from my wife, having heard from someone who saw me, "He didn't have his canteen!" as if it's an indication of something out of the ordinary.

I've had it with me everywhere -- strapped on the bow of a kayak, investigating regional archipelagos; up in the mountains, filling it up with stream water; or traveling to nearby and distant places.

It's generally welcome wherever I go, but some destinations would prefer I left it behind. The only places I have ever been discouraged from carrying it are the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and Ballard First Lutheran Church, in Seattle, Washington.
I've had it with me in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Louvre, the Tate Modern in London, and many other museums and galleries, large and small, all over.

In recent times, with the prohibition on liquid (in excess of 3 oz.) on airline flights, I've had to travel with it empty, but the last time I flew to Europe, it went through the X-ray scanner nearly full (it holds a half gallon), and volunteered to pour it out, since they didn't catch it.
Some years ago, leaving the airport south of Seattle for Europe, I passed all my things through the security scanner in the provided tubs. I could see, on the glossy black marble wall behind the scanner, the reflection of the screen the technicians peered into, and there was the round image of my canteen. The tech was pointing at it, and called her colleague over.
This was prior to the prohibition on liquids, but the canteen was causing some concern.
When it emerged from the scanner, I asked the technician's colleague if all was well.
"Oh, yes," he said, "she had just never seen a canteen before."

And when I returned from the trip, via the Copenhagen airport, a handsome, blond security staffer asked, when he saw it, "Ah, have you been in the mountains?"
It nearly always attracts attention like that, since it seems to be so anachronistic.
But you won't catch me dumping plastic water bottles in landfills, and I always know where my next drink of water is coming from.

[a bonus note: below, another of my canteens -- the one I use when I'm doing horticultural or other outside work. It's on its second blanket, too.] barton cole's country canteen a historical note: I bought the first canteen (the notorious one) at the original REI store on East 11th and Pine in Seattle, back when it was the only REI store (the store is now no longer there, but there are branches all across the country, now).
I've been a member of REI since I was a boy in the early 1970's; my membership number is only five digits and starts with a "3," so only thirty-thousand people or so preceded me into the organization, unlike the millions who have joined now. Makes me feel like a proper NW native (going back five generations, actually).

Here's another canteen snapshot: I had both of them with me on a trip to america to pick up some furniture in my handsome truck.
I don't know, the quality of the light in the image, my profound regard for the two subjects? But the picture puts me in mind of Neil and Buzz, as photographed by Mike (apollo 11).

both canteens in my truck, 2008
©2008 barton cole
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