Margie Hunter believes in the healing power of words, especially when combined with nature’s beauty. The graphic artist combined her empathetic heart and creative spirit to inspire her community throughout the COVID pandemic with The Kindness Rocks Project in her garden. Friends and strangers continue to delight in the hand-painted rocks in all vibrant shades of the rainbow along the popular walking trail in Leesburg – with each stone carrying an encouraging message.
The sign at the front of the rock garden states, “Take one when you need one. Share one with a friend who needs some inspiration or leave one for another.” How can we create little pockets of wonder that pop up from out of nowhere and surprise us?”
Hunter likes surprises and giving visitors reasons to visit again. She has recently beautified the garden with hundreds of handcrafted flowers and butterflies she made from repurposed aluminum over the winter. The cans were donated by the community.
“I get so much positive feedback from the kindness garden and so many requests by people asking how they can help,” explains Hunter. “I racked my brain for ideas to involve my friends and neighbors. I came up with the idea to ask for everyone's aluminum cans.”
Hunter says she used to make paper flowers and used the same pattern to cut the flowers out of aluminum cans. “I figured out that, once the cans are flattened, they cut easily with scissors. Through much trial-and-error, I figured out how to paint and assemble the flowers.”
As the cans continued to show up on her porch, Hunter says she kept creating and assembling. The larger cans were made into flowers and the smaller ones worked perfectly for creating butterflies. “My family convinced me to not paint the backs of the butterflies, and they were right. They are more interesting since you can look at the back of their wings and see what kind of cans they were cut from,” she says.
The new garden endeavor may have given her a slight pause from scrubbing rocks and painting them pretty, but she is continuing her production of kindness rocks. Hunter says she is not quite done yet with the cans, however.
“I have one more idea. One of my friends is giving me these super-cool craft beer cans. They are already beautiful works of art. I am not painting them, (but) leaving the original artwork on the petals. They will also be a slightly larger flower, to show more of the awesome artwork. I will make a separate Biergarten (beer garden) for those who get tired of looking at rainbows and butterflies.”
Everything in the garden is to make the community feel kindness in the world, Hunter explains. From the rocks to the newly added flowers and butterflies, to the bench with sprawling messages of inspiration and the colorful-crocheted tree – they are for all to enjoy and admire.
Hunter says she personally feels joy witnessing people find delight in her garden. During the Easter season, she dresses up as the Easter Bunny in which she will put out eggs for the children to also collect from her garden.
“If you could see the reactions,” she says. “Especially from the children, who have no filter. It's so worth it.”
This installation is located on Graywood Way NE in Leesburg, Virginia.