Leah Pells and Natashia Pellatt are spreading love, one rock at a time.
The youth counsellors at Suwa’lkh alternate school in Coquitlam are painting rocks with brightly-coloured designs and secreting them along trails in places like Mundy Park and the Coquitlam Crunch to bring a smile to the people who find them and maybe help create a community of positivity and support.
Pells, a former Canadian Olympian middle distance runner, has been painting rocks she finds while running or hiking for years, offering them to clients in her private counselling practice as a bit of a talisman to remind them of the conversations they’ve had, the strategies they’ve formulated together to cope with challenges.
When Pellatt, Pells’ colleague at Suwa’lkh, picked up on the idea, they decided to take the rocks they’ve painted out of the office and into nature where a chance encounter with a colourful rock might be all it takes to brighten someone’s mood.
“Nature is very healing,” Pells said. “When you’re out there exercising, it brings all those good feelings together.”
The pair have spent dozens of hours collecting the rocks while on hikes, then transforming them with brush and paints into small works of art. They recently started adding their social media links ,@LP_writes and @npellatt, along with the hashtag #spreadlove to the back of the rocks to help spread their intentions even further.
It seems to be working.
Pells and Pellatt have seen reposts on social media from people who found some of the 50 rocks left along the Sunshine Coast Trail near Ruby Lake and they got an email from someone in Scotland who’s seen posts about their painted rocks project and is now embarking upon a similar effort there.
“We’re hoping to make it a contagious movement,” Pellatt said.
Pells said people are especially receptive to their message of love and hope because of all the rancour and division currently in the world.
“When people feel defeated in regards to what’s going on in the world, you can make a difference in a grassroots place,” Pells said. “It’s a way you can have control.”
That extends to the two rock artists as well. As much as they delight in their artistic creations, Pells said, their real payoff comes when they think of the wonder and whimsy people likely feel when they stumble upon them unexpectedly.
“You wonder, who took it, did it put a smile on their face,” Pells said.