A Hobby for the Ages by Steven Libbey
Passion for History; Passion for Art; Passion for Discovery by Steven Libbey
There was something transforming in finding my first antiquity, vanquished to rot away over its atomic half life of thirty thousand years or so at the bottom of a lake. A simple antique soda bottle added countless elements and paths to my life. Finding that first glass bottle set the building blocks for new relationships, honed professional skills and even put life on a path it would never have taken without this simple discovery. Having the hunter/collector gene and an endless love of exploration made the search for discarded and lost treasures from the past a natural path for me to follow. Rather than a narrow path, collecting antique bottles has been a super highway comprised of more on and off ramps than one could ever travel, yet every ramp taken is an educational adventure full of wonder, beauty and fun.
Imagining to be hunting the treasure of Spanish galleons on an inland Wisconsin lake, I settled into the pristine moonscape mud making up my exploration grounds that warm summer day. The sediment had ‘almost' not been disturbed over the many millennium since the last ice age. A half mile from one shoreline and a third of a mile from another shoreline there was no way for people to access the bottom in the ten foot deep murky water, (as if anyone ever wanted to anyway), until very recently. Looking for fishing gear on the outside weed bed edges was the plan. Over the years, people fished the outside weed bed edges; that is where intuition said the ‘treasure' would be found. As an inexperienced recreational scuba diver, settling into the mud was a good place to start any dive. I could check my gear, get neutrally buoyant and take off swimming just above the bottom. With just a foot or two of visibility, there was a real need to be close to the bottom on my hunt for treasure.
Landing in the soft moonscape, ten feet down in the middle of nowhere, the odds of making contact with anything of human origin, ‘discarded' four generations earlier were on the slight side of none. Yet, contact with a long lost past, catalyzing ongoing contact with the past, is exactly what happened that day. So many times our path is changed by the influence of other human beings. Commonly it is a new job or the chance meeting of a lifelong companion. For a lucky few, a hobby or passion comes from a routine, predictable event becoming a chance direct connection to a human being who had crossed the same path in an altogether different point in time. His or her emptying the contents of the then brand new bottle then vanquishing it to the cold murky depths where my chance landing put the antique bottle in hand that quiet midsummer afternoon is as close as two people can get to handshake when their two moments in the same place are separated by more than a century. For the personal impact finding that soda bottle had on my life, it may as well have been a small wooden fishing boat rowed through a time portal, banging into me swimming at the surface where the former handler of the bottle reached down and bestowed the bottle unto me. They turned away from our encounter and went on to lead what I imagine was a wonder filled, epic life. I turned away from our chance encounter, inspired to explore in tireless pursuit of as many more chance encounters as I could initiate, folding through time on countless adventures.
The realization there is real ‘treasure' to be found in low profile inland Wisconsin lakes led to bridge building between the present and the past on multiple levels. The shear adrenalin laced thrill of pursuing bits of ‘historic' treasure then finding them can become an obsession in and of itself. For me, many moments of a treasure hunt are filled with thoughts of the people who preceded my point in time in this place, in their point in time in this place. What were they doing? What were they like? What were their interests, their loves and passions? Was it a father and son in pursuit of a legendary fish who handed me that first bottle after sharing a soda on The vacation of a lifetime? Was it a young couple out on a romantic boat ride with an aunt or uncle in tow making sure the ‘to be betrothed' behave on their date? Maybe it was a famous politician or a gangster from Chicago on a hiatus from the "turmoil" of big city life. Could have simply been an old guy working the outside weed bed edge for walleye pike as he had done for the last thirty years. It doesn't really matter... Still.
The twists and turns of my chance encounter have created friendships seemingly tempered in hotter fires than the annealing ovens of the old Wisconsin Glass factory of the early 1880's in Milwaukee. It has educated me on the history of our state and country, honed an appreciation for art and the visual appeal of crafted utilitarian objects all while developing a concrete awareness of the past in me. Managing an antique bottle collecting website even contributed to my understanding of how to make my business one of the best web development companies anywhere. The intrigue I experience is easily obtainable for anyone. Antique bottles are all around, come in all shapes, colors, sizes and are inexpensive, even free. Any bottle can cost nothing more than the time it takes to go on an adventure to acquire. Made by hand antique bottles, literally, are works of art. Bottle collecting is an easy to participate in, adventured filled, educational hobby.
100 hundred years from now will anyone know I descended through murky water that day, meeting an adventurer from 100 years ago? What difference would it make if they did? Will I reach out in anonymity and shake hands with someone one hundred years from now? What will remain four generations from now of any of us comes to mind with collecting for me? Maybe, just maybe antique bottle collectors now can put together a piece of the past and hand it forward to future adventurers, giving them a good firm handshake and "Hello."