Carmel Valley resident and son spread positive messages through ‘Word Rocks’ project

By Karen Billing

Carol Arêas believes that one way to heal a wounded heart is to go to work on the hearts of others. A foreigner new to the United States and desperately homesick for her native Brazil, the now-Carmel Valley resident started a unique project to spread a little joy.

Her project, called Word Rocks, involves inspiring words and phrases painted on rocks and scattered throughout the city in the hope that someone will find them and it will make them smile.

“Sometimes the words just fit so perfect in the moment,” said Arêas. “It’s a pleasure for me to do this. The main thing it does for me is to share love and share something positive. It’s sharing happiness instead of me being stuck on loneliness. I’m feeling better because of this, it’s like a therapy for me to prepare the rocks.”

Arêas has been in San Diego for a year and while she loves it here, it was hard being in a new country, missing her family and friends.

Her husband suggested walking on the beach to help calm her mind and every time she did, she would notice these rocks, smoothed and rounded by the ocean. She started to collect them and paint inspirational words on them for herself.

Her collection grew to the point that her son Antonio Monteiro, a fifth grader at Torrey Hills School, took notice.

“He had an idea so nice that instead of keeping them, how about spreading them out and maybe help someone else find a little happiness,” Arêas said. “I’m very proud that sharing was his idea. It’s amazing that a 10-year-old boy was able to think about sharing.”

Antonio even came up with the name Word Rocks.

Enlisting Antonio as her rock hider, the pair went to work. Arêas collects and paints the rocks and brings a handful with them wherever they go.

“It’s cool,” Antonio said of the rocks. “I like to hide them.”

Rocks with words like “I will”; “Hope”; “Smile”; and “Life is good” are placed in parking lots, on park benches, hidden in sandboxes. A big Beatles fan, Arêas also uses a lot of Beatles lyrics on her rocks, such as “All my loving”; “All you need is love”; “Come together” and “Let it be.”

The Arêas family took a road trip up to San Francisco for Christmas and scattered the rocks along the trip. Word Rocks might have also been found on Hollywood Boulevard.

Two months ago they added a label to the back of the rocks that said, “It’s yours” and directed people toward their website to share their experience of finding one of the hidden treasures.

“‘Love’ and ‘It’s yours’ made such a positive impact, a playful wink from the universe,” wrote a woman named Effie who found the rock in Mira Mesa. The woman wrote that she would be paying it forward, hiding the rock in another spot to hopefully brighten someone else’s day.

Another message came in from the mother of a boy named Jayden. The mom wrote that her son, who aspires to be an adventurous archeologist like Indiana Jones, unearthed one rock at the park and was determined to find them all. Two weeks later his mother wrote in to say he found another rock at Target and that it’s really made him believe.

“I’m in the Del Mar Highlands Starbucks in San Diego near Torrey Pines High School and I found a rock that said ‘love.’ It made my day! Thank You,” wrote Ellen, who sent a picture of her rock next to her iced coffee.

“It’s very nice to see people’s reactions,” Arêas said.

Arêas now has volunteers in Canada, Brazil and New York City making and hiding the rocks — her plan to spread happiness and positive messages stretching even farther.

“My deepest desire is when you find one of the stones, you find the perfect words in the perfect time,” Arêas said.

To learn more about Word Rocks or share a story of finding one of them, visit