Perhaps this is what the world needs right now.
With the pandemic, mass shootings, war and anti-social media spreading non-stop, Melissa Root said.
Root and thousands of others like her in central Indiana are doing their part. Their answer: rocks.
Painted rocks, to be exact. With whimsical or grandiose messages hidden in plain sight, to inspire whoever finds it. After all, who doesn’t get excited just by finding an Easter egg or reading a fortune cookie?
He runs Root Fisher’s Rocks, a Facebook group of 1,300 members who paint and hide rocks outside in parks, on driveways, or inside in stores or libraries. Fisher Rocks isn’t the only group; Members of Hamilton County Hidden Rocks and #IndysRocks also strive to brighten someone’s day, if just for a minute, or foster feelings of bonding.
“It’s to spread the positive mojo in the world,” Root said. “You write something nice and someone finds it and that’s a positive affirmation.”
The collections are part of a larger movement – the Kindness Rocks Project – started in 2015 by a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, mother who has moved away from owning jewelry stores. Megan Murphy has said in interviews that she realized she was not happy with the hard work and thought she could make a more positive impact on society.
Murphy began quitting rock painting around the Cape as a hobby and it grew into a full-time endeavor. She wrote books on the subject and gave speeches. The movement now reaches across the United States and many other countries. It is particularly attractive to youth groups.
The rocks were used in schools and the Fisher Gardens Department involved them in the activities.
“Young children are the observers,” Root said. “They find rocks and put them in their pockets and they are parents who take pictures of them and post them on Facebook.”
Spreading rocks is the key to spreading positive vibes. Members of Fisher Rocks and others are encouraged to write on the rocks where the photo is posted, and hide it again for someone else.
This has resulted in some well-traveled rocks, Root said, as far away as California and Canada.
A rock with the word “smile” on it was found in June 2021 at Banyan Tree in West Palm Beach, Florida. A rock with the words “hello” and “smile” was found at the Vigo County Fair.
Some of the rocks reflect the time of the year, with the likeness of Santa Claus at Christmas or Jesus at Easter. A boulder depicting a large pumpkin was found in a pickup truck in South Haven, Michigan, near Halloween last year. Recently, members have been painting rocks with sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine, to support the country in its war with Russia.
Most of the rocks are found at familiar local nature sites, however, with Potter Park Bridge and Cheney Creek on top of these sites. But treasures have also been found at Ale Emporium, Kroger, and gas stations.
Root likes to leave rocks in little bookstores, little bookstores set on city sidewalks, and Richie Woods in Fishers.
She said she hides about 20 weeks and begins by buying a bucket filled with river rocks from a home supply store and decorating with acrylic paint.
“The river rocks are big, smooth, flat, and easy to draw on,” she said.
Painting on rocks doesn’t only benefit those who find them. Decorating it provides a respite, a way to take into account unpleasant events, events beyond our control. During the pandemic, Root said, she has offered a diversion to stay at home, such as knitting and making bread, with a bonus if people are outdoors to hide stones.
But the most satisfying part of her hobby is watching children stumble upon rocks.
She said, “They say, Oh my God, look at this!”
Sarah Risley, 48, of Indianapolis, found about a dozen boulders and said the hobby encouraged her to take more walks in trials and through parks.
It’s a beautiful thing, she said, “something that doesn’t cost any money and I might make someone’s day.”
Risley said that the first rock she found in Marion was so beautiful, because she left it there because she thought the artist intended to stay.
“They were all colored polka dots on a rock the size of my hand,” she said. “It was a work of art.”
She returned the rock but checked it out after a few days and decided to take it and post it on the group’s Facebook page. Some hide the rocks and some put it in the rock garden. “Sometimes having them is great,” she said. “I imagine some people keep them on their desks.”
Risley’s other hobby also means that she may find rocks in unusual places during her travels. Risley posts videos on the Facebook page of a series called “Get Lost Indiana,” in which she travels to attractions across the state.
Fisher City Councilwoman Jocelyn Fary joined the group after finding a boulder with the word “hello” in her neighborhood, then hid it again in Fishers Heritage Park in White River. She is not very active, but, as a member of the Fishers Committee on Arts and Culture, she supports the group.
“It’s a nice and engaging activity and it’s nice for anyone to get involved,” she said.
The Department of Recreation and Hunting Recreation even took part in the event. I collected a collection of hundreds of boulders when AgriPark opened two years ago, which are still scattered all over the farm. And at the opening of the Nickel Plate Trail last month, she staged a rock painting that drew 150 people, mostly children.
The participants weren’t obligated to hide the rocks, Sarah Sandquist, the parks manager, said, but she did spot several boulders along the nickel plate path.
“They are messages of whimsy, hope, and kindness, and many of them have animal images,” Sandquist said. “It has become a popular activity.”