Neighbourhood rock hunts have been around for a couple of years, but with social activities limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic they appear to be gaining popularity as a safe and simple way to connect community during this unusual time.
Kim Williamson got the idea to start one in her West Hillhurst community after moving to the northwest Calgary neighbourhood from Nanton, Alberta.
The mother of two had been part of group of over 200 hundred rock painters and seekers there.
“When I started the Facebook group, it picked up pretty quickly and a lot of people started painting and hiding as well and it just became kind of addictive,” said Williamson.
The idea has picked up quickly in Calgary too with more community-specific Facebook groups, like Williamson’s, popping up recently.
“It’s definitely helped I think during the isolation period for people to have an activity to do, whether it be painting or hiding, or even just like seeing something bright and happy in the neighbourhood when they’re out walking,” said Williamson.
Cathy Keough of the Calgary Counselling Centre agrees.
“It helps us move outside of ourselves a little bit and remember a connection to the larger world,” Keough explained of the experience of both painting rocks and finding them. “It helps and reminds us that there are people, that we are connected, that we need to remain socially connected and it also reminds us that there are surprises.
“Human beings, we really do enjoy surprise.”
Participation in a rock hunt group is easy and fun.
Members are asked to paint rocks with an image, kind word or inspirational message. Some will also ask that you mark the rock with the group it belongs to and then seal it to protect against the elements.
Once that’s done, rocks should then be hidden in a public place, like a park, in a spot that’s not too difficult to find.
“If you come across one of the rocks then you can either take a picture and leave it where it is, or you can take a picture and re-hide it in another place — and some people even like to keep them,” said Williamson.
Williamson said sometimes an image or phrase will resonate with the person who finds it and so they decide to keep it.
Whether they keep a newly discovered rock or not, Keough say finding that unexpected kind note or message can bring lasting joy and happiness.
It can also have a positive trickle down effect.
“Often these movements, people want to join,” said Keough.
“More people want to be part of that positive experience, and creating joy and humour and anticipation in the community and in the world,” she added.
Williamson’s teenage daughter, Paige — who enjoys painting and hiding rocks more than she does finding them —agreed.
“I think it’s a good way to give back to the community in a fun way,” she said.