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From My Window

Issue Date: April 5, 2018

Rocking A Better Community

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

When I was visiting my Mom near Marinette last fall, I went on a shopping errand. While entering a store, I saw a small, brightly-colored object on a ledge outside a building. It was a charmingly painted rock, left for someone to find. Because I am "friends" on Facebook with old friends and classmates in the area, I'd read about people painting rocks and hiding them for others to find".and in a strange twist of fate, I knew who had painted the rock I found, because she had posted a picture of it before she "hid" it. I posted a picture of the rock, along with a comment that I had re-hidden it in the area before I left for Oklahoma, as I understood that was the custom.

It appears that this hobby has exploded in popularity. There is a Facebook site called "Tri-City Rocks" with more than 4,400 members, and it is full of pictures and stories of painted rocks created, hidden, found, and re-hidden.

At first I was just bemused. It seemed, at first blush, to be a little silly. I do love things that are whimsical, but this didn't really intrigue me at first. But after seeing hundreds of posts by those who love this pastime, I have totally changed my mind and have come to see a great deal of "social glue" value in painted rocks.

First of all, there's a little artist in most of us. In me, very little. But you don't have to be a Rembrandt to paint a rock. Some of the efforts, by both adults and kids, are charmingly crude. But others are truly works of art, completed by obviously skilled painters. If I found some of their rocks, I probably would be really tempted to keep the tiny treasures. Some rocks have glitter, ribbon or other items glued to them; some are painted to highlight the rock shapes " red heart-shaped stones, horse heads on those roughly shaped like a horse head; Easter Egg colors on an egg-shaped rock. People are truly wildly creative and imaginative. It's hard not to be impressed. Sounds like some of these rock artists pursue their craft with children or grandchildren; some with like-minded friends. It's a low-cost, fun way to spend an hour or two, away from the TV and the computer screens, and lends itself to quality conversations.

I see rocks decorated on the front side, with the name of the web site, "Tri-Cities Rocks" painted on the back; in hopes finders will post a picture so artist can see where their rocks are traveling. Some rocks have messages on them " "Peace" or "Rejoice." Finding these little rocks is a positive boost " a message to the finder from a stranger. There's no grim political messages or snippy comments " it's a refreshingly positive tone, so unlike some of the brutal on-line or TV exchanges we all endure.

After a batch of rocks are created, the artist or their helpers take them and hide them. Rocks are found all over, but some popular spots seem to be public parks and landmarks like the lighthouse. But they turn up on church lawns, in shops, in parking lots and on porches, too. Some of the time, hints are left to the location of these rocks on the website, for those who may not be sure where to start looking, good for people just starting to take their children or grandchildren on painted rock hunts.

I applaud ANYTHING that gets kids and their families outdoors. And having them in our parks and landmarks doing something fun builds their value for these open spaces that belong to all of us. At a time when public lands and green spaces seem to be viewed mainly as a wasted resource to be exploited, it's critically important to teach our kids the value of open public spaces. The physical exercise of hunting rocks is highly beneficial, but even more important is the mental health benefit of time taking in our beautiful environment, away from the constant racket of TV, computers and other electronic clutter that is so stressful for our brains.

I see on-line pictures of happy kids with rocks they found; and a notation that they will re-hide them the next day " resulting in another trip outside. I've also seen pictures of rocks found locally that the finder notes will be transported out of the local area, to be hidden further afield, hopefully inspiring even more people to join in the fun. Kids are flat-out excited to go looking for rocks. And guess how much this healthy and fun family activity costs? Practically nothing.

Last, Tri-City Rocks sees their activity as a calling, as stated on their web page - intended to be "random acts of kindness." That it is, a noble pursuit indeed, with so many other benefits to participants as well.

I love reading the posts about rocks. I am not at this point a rock creator, but once we have moved, my husband completes his radiation and our daughter gets married in Seattle, (all in the next 75 days!) I might give it a try. We like to camp and this activity seems custom made for fun in campgrounds. In the meantime, even from the sidelines, I get a positive feeling about good people when I follow the Tri-City Rocks. Well done, and a hug to you all for finding a kinder, gentler and inclusive activity to help glue your community together.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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