A very rocky hobby

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

A-rocky new trend has en­veloped South­ern Mary­land — and I’m lov­ing it. I was vaguely aware of this idea of leav­ing painted “hap­pi­ness rocks” in pub­lic spa­ces for oth­ers to find, but I can’t say it was more than a pass­ing thought. Friends had been post­ing pic­tures of their kid­dos’ crafti­ness on so­cial me­dia, paint brushes in hand, and I’ve ad­mired their col­or­ful art­work from afar.

Though I lack any artis­tic tal­ent, crafts are so ap­peal­ing; they re­mind me of pro­jects cheer­fully tack­led with my mom and grandma grow­ing up. We made felt dolls and painted plates, cre­ated Easter scenes in­side clean tuna cans and drew end­less pic­tures of princesses and ponds.

I’m cre­ative, but gen­er­ally un­co­or­di­nated when it comes to shap­ing some­thing with my own two hands. The only ex­cep­tion came when a friend taught me how to form pa­per roses as part of my wed­ding decor, and ty­ing curl­ing rib­bon on gift pack­ages. What is a present with­out curl­ing rib­bon? Naked, that’s what.

When artsy trends start to sweep my Face­book feed, I ad­mire them with­out get­ting at­tached. I’m not the sort of per­son who sees a cool piece of art­work or a knit­ted sweater and con­tem­plates copy­ing it my­self; some tools are just bet­ter left to the pro­fes­sion­als.

Like glue guns. Any­thing with glue guns.

A new lo­cal trend has ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with sticky molten-hot ad­he­sive, how­ever. I was walk­ing through the hall at work Mon­day when some­thing shiny caught my eye. On top of a hand san­i­tizer dis­penser I use a dozen times a day, a sparkly orange rock was perched by the el­e­va­tor. I’d gone through that cor­ri­dor not 10 min­utes be­fore and saw noth­ing out of the or­di­nary. No one could ac­cuse me of be­ing un­ob­ser­vant . . . this small stone had just mag­i­cally ap­peared.

I al­most left it there. Much like you could find a set of keys and de­bate whether to move them, know­ing the owner could re­trace their steps only to find them gone, I strangely as­sumed some­one had mis­placed this . . . sparkly rock and would be need­ing it back.

Cu­rios­ity won out, though. And once I picked it up, feel­ing its un­even edges with my thumb, I got ex­cited. On the back was “SoMd Rocks on Face­book,” the on­line group that had popped up in my feed a time or two. I’d stum­bled upon one of its trea­sures.

The idea is very sim­ple: par­tic­i­pants paint or­di­nary rocks how­ever they like, then leave them some­where for a stranger to find. The trend has ex­ploded across Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s coun­ties with fam­i­lies, neigh­bors, day­cares and more all get­ting in on the fun. A lo­cal ex­ten­sion of the Kind­ness Rocks Project, cre­ations can be in­spi­ra­tional or silly, artis­tic or sim­ple. Some have mes­sages; oth­ers sim­ply draw­ings or pat­terns. Re­gard­less, find­ing one is a thrill.

High off the ex­cite­ment of spot­ting my very first rock on Mon­day, I shared it with my co­work­ers be­fore join­ing the Face­book group to spread the love. The artist saw my post and photo, then re­minded me to check it out in the sun­shine for ex­tra sparkle.

Do you re­mem­ber Mon­day? Mon­day was wet. Ugly. I’d had a ter­ri­ble bat­tle get­ting Oliver to our babysit­ter’s that morn­ing, and started the day al­ready drenched in the fight wrestling him into his carseat. I was tired, as al­ways, with one eye barely cracked as I was walk­ing with hot cof­fee back to my desk.

Joy in the un­ex­pected. I was buzzing about this rock — such a sim­ple thing, re­ally — all day.

Imag­ine my de­light, then, when I was get­ting gas on my way home and spot­ted a huge, beau­ti­ful blue rock painted with flow­ers out­side a con­ve­nience store. It was too big and ob­vi­ous for many oth­ers to have sim­ply walked by; it must have just been placed, and was still tacky to the touch. Right place, right time. They’re sim­ple things, th­ese stones: but when I found two more at work on Tues­day morn­ing, I was start­ing to think I should play the Lotto or some­thing.

Af­ter you find a rock, you can pop on Face­book to share your ex­cite­ment with other “rock­ers” and re-hide — sorry, “plant” — them else­where to brighten some­one else’s path. Or, you know, you can keep them . . . as I’m do­ing with the blue flo­ral rock, be­cause I’m pretty much ob­sessed with it.

There’s no of­fi­cial log, but folks post pic­tures of their finds in var­i­ous Face­book groups typ­i­cally found through notes on the bot­tom of rocks. Groups ex­ist through­out South­ern Mary­land. Find­ers can cer­tainly keep them, but you’re asked to then paint some stones of your own to re­lease into the com­mu­nity.

Find­ing a rock doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the heart, brain and spirit de­light in the un­ex­pected. Know­ing a stranger sat and cre­ated some­thing that fate would even­tu­ally place right in your path . . . well, I think that’s pow­er­ful.

I’m a collector by na­ture, so the urge to hoard my dis­cov­er­ies for­ever and ever is strong. But I’m re­sist­ing. With the ex­cep­tion of the big blue rock (too self­ish to share that one yet), the rocks have been cast back out into the com­mu­nity to win over an­other tired soul.

So keep your eyes peeled. Beauty of­ten lies where we least ex­pect it.

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