SAN ANTONIO — A mysterious woman is bringing joy to her neighborhood on the far west side. She's gifting little works of art in the form of painted rocks hoping to bring smiles to those who find them.
"This is the true magic,” said the Mysterious Rock Genie of Arcadia Ridge, holding out a rubber plastic straw she uses on her creations.
“This is where I let go," she said, proceeding to mix a cup full of paint to pour over her rocks.
Without magic wands or potions – without even trying – the woman known as the Mysterious Rock Genie, who has spent more than a year distributing colorfully painted and decorated rocks among the neighbors in Arcadia Ridge has built herself into a folk legend.
"There was somebody that said on Facebook that they have one more thing to believe in,” she said. “They believe in Santa Claus. They believe in the Easter Bunny, and now they believe in the Mysterious Rock Genie. “That was a wonderful, wonderful compliment.”
She asked not to be identified, so we'll just call her Jeanie. Her neighbors helped her realize that some of the magic is in the mystery.
"It was such a good feeling they had when they opened the door and saw a rock made their day.” Jeanie said. “So, they said, ‘No, we can't put a name on that. We got to keep it the Mysterious Rock Genie.’"
Unravelling that mystery of the Rock Genie reveals a hidden trauma.
“I was involved in COVID crisis,” Jeanie said. “It took a lot out of my soul. COVID was real.
Jeanie worked as a traveling COVID nurse. She spent time in Chicago and New York City at the height of the pandemic.
"I was not ready for those sights,” she said. “But the money was good. And so, I kept at it. It slowly ate away my soul."
She returned to San Antonio carrying a new burden, post-traumatic stress from being surrounded by suffering and death. She also felt a degree of guilt over earning money in it’s wake.
"You expect to hit the ground running,” she said. “But you don't expect to sell your soul to the devil"
Painting was her escape until she ran out of space to store canvases. Then she started painting and giving away rocks - and had a revelation.
"This is how I deal with that guilt,” she said. “I have to give back."
The act of giving, and the smiles and interaction she got in return, became her therapy.
“It's seriously like an addiction and you can get hooked on a smile,” she said.
Reluctantly, she accepted payment for her work just once, but she says cost her something greater: the healing magic that only works when given freely.
"It took my joy away, it took my it took away my feeling of doing this for me and not doing it for money,” she said. “Some people say that it benefits them. But it really benefits me. I guess we all get something out of it."