I have a slightly foggy memory from my childhood of standing on a beach in Maine with my father, setting afloat a message in a bottle. We had no expectation of knowing if anyone read it. The open-ended feeling of the outreach was part of the wonder of doing it. I could imagine the bottle landing in Ireland, where my father’s ancestors came from, though it may have ended up in Portugal, or Newfoundland, or the bottom of the ocean.
Lately, I’ve been finding the landlocked version of these cast-adrift messages, most of them with an expectation of being tracked. I’ve gotten several “where’s George” stamped dollar bills with the motto “Hot Springs, Cool Town,” originating in Truth or Consequences. The person who stamps the bill is curious to know of its travels, and probably hopes it will circulate all over the country eventually. Also, I’ve found a number of painted rocks with messages on them, something I never saw before moving to T or C. Some of the rocks have web addresses to visit. I found a beautiful one painted gold with a yellow, liquid-looking sun in the center, and a Facebook address that had something to do with a place in Arizona. Rather than go online, I relocated it to one of the fountain-bubbling rocks in Healing Waters Plaza and the next time I passed through, it was gone. Perhaps the Arizona rock-painter heard from that finder.
The two most recent rocks I found were lovely, one painted white with a purple butterfly and the other red and yellow with the Zia sun symbol seen on the New Mexico state flag. On the back, they said “T or C rocks. Keep me or re-hide me.”
I loved that. There was no expectation of feedback. These little works of art were gifts left on the wall bordering the parking lot of the Charles Motel and Spa, near its fruit-heavy pomegranate bush. I carried them on my walk, happier than when I’d found rocks that asked me go online and log the find. I was inclined to keep them to add to the rock garden in front of my apartment, but then I saw some green succulents with red and yellow flowers growing around a bench in front of the old post office on Main Street, and there was a dent in the foliage, a nest exactly the right size for Zia rock. I placed it there. Public art. Across the street, the elaborate multi-colored ceramic sculpture next to the Geronimo Springs Museum has some deep purple areas in its walls. I found a spot for the butterfly rock and walked home lighter.
Out-of-nowhere random gifts provide as much joy for the giver as the receiver. I know a man who loves to bake, and at any public event, he shows up with bags of fresh, home-made cookies to give away. Back when a local coffee shop had a give-and-take bookshelf, I used to slip signed copies of my new releases onto the shelf. I liked the mystery of not knowing who took them home and read them.
In a way, writing a blog is a message in a bottle or a painted rock left in a plaza. There’s no obligation for the reader to respond. However, if any of you have stories about random gifts or messages in bottles, I’d love to hear them.
BARKING SANDS, Hawaii (Sept. 15, 2011) Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Jon Moore removes a message from a bottle sent from Kagoshima, Japan more than five years ago. More than 40 Sailors and volunteers teamed up with 16 students and faculty of Ke Kula Ni`ihau O Kekaha School to collect trash along the shore at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. The beach cleanup effort was in observance of International Coastal Cleanup Day sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay C. Pugh/Released) This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 110915-N-YU572-080 (Wikimedia Commons)