Words on Rocks When Walking in the Woods

Jan 6, 2017 | Lifestuff

A couple of years ago I was walking at Eagle Pond in Cotuit and came across a small stone that was tucked against the trunk of a tree. One word was written on it: Smile. It was surprising, because it was unexpected, so I shot a photo of it with my phone. As the months went by, more rocks appeared, with more and more words. Some implored passers by to volunteer, laugh more, or otherwise improve their lives. Another lamented that the number of  true friends could be counted on one hand. At one point these rocks began to scold people who removed the other stones.

I stopped walking at Eagle Pond because being confronted with so many words in a wild place was depressing.

This is the first stone I came across in a woodland.

This is the first stone I came across in a woodland. It seemed harmless enough, but the assumption is that the rock, or the person who placed it here, had a better idea of how you should hold your face than you do. Never mind that you might have come to the woods for solace because you are grieving…you should be smiling!

I was unhappy when words-on-rocks also appeared in another conservation area where I commonly walk my dog. In fact, the ones placed in this area were larger, and painted bright colors. They cheerfully preached about forgiveness, and asked passers by what they will do with their one precious life.

Now, I was really annoyed.

I know that those who make these mini-billboards have good intentions. They believe that they are spreading cheer, and helping to make the world a better place. But they are actually littering natural areas with signs. And where does it stop?

I personally believe that people would be happier and healthier if they planted a vegetable garden. So is it ok for me to scatter words about gardening in the woods and fields?

Would you like to be constantly coming across The Garden Lady's words of advice about which veggies to plant?

Would you like to be constantly coming across my words of advice about which veggies to plant?

Others might think that people would be better off if they followed the teachings from this or that religion. Should they be scattering brightly colored stones with the teachings of Jesus, Muhammad or the Buddha?

Is it OK for a Buddhist to be placing rocks that remind everyone about the principles of Buddhism?

Is it OK for a Buddhist to be placing rocks that remind everyone about the principles of Buddhism?

Someone else might be thinking that this or that product will help make the world a better place. Should our parks and woodlands be filled with rocks that advertise products? Is it ok to offer any advice about a better lifestyle at the base of trees, next to the river, and among the native rock piles?


As well meaning as the poets and profits who scatter such stones are, I respectfully ask them to stop. Our natural areas are one place where we should not be confronted by signage, be it on stones, a yard sign or in neon lights. Let’s leave the words in other places like on Facebook and Twitter. In the wild areas, please let Nature do the talking in all of her wordless splendor.



  1. Vianna Heath

    YES! Thank you. Paint a rock with a trite saying and plant it in your own yard. Example: “don’t tell others what to do/think/feel”

  2. Betsy Williams

    C L, More from Roger Babson: “Another thing I have been doing, which I hope will be carried on after my death, is the carving of mottoes on the boulders at Dogtown, Gloucester, Massachusetts. My family says that I am defacing the boulders and disgracing the family with these inscriptions, but the work gives me a lot of satisfaction, fresh air, exercise and sunshine. I am really trying to write a simple book with words carved in stone instead of printed paper. Besides, when on Dogtown common, I revert to a boyhood which I once enjoyed when driving cows there many years ago.”

    Roger Babson, “Actions and Reactions”, 1935


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