Fat alder buds (Alnus rubra)
As early tree and shrub buds were swelling and opening last week, signs of human habitation suddenly appeared on the west side of North Creek.
Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)--one of the earliest blooming native shrubs
I spotted this mysterious structure on the far side of the foot bridge and crossed over to look more closely.
After I crossed the bridge it became obvious there was more to the lonely structure than what I could see from the other side of the creek.
Soon I spotted another structure with a little pile of firewood in front. (Fire is not allowed on campus, but firewood is essential for authenticity.)
One group constructed a long house of sorts and were inside refining the structure and enjoying each other's company.
This hamlet is the latest incarnation of Creek Village, which for the past four years has arisen and flourished for about a month, in early or late spring.
During the first year, four Clearwater students created homes within the natural structure of shrubs, trees and underbrush across the creek. Matt, the only staff member in the village, acted as lodge keeper. Creek Village residents paid him in salmonberries for the opportunity to sleep at the lodge, located at Second Beach. (There are three accessible beaches along Clearwater School's stretch of North Creek. Starting with the most northern beach, they are consecutively named First, Second and Third Beach.) Every day residents trooped to their village. Someone yelled "Breakfast!"; five minutes later, "Lunch!"; after five more minutes, "Dinner!"; then "Night time!"; and finally, "Morning!". They shared food from their lunches and ate salmonberries at meal time.
A year later the four original village founders were joined by two more people. In addition to the daily schedule, they added picnics at Third Beach and hikes to First Beach, where they foraged and explored. The third year of Creek Village was much the same, with the addition of four more residents.
By most accounts, Creek Village this year is a lot more fun than the previous three years combined. For one thing, around 16 people are involved so far, although they're not always all in residence at the same time. No staff members are regular residents of this year's village. The group abandoned the tree and shrub dwellings from previous years (which they call "Abandoned Creek Village"), although some continue to poke around the old digs in the same manner as anyone who is fascinated by abandoned townsites.
More after the jump...
This year residents scavenged sturdy downed tree branches to shape conical and oblong skeletons, and then covered them with blankets and tarps. Inside the structures residents placed sleeping pads, blankets and lunches. At the end of each day, they leave the building skeletons standing and pack out all the tarps, blankets and pads.
This year villagers divide the day into four segments: breakfast, dinner, night and morning. A day is 30 minutes long. Residents who have cell phones keep track of the time and announce when each segment begins. Residents have created currency to pay for stick weapons and food. Currency is mined in the sandbar at Third Beach, although some people also bring trinkets from home to serve as currency. There is also a lot of item trading.
With the influx of new residents this year, conflict was inevitable. One group of people wanted everyone to have imaginary pets that followed people around, but another group was firmly opposed. One resident described the conflict as a civil war that involved the destruction of some homes and different factions yelling "Pets" or "No pets". Everyone agreed to put the matter to a vote. A majority voted against a requirement that everyone have pets, while allowing people who wanted pets to have them.
Soon after this issue was resolved and homes were restored, residents decided to practice stick fighting for fun and everything was peaceful.
Peace continued even as Outcast Village was created by three students nearby as an alternate place to hang out and to have fun good-naturedly bugging Creek village residents.
A new person joined Creek Village and decided to start his own town near First Beach, which he called Riverside Village. He recruited so many Creek Village residents for his town that half the population left. The remaining Creek Village inhabitants felt abandoned and declared war on Riverside Village. Stick fighting ensued; no one was hurt and no one destroyed people's homes.
By this time, each village had a mayor--Lily for Creek Village and Stephen for Riverside Village. The two mayors met and decided the fighting was pointless. They convinced the residents of each of their villages to stop fighting and everyone agreed to be residents of Creek Village. The town retains the two locations as distinct and cooperative neighborhoods. The two mayors agreed to be co-mayors of greater Creek Village.
The residents of Creek Village last week included Lily, Justin (aka Boombox), Arlo, Nikos, Tommie, Jackie, Vera, Mara, Jesse, Chiara, Zoe, J.R., Jackie, Stephen (aka Crazy Uncle Steve), Tarka and Caden.
End of post.