When Charlie Brown announced with dismay, “I got a rock,” he obviously wasn’t talking about the kind of rocks that have been popping up all over Lake Wylie in the past several months.
Brightly painted stones, hidden by a growing group known as “Lake Wylie Rocks,” are being found in random places by folks all over our community.
Mary Sauer, who lives in RiverPointe on Lake Wylie, started the group last summer. She was inspired by a similar group from Mary’s hometown in the Pacific Northwest. “I grew up on Whidbey Island, in Washington state,” said Mary. “I still keep in touch with some friends through Facebook and saw some postings about people painting rocks and hiding them just to brighten other people’s day. “
Mary fell in love with the idea and decided to form a group in Lake Wylie. She painted a few rocks and then started a group page on Facebook.
On Facebook, anyone can create a “group” to link people with similar interests or associations. Groups can be created for anything: high school class alumni, families, area clubs, or even enthusiasts of a particular hobby, such as photography, cooking, or crafts. Groups can be set up with “tags” to enable others to find the group. In the case of Lake Wylie Rocks, Mary set up “tags” including the phrases “Lake Wylie,” “Arts and Crafts,” “Painted Rocks” to help potential members find the group.
On the back of each of her painted rocks, Mary uses a sharpie to write the name of the Facebook Page, “Lake Wylie Rocks,” and invites whoever finds the rock to post a picture and comment on Facebook.
After creating the group page, Mary didn’t have to wait long for a reaction. “Somehow, WBTV picked up on the story, and actually filmed me hiding my first rock,” recalled Mary. “That was quite a launch!”
Mary, with the help of her grandson, hid the first batch and had fun watching for pictures and comments on the group page. Some of the hand-painted rocks had pretty pictures of flowers, animals, moon and stars, fish, smiley faces. Others had words of Inspiration: “Smile!” or “Be humble and kind” or “I hope you dance!”
Mary reflected, “It seems that all we hear sometimes is bad news. So this is just a way to take people’s minds off of all the crazy stuff. Just bring a smile to their face, make them want to play along.”
From initial reactions, it was evident that her mission was a success. People were excited to find the rocks and posted pictures celebrating their finds. Many promised to re-hide the rocks, and many accepted the invitation to paint rocks of their own.
Within just a couple of months, the Lake Wylie Rocks group had grown to more than 1,000 members on Facebook.
“I hide rocks all over the Lake Wylie area: Belmont, Steele Creek, Tega Cay, Rock Hill and Clover,” she said. Rocks are usually hidden in plain sight, and Mary leaves hints on Facebook about where the rocks can be found.
One hint from Mary read, “You may find them if you stop for gas, or clean up after your dog in an apartment neighborhood, or if you visit the dentist. Happy hunting…”
Rocks have been hidden at trailheads and in parks; restaurants and sidewalks.
Sometimes the hints are pictorial, with the hiders posting a piece of the scenery for finders to recognize.
“It’s addictive,” said Mary. “Hardly a day goes by that I don’t paint a rock. I keep a basket of rocks in my car, and hide them wherever I go.”
Mary has found that the rock project gets her out of the house, exploring the area. “I’ve hidden rocks on the Carolina thread trail, Riverwalk in Rock Hill, over in Tega Cay and on the trails at McDowell Nature Preserve. Hiding and finding rocks is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature.”
People of all ages are enjoying being part of the hunt. Children, in particular, love the idea.
“It’s like a giant Easter egg hunt,” said Mary.
Painting rocks has led to some face-to-face encounters for Mary, with invitations to come to Brownie and Girl Scout meetings and lead craft projects for the troops. “Getting young ones involved has been a great way to model ‘paying it forward’ and sharing kindness with strangers,” she said.
Sometimes the kindness is tailored for specific people.
“I’ve had group members write about hiding rocks for specific people, folks who are sick or just need their spirits lifted in some way,” said Mary. The rock designs have sometimes been used to bring awareness and thoughts towards others in need, as well. For example, after Hurricane Matthew pounded the coast of South Carolina, rocks were painted with pictures and notes of encouragement for those who were hit by the storm.
Some rocks have made it out of the area. Mary took one of her painted rocks on a trip to Lake Junaluska, near Asheville. It was found and made its way to Maggie Valley, where it was found again by a visitor from, ironically, the Lake Wylie area.
Another rock was found in Lake Wylie, by a lady who wrote on Facebook, “While visiting our friends we found this rock on River-point trail. I was so inspired to make sure thatit made its way to other places to make others smile . . . This rock will be making its way to Roanoke, Virginia! I hope to see it go far and inspire others to find this site and want to do the same thing. Make people smile! Thanks!”
Rock painting groups have been springing up all over the world. With the impact of social media and internet sites such as Pinterest and Etsy, creative ideas for painting are readily available.
“You don’t have to be an artist to paint rocks,” said Mary. “I’m not an artist, and I’ve never done any painting before. Painting rocks is fun and easy, and materials needed aren’t expensive.” Mary uses acrylic paint, Sharpies, and a spray sealer to protect her artwork from the elements.
It isn’t just those who find the rocks that are cheered.
“Painting the rocks can be very therapeutic. I’ve gotten notes from people who share how relaxing and uplifting it is for them,” Mary said.
As the weather warms up and summertime approaches, we can expect to see more and more pretty little rocks around Lake Wylie. More smiles, coming right up!