You may not notice them when you first survey the scenery at McAuliffe Park in Kirkland, but take a closer look. Tucked into trees, concealed on rusty farm equipment or just simply hidden in plain sight, there's a wonderful world of decorated rocks waiting to be discovered. This is more than a way to pass the time — for folks like Caroline Chastain, it's a passion.
Refined caught up with Chastain (co-admin of Kirkland Rocks) and other "rock stars" to get the scoop on this phenomenon that's happening in parks, on trails and in neighborhoods all over the area.
Seattle Refined: So, Caroline, you are part of a Facebook group called Kirkland Rocks. What the heck is Kirkland Rocks?
Caroline Chastain: We are people who love to create little treasures on rocks with paint and then hide them. It's just kind of a free way to spread love and joy, especially during these crazy days. Kirkland Rocks has really been taking off lately with lots more rockers.
I love that you call them "rockers," that's hilarious. These aren't regular garden variety rocks — what makes these rocks special?
The idea is to paint whatever you want, write on the back (so people know which group it came from) ... and post a picture.
What's the process of painting a rock like?
I usually paint them with a base coat. And then I do some designing on top of that. The best kind of paint to use is acrylic paint, so it doesn't wash off. And the most rock groups will recommend that you definitely seal them with something because they're going be outside. You can make it as simple or as intricate as you like. We have some amazing artists in our group.
That includes professional artists like Olga.
Olga: I love painting these rocks because it's different than painting on paper or drawing on a 3-D surface, and it kind of lets me get my creativity out without worrying too much about the final result.
So we've been talking about Kirkland, but this is a phenomenon that's spread everywhere, right?
Absolutely. I think in this area, there's Kitsap Rocks and Whidbey Island Rocks, Bellevue, Woodinville, Kenmore, Bothell, Redmond. So many rock groups. So that's why it's kind of fun.
These days you can't take a walk in a park or a trail without seeing some beautifully painted rocks.
Yeah, that's true, and I think when you're really looking for them, they seemed to find you almost.
Enthusiasts are "rocking out" in neighborhoods, too. In fact, there's an entire "Girl Scout Kindness Rock Garden." Eliana is an artist as well as a leader for 12-year-old daughter Khyler's Girl Scout Troop.
Eliana: The idea is to spread kindness and make the world a better place, which is one of the mottos for Girl Scouts. And so we paint rocks for this garden we leave them here in the hopes that someone will take one.
Are there social norms for this? If you find a rock, should you re-hide it? Are you allowed to keep it?
The norms are really it's a gift, so feel free to keep it if you want. But I think a lot of people are into re-hiding them because they understand the joy.
These folks give a new meaning to the term "rock star." They're creating something special — all in the hope of making a stranger smile.
It's fun to just paint them and set them free. That's what it's all about.