All quotes attributed to Melody Everett Bartholomew
If you have spent any time outside recently, there is a good chance that you have come across one of Santee’s newest phenomenons. Painted rocks have been captivating the hearts and minds of youth as well as the young at heart in our community for two months. Is it a project to spread kindness and joy? Is it a game; a scavenger hunt without maps, clues, lists or losers? Is it, as one member suggested, a way for moms to be more fun than their teenagers’ technology? Santee Rocks Facebook group is all of that and more. The concept is simple. People paint rocks and leave them around town for others to find. Some have quotes or sayings, some are beautiful and intricate pieces of art, and others are obviously the work of toddlers splattering paint around. The rocks I have painted all fall into this latter category. However people choose to participate – be it painting, hiding, hunting, or just admiring, it has become an inexpensive, family friendly activity for all ages, and Santee is loving it.
Santee Rocks was started on March 12, 2017 with 100 people. In two months time, the group has amassed more than 4,500 members (4,513 as of this writing), and inspired the creation of at least 9 new rock painting groups in other local communities. When the groups’ founder, Melody Everett Bartholomew, started it, she had no idea it would grow as quickly as it has. “I just thought it was going to be a fun thing to spread around with my friends.” Inspired by similar groups in Bullhead City and Whidbey Island, her idea in the beginning was that it is a kindness project to spread joy around the community and create a more positive social media feed for her and her friends.
Before the creation of Santee Rocks, Melody, like too many of us, became embroiled in the negativity of the election cycle. For two years leading up to the election, she watched and participated in the vitriol on social media, contributed to the cacophony of conflict across our country, and became increasingly angry along the way. A moment of true and accurate self reflection can be a powerful motivator and lead to incredible things. In one of these moments, Melody decided that the anger and negativity she was exuding was not indicative of the type of person that she was before the election, nor the person she desired to be. Santee Rocks began expressly to counter the negativity that many people have felt and experienced over the last few years, and its viral proliferation is proof that, “people are craving to get away from that negativity.”
The first ever Santee rock was “hidden” on one of the outside tables at Kaffee Meister coffeehouse. Melody and her husband placed the rock, went for a walk, and returned to find a woman drinking coffee at the table completely ignoring the rock. Another of the first rocks Melody hid was also on a table. She later saw two people talking across the table with the rock right between them. The entire length of time it took for them to smoke a cigarette neither of them were compelled to look at the rock. I admit, I used to get upset when people would not or could not find the time or curiosity to pick up that pretty rock on the table. It turns out that even something that spreads virally must find the right host. Melody shared her perspective with me and I finally understood. “When I and others paint a rock, I have faith that it will find the exact perfect person it was meant for. No matter what, they’ll find their way, just like all of us.” Just because someone doesn’t pick up a rock doesn’t mean it didn’t make them smile. Just because your rock wasn’t posted on the group page doesn’t mean you didn’t bring someone joy.
In the early days of the group Melody did a lot of work, painting, hiding, commenting, liking, and making everyone feel welcome. These days she loves watching the growth and development of the Santee Rocks group, but can hardly keep up with the sheer number of posts. Her favorite posts are the rocks that make her laugh and develop a cult following, like Mr. Tuxedo.
She also loves seeing when people use the rocks for special occasions, like the young man who asked his date to prom with painted rocks.
Melody has a special rock garden where she collects the rocks that are most special to her, usually gifts from friends, so she can always enjoy them. She believes that even these are miracles beyond our scope of comprehension. “To me rocks are very humbling and put me in my place. My problems, achievements, opinions, etc. are minuscule when I think about the fact that these rocks that I interact with have been here for billions of years and will continue to exist long after I’m gone. They’ve observed history…some that has not been written about, and for a very short time, through this Santee Rocks kindness movement, I get to become a blip in their long story. That’s humbling as well as an honor. That’s partly why I have no problem with them traveling to other places. In the end, we really have no control over them, nor should we try.”
Santee has been Melody Everett Bartholomew’s home for twenty-eight years. In that time she has witnessed a lot of change. She saw the Wal-Mart come to town, Roller Skate-land leave town, K-Mart come and go, and the building of the 52. She recently lost her favorite hiking trails to the Castlerock development, but gained a new favorite in the Walker Preserve Trail. In addition to adding unmeasurable kindness and joy, she has served our community as a teacher at Sycamore Canyon School for first through third graders. I personally feel much better about the future knowing that someone so kind, generous and insightful is there guiding our children.
New members to the Santee Rocks group often ask who started the group. Veteran members are always quick to to give credit where it is due. Every one of the the 4,300+ members, whether or not they know who started it, feels the impact that Melody has had on our small city and we are all extremely grateful. This week, I am happy to honor Melody Everett Bartholomew as one of Santee’s most interesting people. Thank you for all you do, Melody.