By Dame Aoife Finn
This summer across the country and around the world, people in random communities are sharing a hide and seek art project with complete and unknown strangers, to delight and support one another. A seemingly simple idea has had far reaching consequences. For some, it is a fun game. For some, an act of mindfulness. One participant just last week posted a message on Facebook telling her story, that she suffered with a chronic pain disorder, and had found a little painted stone in a public place with a simple but direct supportive message. That stone interrupted her thoughts of self-harm. You never know who will find your work, or what it might mean to them.
This whole movement, of leaving painted or decorated rocks for others to find, began in memory of two small girls from Oregon, aged 6 and 11. You can read the story of Anna and Abigail here. But it blossomed from there. My own town, Honesdale, PA, participates in a big way, an estimated 10% of the population following the Facebook page. Towns and cities outside the county began to join in. Soon, people traveling began painting and hiding and moving found rocks to other communities, sometimes many hundreds of miles away as they traveled.
As I watched my little town embrace the larger ideal, the sharing of mutual, anonymous delight and art and love for fellow humans that Love Rocks has become, an idea was born. You see, the issue being expressed in the Love Rocks movement is that love never dies. Perhaps your love is for your art, or for your dog, for your favorite shoes, for your past-times, for your kids or spouse or ancestry. Or maybe your love is for the annual vacation you take at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Pennsylvania every year.
One of the biggest acts of love, for lack of a better phrase, that happens every year, is Pennsic. Volunteers, attendees, and merchants from around the globe all come here, to the sponsoring Kingdom of Æthelmearc, to participate in something they love to do with the people they adore, in ways that are difficult to explain to the world. That’s okay, we do it, we work and volunteer and welcome the world because we love it, too. From no kingdom are there more participants and volunteers than here at Pennsic’s home, Æthelmearc, though it’s often a very close race. Thinking about our hard-working kingdom, often dubbed “The Friendliest Kingdom in the Known World,” the idea of Æthelmearc Rocks was born. If folks can leave Love Rocks in Greece, in Paris, in Africa, and on the Great Wall of China, why not at Pennsic? It’s all about our love of the unique community we purposefully create every year at Cooper’s Lake.
What is Æthelmearc Rocks? It’s two things, actually. It’s an artistic hide and seek game at Pennsic, and it’s a Facebook page dedicated to the game.
Who can play? Anyone who wishes can play. Any age, any interested, any family-friendly message or artwork or sentiment.
How do you play? Anyone who happens upon a decorated rock at Pennsic can relocate that rock, and the hope is that they will be inspired to decorate another rock in family friendly style (children will be playing, too) to hide in whimsical places in plain sight for others to find. Every other part of the game is optional. People are free to keep one or two of their favorite rocks, and should feel free to post selfies with a found rock or hints about new locations. Anyone can create decorated rocks, as many as they want, at any skill level of decoration. Rocks should be placed in public areas only, and should be out of the common footpath to avoid falls. There are no prizes, it’s all about sharing appreciation and art (and bragging rights). For a better description, see the FaceBook page, “Æthelmearc Rocks!”
How do you make the Rocks? Rocks may be any easy to carry size, and can be decorated in many different ways from paint to permanent marker to decoupage to incised. You can decorate rocks at home to bring, or paint some at Pennsic while you’re there. Rocks should be weather-resistant enough to stay colorful for the 2 weeks of Pennsic. Many people find acrylic paint an inexpensive medium for their rocks.
We ask two items be included on every rock:
1. As a thank you to the Kingdom of Æthelmearc for hosting Pennsic and its citizens for working so hard every year, please make an Escarbuncle a part of the design in some fashion, large or small. An Escarbuncle looks a lot like an eight armed snowflake (or the Chaos symbol) when big or an asterisk when small. Find an Æthelmearc banner, and you’ll find an Escarbuncle. Other than that, decorate as you wish in some sort of SCA or related historical style, but please keep it PG-13. If you want your rock to live on after Pennsic, a light coat of clear acrylic, polyurethane, or clear nail polish would be a good idea. That rock may travel to other kingdoms!
2. On the back or side of the rock (marker may be easiest), please write “Facebook: Æthelmearc Rocks!” so folks have a chance to look up the game if they don’t know about it and happen upon your decorated treasure. Small rocks may need the word Facebook abbreviated to “FB.”
What happens to the rocks? Most rocks go unsigned, so artists may have posted their works on the FaceBook page as well, hoping to follow their progress from hand to hand. At the end of Pennsic you can leave your rocks in place or take some home. It’s up to you.