Santee Rocks rocks the community with joy, kindness

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WEBLaura Street came to the Rock Party with her painted treasures for trading and display.jpg

Rock painting, which was popularized several years ago around the nation, even around the world, has a strong following in our own East San Diego County, especially among Santee Rocks, the largest group in the county. Fads come and go. It is up for grabs what trend will stay around, but rock painting may be around quite a long time, and there are many good reasons why.

Rock painting, which was popularized several years ago around the nation, even around the world, has a strong following in our own East San Diego County, especially among Santee Rocks, the largest group in the county. Fads come and go. It is up for grabs what trend will stay around, but rock painting may be around quite a long time, and there are many good reasons why.

The first time I ever heard of rock painting—and the entire ritual of hiding them, finding them, posting them on Facebook and re-hiding or keeping them—was also the first time I met Laura Street, a member of Santee Rocks. Almost exactly one year ago, I attended a Christmas party at Street’s mother’s home. She had me from the first moment, showing rocks that she had painted. Her energy and enthusiasm was contagious.

“I want to do this,” I told her.

“You can,” she said.

And I have.

I have painted rocks and given them as gifts and I also attended the Santee Rocks Paint and Trade party at Woodglen Vista Park on Dec. 15.

So, what it is about rock painting and the excitement of finding them that has such staying power?

The Santee Rocks group exists to spread joy, kindness, and a sense of community through creativity and random acts of kindness. The goal is to paint rocks and hide them in various locations to bring joy to the finder, explained Jackie DeLuca-Harbour, an organizer of the group. She and Tina O’Connor help keep the group going, which was created March 12, 2017.

Why has rock painting taken on with such gusto?

“It’s the concept behind it—the random act of kindness, the unity of families as they paint together and then hunt and hide the rocks, the meeting of new friends and making new connections keep this popular hobby alive,” O’Connor explained.

A most common question from rock painter newbies is whether they need to be good artists to paint the rocks. The answer is no.

“I wasn’t even a painter until Santee Rocks,” said DeLuca-Harbour, who used to work with clay and beads.

O’Connor had done some painting on canvas but shifted her focus to rock painting. “Anyone can paint a rock,” she said. “There is no level of ‘good.’ Every rock has someone’s heart and soul put into it, no matter the level of artistic talent.”

According to O’Connor, reading a few simple words on a painted rock such as “Believe” or “You are Loved” can make a person’s world turn all the way around for the better.

DeLuca-Harbour’s first “found rock” experience was at the zoo. She found a Pokemon rock on a bench and looked it up on Facebook.

“And from there I was hooked,” she said.

One of O’Connor’s first Santee Rock finds was during a time when a good friend was going through chemo.

“I found a bright orange rock with a dragonfly painted on it and it said, ‘Mental Strength,’” she said. “Tearfully, I picked it up, posted it to our Facebook page right away, and thanked the artist and asked to keep it. It’s in my living room right now.”

It’s not just Santee where these rocks are going—they are being found everywhere.

Still, there are some rules and guidelines. Mission Trails and the National Park Service have asked the group to not hide rocks in their parks. In-N-Out has also requested that rocks are not placed on their property, as well as Disneyland. Neither is the group to hide rocks in schools, inside businesses, in the grass or in hazardous locations.

Street first found a painted rock while walking last spring. She did not pick it up because she thought that someone had lost it.

“Iwas sad for that person. Then I finally got my 10-year-old son to go on a walk with me, and we saw one. I told him to leave it, the owner will be back. But we kept seeing them. So, I said one day, go ahead, pick this one up,” Street said.

They examined the rock and saw that on the back was the note: Santee Rocks, post a pic on Facebook, keep, replace or re-hide.

“That’s it, we were hooked!” Street said. “We both started painting, hiding, and searching for more. It was awesome to see my son get excited to go hunting for rocks. Soon our enthusiasm spread to the rest of our family and friends.”

The group had about 1,500 members when Street joined. Now it is over 15,000 spreading cheer to the community.

Though rock painting has been around since prehistoric times when early man took to carving hieroglyphics in caves, today’s elaborate art of rock painting started a few decades ago. O’Connor recalls painting rocks when she was a kid.

“I’m in my 40s so I know it’s been around for quite a while. Social media just brought it out in full-force again,” she said.

Street said she has been surprised by the community she found in rock painting.

“Never would have thought that finding a rock could get so many people together,” she said, “or that I could paint, and those paintings put smiles on other people’s faces. It now is my therapy – painting Rocks is my happy place.”

“Give it a try—you, too, can become a Santee Rocker,” DeLuca-Harbour said.

To find out about the group’s future events, go to www.facebook.com/groups/santeerocks.

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