Small painted stones left throughout the community are rocking people’s worlds.
Last Thursday was a day filled with the existential dread often brought on by Christmas, chock filled with thoughts of ghosts of Christmas past, the stress of Christmas present, and the uncertainty of Christmas future. Life and responsibilities seemed to weigh heavy on this writer as he made his way to Toys R Us to pick up a present for the second place winner of a recent Beacon coloring contest.
But as I left the store I was stopped in my tracks, when what to my wondering eyes did appear but a tiny Santa Claus hiding underneath an evergreen bush staring up at me with a sly smile.
I looked around the packed parking lot to see if I was being watched, as I was stunned by my find. There, tucked under the bush was a small rock with a painted Santa face that perfectly fit the contours of the stone. Hesitantly, I picked up the rock to examine it, and turned it over to find the words “Warwick Rocks” on the back. In a moment, my day changed for the better, as I was filled with a sense of wonder as a smile crossed my face. I took St. Nick and headed back to the office to see what I could find out about this hard case.
After several Internet searches, I found my answer on Facebook through a page called Warwick Rocks. With 1,540 current members, the page is dedicated to a game of painting stones and then hiding them for others to find. I posted a picture of my find to the group, looking to speak with anyone who may know its origins or about the game, and was inundated with positive replies and messages.
“That’s mine. Thanks for finding him. Glad it put you in the spirit,” wrote Lisa Marenaro, who painted my Santa stone. “That makes me happy that I was able to make your day. Have a Merry Christmas.”
Warwick Rocks! and other pages like it pay it forward through their game of hide and seek with rocks. According to rules of the game, participants are asked to find rocks to decorate with acrylic paint or something similar. Rocks may be painted with “whatever you want, Rhode Island themes, cartoon, abstract, anything!” It’s suggested that a clear weatherproof topcoat be applied, and that #warwickrirocks or “Fb: Warwick Rocks!” be written on the back of the stone. When completed, the rocks may be hidden anywhere in the city or beyond.
Once a painted rock is found, it’s suggested that it be hidden again in a different spot. Pictures of found rocks may be posted to the Warwick Rocks! Facebook page for fun. Keeping rocks isn’t off limits, but “rockers” should mention it in their post so the “owners” know it has been found and can share their thoughts.
Rules of the game also include “being nice” and “don’t say mean things,” as not everyone is an artist and many rocks are painted by children, along with “have fun and get out there.”
Bonnie Parker is the page administrator for Warwick Rocks! Her hope is that, through the entire experience of painting and hiding, the community is brought closer together.
“I started it in spring of this year after seeing a page for South County Rocks. I grew up in Charlestown, and I wanted to do it here and bring people together,” said Parker, who hopes that the fun transcends city lines. “Someone asked me to paint them a rock so they can hide it on the other side of the world!”
Apparently, her efforts have gone viral, as have the positive feelings associated with the game.
“Some of us joined this group when we found a rock that uplifted us on days we really needed to be uplifted,” wrote Catalina Rivera. “I love this group, its positivity and creativity of the members.”
“I’m a newbie to rock painting [three months] painting is so relaxing to me and I love when one of my rocks are posted on the page,” wrote Nancy Morgan. “It makes my day to discover a little kid has found one of my rocks!”
Karen Hurst said that, “There are tons of rock groups across the nation. They all started with the intention of making someone’s day. A lot of people who have never painted are now enjoying it. Families are doing it and it’s very calming to paint and then see someone else enjoy it. Rock groups are a positive!”
Gayle Putnam McCarthy, who lives in Buttonwoods, has made the activity a family affair. Her grandchildren, 6-year-old Shelby and 2-year-old Cole, regularly paint rocks and place them in City Park or other locations in the area.
“Painting rocks makes you happy and they make other people happy when they find them,” said McCarthy. “I have placed at stores and only once someone found and posted. There are so many people at the park they always are found, which makes kids and I happy.”
With the holidays upon us, Christmas-themed rocks are appearing on the Warwick Rocks! page frequently. Should those rocks be found, “rockers” hope that a picture of the lucky find is posted to the groups Facebook wall to celebrate the season.
“I am a looker for rocks. I have not painted any but look for them,” wrote Karen Hopkins Pertuso. “When I find them I post the picture of the rock because I am sure the person who painted it wants to follow the journey. I then hide it again.”
With “Rocking Elves” leaving presents in the most obscure places throughout Warwick, one never knows if they’ll be the next lucky person to have their day brightened. So be on the lookout.