For most of my life, I’ve lived with creeks. They’re a big part of my life. It’s a funny sort of word. The eek in creek is something you don’t find in river or waterway – too solemn by far. It might be the eek in the creek that attracts kids. Kids and creeks go together.
As a kid, I was lucky. A country kid of the 70s with a country creek. How was I to know that my creek was special? Not that all creeks aren’t special. The union of earth, wind and fire, a boogey wonderland, the moon and the clouds. Creeks, kids and fun go together.
It’s fun to be alive and creeks are alive. Movement is fun. Water moves. Today’s creek is not tomorrow’s creek. A creek is infinitely responsive. If it rains, if it doesn’t rain, the wonders of gravity never cease; 24/7, water finds its way to the lowest point. And not just the visible – creeks are the visible embodiment of the subterranean. The water is always moving. From clouds, overland, through land and underland, a creek reflects it all. The mystery. What’s not to like?
But what is it about us that we want to hide our water away? Are we ashamed of our legacy? Of our exploitation? Our initial settlements had to have one essential - good water. How is it that over time waste disposal overwhelms the original attraction? What were we thinking? Water, our friend, our ally, is now the enemy; drained, maimed and contained. Our shame that we hide from sight in pipes. Out of sight, out of mind. Except when it rains or when it doesn’t. Paving and pipes speed the flow. A drizzle becomes a flow and a cloudburst a torrent. And when it doesn’t rain, nutrified, putrefied stagnation. Boom and bust. What were we thinking? Creeks as drains. A creek may drain but a drain is not a creek. No fun in that.
Kids and creeks. Country or urban, kids find a way, they seek out the inner creek, no matter what sort of mischief has been visited upon it. The Cave Clan – urban explorers. Pipes were their domain. Kids just want to have fun. What’s more fun than the mystery of the unknown on your doorstep. How illicit. It’s dark, it’s secret, it’s even dangerous and, best of all, it’s forbidden.
At the same time, I’d come and visit Mum down on the coast and marvel at the contrast. Why was grossly polluted, layered ugliness okay for urban creek kids? Creeks and creek kids have been shortchanged by double standards. We of the coast, like few others, are in a good position to appreciate how unthinkable it would be to reduce our beaches to the state of our creeks. I say, make the way we treat our beaches the measure of how we treat our creeks.
Across time and continents, creeks, which offered so much as the foundation of living, have been reduced to so little. Treat a creek as a drain for long enough and, with the life stripped out, it takes on all the characteristics of a drain. But a creek is much more than a drain, many times over.
The 2020s are hailed as the decade of disruption, so let’s give it a go. The business is not to return to business as usual. Suspend what you know and accept about roads, drains and creeks. Imagine if we started afresh. Where we started with the idea of keeping creeks for kids, for fun. The water would have to be clean and safe. A living creek would be primary. Conditions would be maintained and promoted to encourage life; aquatic and terrestrial - plants and animals. Just like a beach.
Living with creeks ... “living” embodies joy and life itself; “with” embodies a shared joy. It recognises co-existence. Living with creeks is much the same as living with dogs; interpretation can be personal or societal and all points in between.
Kids, fun, creeks and living. What’s not to like?