On a walk around town, you may have noticed a shiny painted rock out of the corner of your eye. Perhaps it was placed in a knot in a tree or some other ingenious hiding spot, or maybe it was put on the road for you to easily grab.
If you picked up said rock and turned it around, you may have noticed some text asking you to “keep, hide, post.” What is this mysterious new artistic and nature activity you ask? It’s called a rock hunt, and the organizers behind the Hope to Yale Rock Hunt say the movement is all about kindness.
”I learned about the kindness rocks project through a family friend, and was instantly hooked on the idea of spreading kindness throughout the world,” said organizer Melissa Stevenson. Started by Megan Murphy, the Kindness Rocks Project is all about inspiring people to leave “rocks painted with inspiring messages along the path of life.”
“I’ve always been into crafts, so this was a fun way of sending cheer out into the world while entertaining myself and family,” said fellow organizer France Legere, who got involved after finding a rock at the Zopkios rest area on her way back from camping.
“While waiting in line for the restroom, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the most darling little cat painting on a rock on the ground. I picked it up and examined it thinking perhaps someone lost it and maybe it had a name. It did. Hope to Yale Rock hunt,” France remembers. “Finding this little treasure was the icing on my cake. My trip was perfect.”
Both Legere and Stevenson became involved in the rock hunt when it had already been set up – Jessica Broswick had started the H2Y Rock Hunt Facebook page after a suggestion from Cindy at Cat’s Meow. From around 40 members when Legere got involved, the Facebook group now has over 1,000 members.
So how does this activity work? Anyone can take part in painting and hiding rocks. “This is a great, low-cost activity for any person of any age or artistic ability,” Stevenson said, adding said rocks should be sealed so they don’t damage the environment. When hunting one should take one rock per person and leave the rest for others to find she added.
The artists taking part will write “H2Y Rock Hunt” on the back of the rock as well as simple instructions and the hashtag #H2Y, so finders will find their way to the Facebook page or to Instagram and post a photo of their find.
The rocks themselves have been found and re-hid multiple times. Some have travelled far – a family traveling through Hope was introduced to the idea and brought one of the rocks all the way to Quito, Ecuador. The family planted the rock right at the equator at a place called “mitad del mundo,” the middle of the world.
Creativity abounds, with group members painting everything from cat butts, to visual representations of food to inspirational messages of hope and happiness.
People who participate say its a great way to de-stress, to improve their mental health and engage in creativity, some with their children. Some will post online with hints about where rocks can be found, bringing added excitement to the hunt.
For Stevenson, the best stories are the “stories of how finding a rock at the right time changed their day for the better.”
Legere agrees. “Some find them at the most needed times. Missing loved ones, changing relationships, moving provinces,” she said. “It could pull people out of dark spots and sometimes at the right time they need to see it.”
Rock hunting in a pandemic
As the community grapples with COVID-19, Stevenson and Legere are discouraging rock hiding and hunting for now.
“We have advised our group members to participate virtually for the time being,” Stevenson said. “Now is the time to prepare many rocks to hide when the social distancing rules are lifted.”
And while they don’t have the power to stop the rock hunt or pick up the many rocks already hidden, Legere said anyone still hiding or finding rocks should sanitize them. Legere suggests using Lysol, bleach wash or soap and water.
”We also encourage to keep up with Provincial suggestions of social distancing on the trails,” she added.