A few years ago there began a craze in which people would paint rocks, hide them, and then ask people to post in an online group when they found them and re-hide them again. People still do this and it can be quite a nice surprise.

A few weeks ago I was on a walk with Caesar in Decatur. I had been feeling stressed out between work, school, and my personal life. I took the walk to help clear my mind. As I was looking down at my shoes, I came upon a purple rock that had “no rain, no flowers” written on it. It made me smile. Finding these little things that people take the time to create can really brighten a soggy day.

I follow multiple park pages on Facebook. During my trip to Tennessee, I saw Fox Island County Park in Fort Wayne post about “tree spirits.” Apparently their preservationist has recently taken to wood carving. He carved several faces out of small pieces of wood (they look like wizards or gnomes), added a string to the top, and hung them in the park.

The idea is that a tree spirit looks over hikers on their travels to help keep them safe. The preservationist encouraged people to find them and take them on future journeys or to re-hide them so they can watch over and be found by future travelers.

Saturday I went to Fox Island to hunt the tree spirits. They were apparently only hidden on a .5 mile trail. It took me a few circulations but I found two – one with a long beard and another with a big red wooden hat.

I thought this was a really clever idea. While I love finding beautifully painted rocks, the tree spirits really stand out as something special to me. Someone took the time to carve out these interesting and intricate faces that are supposed to “watch over hikers.” I love the idea! I have attached one to my backpack and the other I plan to re-hide somewhere locally.

After I spoke about the tree spirits at work, a coworker told me they could just carve me a figure like the tree spirits. While a nice gesture, I declined. I think most of the fun in the entire thing is in the hunt and the surprise. If you have ever stumbled upon or hunted a painted rock, you know how fun it is to find one. It wouldn’t be as fun or as special if you just painted it yourself.

When I found the purple “no rain, no flowers” rock, it brought a genuine smile to my face. Someone somewhere had painted that for the sole purpose of making someone’s day a little better. Since I was dealing with personal struggles, to me, finding that rock was the universe’s way of telling me that everything will be okay, and in the end, it was; the “no rain, no flowers” rock is a reminder of that.

While I wasn’t expecting to find that rock, I was on a mission to bring home a tree spirit. Finding it felt like a great achievement (after all, it’s hard to find a wooden figure in the woods). Hopefully, my newly found tree spirit will watch over Caesar and I as we travel. I wonder what we will find next.