Suffolk Rocks

Published 2:01 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Suffolk Rocks is art without a canvas, a treasure hunt without a map, geocaching without the GPS coordinates, a year-long Christmas without the wrapping paper, hide-and-seek without “it.”

Some people come into the Suffolk Rocks movement purposefully, learning about it through a friend and starting to seek. Some stumble across it — quite literally — without knowing about it.

For Maria Myers, it all started when she found a rock at a park in Harbour View with a bluebird painted on it. The woman who painted the rock and left it there couldn’t have known how inspiring it would be for whoever found it.

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During her battle with breast cancer several years ago, Myers — a Virginia Master Naturalist who worked on a bluebird trail in Williamsburg — adopted bluebirds as a personal symbol. She handed out tiny bluebird magnets to other cancer patients she met.

There are only a few rules when it comes to hiding rocks. Don’t hide them on private property without the owner’s permission, and don’t hide them where they might damage landscaping equipment.

“Bluebirds became my bluebird of happiness,” Myers said.

When she discovered the serendipitous rock with the bluebird, it had a message on the back, directing her to the “Suffolk Rocks” Facebook page. That’s where she discovered the movement and got connected to the woman who painted the bluebird. They have become friends.

“She touched my heart,” Myers said. “It was an inner sanctuary few people go to.”

The Suffolk Rocks movement all started when Kendra Ruga, who lives in North Suffolk with her husband, their daughter, her parents and a Great Dane, started the Facebook page in February. Her best friend lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and had started a similar page there.

“It was just to fill our Facebook pages with something positive, instead of all the politics and negative news,” Ruga said. “I was tired of hearing and reading about only that.”

Ruga painted some rocks and put them out around town with the message on the back. Her first rock painting was a butterfly, which she hid at a local dance studio.

“I’ve painted about a hundred pounds of rocks,” Ruga said. “I only get an hour or two (of free time) every night, and that’s what I choose to do.”

This rock, painted by Samantha Myers, was found in Lake Meade Park.

She didn’t expect the rocking movement to take off like it has. The page had swelled to about 3,500 members by early May and was showing no signs of slowing down. Several preschool classes have painted rocks, and a 99-year-old is one of the more prolific finders of rocks.

Rocks can now be found pretty much all over Suffolk in parks, on trails and sidewalks and near public places. They’re painted with inspiring messages, abstract designs, animals, children’s cartoon characters and more.

The artists hide them wherever they like. There are only a couple rules — no hiding on private property without the owner’s permission, and no hiding where the rocks could damage lawn care equipment like mowers.

“My favorite part is hiding them, because I try to do it in stealth mode,” Ruga said. Some people post hints on the Facebook group after they’ve hidden them.

Suffolk Rocks founder Kendra Ruga uses manicure tools to paint rocks. She prefers inspirational messages, mandala designs and Disney characters.

When you find a rock, you’re encouraged to keep it or re-hide it wherever you like. A post to the Facebook group is encouraged so the artist can know their handiwork has been enjoyed.

The benefits are myriad — exercise, family time and connections with others. But many Suffolk Rockers see something even deeper.

“It goes beyond just painting a rock and dropping it off,” Myers said. “It’s that human factor of ‘I care’ that you just don’t see that often.”

“I love the simplicity of it all,” said Tara Branham. “With technology being at the forefront of everyone’s lives, this is a simple activity to take a breather and gain a little serenity.”

“I love the way certain rocks find just the right person with a message they may need,” Amy Selby said. “To see how we truly are connected is heartwarming.”

The next time you desire a treasure hunt, go without a map. You never know what you’ll stumble across.