We were on our way home from Georgia and Annie was driving. She pulled off the highway at a gas station/quick shop so we could get some lunch. As she eased into a parking space my eyes fixed on something sitting on a windowsill directly in front of us.
I exclaimed, “I found one!”
There is an understated phenomenon that is sweeping the nation. I’m not sure it even has an official name but I have seen it written about as, “Painted Rocks”. However, I’ve heard it more commonly referred to by some specific location and “Rocks”, as in the case of the one in the story above. We were driving through St. Clair County, Alabama when I found it. Thus, the people involved would most likely call themselves, “St. Clair County, AL Rocks”. In the accompanying photo (bottom, below), you can see that someone wrote exactly that on the back of the stone I found.
Anyway, the idea is that people gather rocks and paint some kind of a decoration or inspirational message on them. Usually they write something on the back like on mine. Then they take it to a public location and “hide” it.
There are a few different motivations for taking part in the painted rock activity. Some say it is to encourage people to get outdoors. Some claim it is to encourage kids to be more active. Others state it is to stimulate the imagination. Still others say it’s all about cheering people up.
The fact of the matter is; they are all true…and more.
My first exposure to painted rocks groups was when I was with family in a park in Springfield, Missouri. We got split up and, in the distance, I heard Addy, one of our granddaughters, exclaim happily, “I FOUND one!”
I asked what she had found and she answered, “A rock!”
That may have answered my question, but it didn’t explain her excitement. I caught up with her, along with her little sister, Ally, and their mom, Candi. They showed me the treasure. I have to admit, it was beautiful. Someone had invested a significant amount of time in creating a work of art on the hard surface, then had put it out in the park for someone else to find.
When I say, “art,” it’s a relative term. I’ve seen some that look like a three year old took about five seconds to splash some paint on them. Others look like they were the work of several hours. All are equally valid and are treasures to find.
Some businesses have even gotten involved in the fad, hiding rocks that can be exchanged for prizes. I read about one city’s police department that did the same thing in hopes of building good relationships with residents. Those ideas are OK too.
Like St. Clair County, AL Rocks, some groups have formed around the subject. Supposedly, Renton Rocks in Washington state was the first group of its kind, beginning in 2011. The groups are for the purpose of making and placing the rocks and for discussing it. People may post photos of the rocks they have made and hidden, and include photo clues in case others want to find them. Other folks post photos of rocks they have found. I joined the facebook page for St. Clair County, Alabama (St. Clair County AL Rocks) and Springfield Rocks (Springfield Rocks!). It’s interesting reading about the fun some people are having and about the rocks they’ve hidden and those they’ve found and where they found them.
Where they found them? Yep. You see, some finders will put the rocks right back where they discovered them while others will take the rocks they come across and place them somewhere else. For instance, as I said earlier, I found my rock in St. Clair County, Alabama. I took it home with me to Malden, Missouri, and I’ll get on the St. Clair County, AL Rocks page and tell them so. Then I’ll give the rock to Addy and Ally when I see them next. They may take it home with them to Oklahoma to add to their collection. But they may take it to one of our parks in Malden, or they could take it to one of theirs in Oklahoma and leave it for others to find. Heck, they could even hide it at a highway rest area between here and there.
If you have kids or grandkids, gather some smooth stones, a little paint and some brushes, and you have a very affordable and interesting activity that can stave off the youngsters’ boredom for a while. And, while they are looking for the little treasures, they might even learn something about nature or geography…or about you. The activity is so relaxing that they can talk to you at the same time. You might get to know each other better.
Heck, you might even have fun as a family. There’s nothing wrong with that. You might even say…it rocks!
Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
(above and below) Ally (left) and Addy have fun painting and showing off their rocks.
(below) The rocks the girls painted above and will have fun hiding for others to find.
(below) It looks like Momma Candi had fun painting some rocks of her own while Addy and Ally were decorating theirs. That’s fine; there’s no age limit for who can take part in this fun activity.
(below) Here’s the rock I saw sitting on the windowsill of a gas station in St. Clair County, Alabama.