Mythical beings hiding around the harbor
By Colin Anderson
There are rumors swirling about Gig Harbor of mythical creatures hidden in plain sight, all hoping to be found by local adventurous souls. In fact, Qwannyth the Grand Dame of the Underplace, Mistress of the Impossible, Keeper of the Realm has shared this message, which the local Gnombassador has translated:
“Dear Human, Go forth and seek my Little Gnomies. Bring them thither, and thy reward shall be great indeed. For each gnome located, you shall receive 100,000 CS (Crumples Sterling) or the equivalent in another form of payment that shall enrich your life. Find my Internet Gnomes to me and enjoy the Fruits of the Web forever … but if they cannot be found … I fear a terrible period of sickness, strife and far worse—boredom—may be upon us all. Therefore seeker, tarry no longer, but sally forth on your quest to return my—Gnomes Away From Home.”
The local Gnomebassador is Justin Teerlinck, a fun-loving Gig Harbor resident and community mental health and wellness occupational therapist. After a year of people cooped up, Justin wanted to do something that not only brought the community out and together, but also would help support local businesses and general well-being of the town he loves so dearly.
“My aim is to foster the health and well-being of the entire community by promoting play and encouraging people to think, feel, move, explore, and connect with each other,” he explained. For many, play is often viewed as childish, immature, and even detrimental to aspects of adulthood. Justin holds a quite different perspective on the matter. “I see play as integral to an intrinsic sense of awe and wonder, fulfillment, and the ability to see the world in novel ways—which can actually aid us in our work lives, if you consider the need for productivity and the intelligence required for complex problem-solving.”
While many treasure hunts are designed specifically for children, searching for these lost creatures is something anyone of any age and ability can tackle. A wide range of people have already discovered several of the gnomes after following clues from the Gnomebassador found at GnomesAway.com.
Some of the clues are more general, while others are very specific. According to Justin, the more general clues are harder to solve, because they will guide you to the vicinity of the gnome, but not directly to the gnome. The more specific clues will guide you directly to where the gnome is hiding. “I use a range of difficulty so that everyone gets the ‘just right’ challenge, so it's not surprising that some of the gnomes with more specific clues are found within hours of hiding them, and the more difficult ones can take a week or longer.”
Interestingly this is actually not just guesswork, but a specialized skill called "activity grading" that Justin was trained in as an occupational therapist. “It helps me meet the needs of people of every ability level, so that everyone can participate in the activity without feeling left out or left behind,” he said.
Once a gnome is discovered, blog and social media followers are alerted. The person who discovers the hidden gnome receives a gift card to a locally owned business, and the cards are funded by a Creative Endeavor Grant through the Arts Commission of the City of Gig Harbor.
Within five days of launching the website, there were already 200 people following the Gnomebassador and eagerly awaiting the next series of clues. As word continues to spread, you’ll see more and more gnome hunters out and about in search of the remaining few lost gnomes. “People have told me they're not even that interested in winning a prize; they just want to hunt for the gnomes, and they love reading and solving the riddles and clues,” said Justin.
If you are ready to embark on this quest, visit GnomesAway.com. Click on the image of the gnome you want to search for, and you’ll see a map as well as clues that will help get you pointed in the right direction. The Gnomebassador wants to remind people that all gnomes are hiding on public property, and you will never need to dig, hop a fence, climb or disturb any ground in order to find them.
While there are only a few gnomes left, once the last one is located a new quest will begin. Justin has in his possession eight gold medallions attached to lanyards that will be hidden around Gig Harbor. Just like the gnome hunt, people will need to decipher clues to find them. Each medallion will have a word written on it, and once all eight are found, the words will form a scrambled phrase. Justin will publicly post the words as they are found, and the first person to put them in the correct order will win a prize.
The Gnomebassador’s quest has been more successful than he even thought possible. “When I see the pictures that parents send me of their families and children proudly holding up a gnome, I feel like I've won my own grand prize. Every smile is a victory for me. I want everyone to have a good time searching, whether they find a gnome or not.”
There is still time, but others are out searching right now. Can you figure out the clues first? Or will another beat you to it? Your quest begins today.