Some may remember the first time they picked up a rock at the park and asked to take it home with them. Some people were given permission, some were reminded that “if we all took one rock, the park wouldn’t have any left,” but very few ever bring their rocks back.
That’s starting to change, however, with the rise of rock painting groups that pride themselves on adding beauty and art to their community, leaving rocks around their cities for others to find and enjoy.
For example, Tammora Nedoroscik and her 5-year-old and 2-year-old daughters of Kenmore, regularly paint rocks of various shapes to pass around to their neighbors.
“I just kind of stumbled across rock painting, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’d be a really cool thing to do with my daughter,’ at the time she was about 3,’” Nedoroscik said. “I thought it was going to be a fun thing to do with her. And then sho rtly after I picked it up, I think we found our first rock”
Nedoroscik joined the Kenmore Rocks group about two years ago. She paints about one to five rocks a day, depending on the season. When she and her daughters finish the rocks, they slap a sticker on the back that invites the finder to post the rock on social media with an associated hashtag (usually #KenmoreRocks, #BothellRocks or something of the sort).
Most accounts trace the trend of rock painting back to The Kindness Rocks Project, started by Megan Murphy who wrote “You’ve got this” on a rock, then proceeded to leave it at the beach in Cape Cod. That evolved to more rocks with inspirational messages and painted rocks. Now, rocks may contain motivational quotes, art inspired by movements like Pride Month, or simply characters such as Baby Groot from the Marvel “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies.
For some, the joy of rock painting projects isn’t just the painting, it’s the hunt for rocks and what they can discover. Blake Baird, a principal in the Monroe School District, recalls a week that was made better by a rock he found.
“I found a rock that was inspired by the musical ‘Hamilton.’ I’d been having a particularly rough week and it was this beautiful connection to an opportunity I had three years ago to take all of my students to go see ‘Hamilton,’” Baird said. “It was that lovely connection to my fellow humans out planting things of beauty in the world and it really grounded me back to a delightful moment of joy in my work life.”
Baird said the activity isn’t just about the joy of finding rocks but the joy of finding anything at all.
“There’s something delightful about an unexpected spot of beauty created by a fellow human out about in the world,” Baird said. “I also highly value being outside and being aware of the beauty of what’s around me. And I wanted to contribute to that in others…Whether it’s the rocks that I paint or whether it’s looking for rocks and happening to notice a particularly beautiful mushroom or caterpillar or a fascinating stick.”
Baird was in the Sultan Rocks group and joined the Kenmore group after moving to the area two years ago. Membership has remained pretty consistent for the “well-established” group according to Baird. The Kenmore Rocks group has 305 members on Facebook and the Bothell Rocks group has more than 3,200 members.
The groups don’t just represent an opportunity for fun, they also serve in the community. Cynthia Bemis, a 20-year Bothellite and one of the administrators of the Bothell Rocks group, said they regularly meet together to create rocks dedicated to causes. The group has held a Save Shelton View Forest event and a Save Yakima Fruit Market event. Bemis has been a part of the group since December 2016.
“When I first learned of it…it was during a particular time of my life where…a rather major negative life circumstance that occurred and I was struggling to get through that. And I found a rock,” Bemis said. “I look at it now as a small act of kindness that made my day and it changed my life.”
Bemis said the group has grown from about 1,000 when she joined in late 2016 to the 3,000-plus members it has now. She tends to paint rocks more than she does search for them and has an affinity for hiding rocks in parks and places where younger kids can discover them.
In Bothell, there are also a number of rock trading gardens, where people can paint a rock and trade it for one at the garden. Birdie Kitty, another administrator of the Bothell Rocks group, shared that the gardens are established to ensure young painters will always have a place to find a rock.
“(Rock painting) can be done by all ages and all degrees of ability,” Bemis said. “I think that’s a key factor that brings so many different people together, there’s something for everybody.”