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Let’s Rock — Painting, hiding and finding rocks with positive messages and images is a new popular pasttime

A smooth stone about three inches wide and two inches tall sat in the soil of a large potted plant on a downtown sidewalk in Brookhaven. It was painted light blue, with two four-leaf clovers and the words “Blarney Stone” on it.

More painted rocks were piled in front of a cross by the office of First United Methodist Church, with positive messages and an invitation to take one, or leave a rock of your own. Painted rocks seem to be popping up everywhere across southwest Mississippi.

McComb resident Bonnie Stewart started the “Let’s Get Rocked” Facebook page in September.

“I was going through bad depression,” Stewart said.

Her son was murdered in 2015, and she couldn’t find a way to way to be positive and stay positive when she saw so much hurt and it seemed like most of the news was always bad.

“I felt motivated to do something to make myself feel better,” she said. “I knew other people felt bad about different things, too. I saw a painted rock in a doctor’s office and thought, that’s it. I can do that.”

So she did. She gathered some rocks and paint and began decorating. Then she took some photos and posted them to Facebook in a forum that others could share.

The next morning she noticed the page had jumped to 38 members. Over the next two days, the number rose to 738. When Stewart awoke the following morning, she was shocked to see that the group had added an additional 3,000 members overnight. The current membership of the page is over 3,900.

She knew people wanted to see and do and share something positive — she just didn’t realize how much.

Now she spends a lot of time with her new passion, trying to reach different people with different ideas. She says her house is pretty much a rock pit.

“My Sunday rocks are pretty much Scripture,” said Stewart, “and I do a lot for kids, like dinosaurs and frogs. I also do patriotic — flags and so forth.”

“This has grown phenomenally. I never expected it. The majority are local people — Lincoln County, Pike County, Walthall County — with some as far away as Georgia,” she said. “A couple of our rocks have made it to Connecticut and Tennessee.”

Another Facebook page called “Rockin’ Ole Brook” has a similar theme — photos of painted rocks in various locations, with the artists who created them or with the “hunters” who found them. The page’s “about” section just reads, “Post pictures of painted rocks you find around Ole Brook. Brookhaven, Mississippi.”

Brookhaven artist Debbie Keene says the popularity of these little painted rock canvases is pleasantly surprising.

“It kind of has been a quick little phenomenon,” said Keene.

Keene enjoys participating in the project because she said she was tired of hearing people complain all the time — including herself.

“It’s so fun. The kids are having fun finding them, hiding them and painting them,” she said.

“I paint all the time. I was never good at anything else,” said Keene. “There’s a saying — The EARTH without ART is just EH.”

Stewart thinks the incredible growth of interest in the painted rocks is because the hunt gives people something to look forward to, and gets them to pay more attention to their surroundings.

“It takes up a lot of time. It has really helped me, therapy-wise, and has helped others, too,” Stewart said.

“Art just makes you happy,” said Keene. “What better than to give it away?”