Be Brave

Be Brave

The story below was shared by the beautiful Marni-Jo Townsley - a woman I met many years ago and am honoured to call a friend. It is about the power of images, the stone stories project, and being brave.


I’ve long been an admirer of Julie’s photography. In fact, this is how we met many years ago. Julie had some of her photos in a local gallery. The gallery owner was a mutual friend, and the friendship I had with her allowed me to connect with Julie. Since that initial introduction, I have come to admire and respect Julie as a beautiful, imaginative, compassionate human being.

A lover of words and surprises, I think Julie’s stone project is inspired. I appreciate that she photographs the stones in their hidden locations and shares them in this way as well. Not only can the people who stumble upon them benefit from their messages, but those who come across her images can as well.

On numerous occasions I have delighted in some of the images Julie has posted on Facebook, saving them to my phone to be viewed again. A few weeks ago I decided to make one of them the background image on my phone. The message on the stone in the image: “Be brave.”

Like many, I check my phone repeatedly through a day. Each time I open it, I read the words, “Be brave.” You can imagine how many times I am getting this message on any given day. Because of the frequency with which I’m exposed to this reminder, I think I’m starting to “get the message.”

Currently, I am experiencing a challenging period in my life, one in which I feel vulnerable and full of fear. I want to stay safe, but know this is not a path that will lead to growth. I recognize the need to “be brave”, remain in the chaos and vulnerability and see where I’m taken. Julie’s photograph of that small stone with those two small words has been a source of encouragement and empowerment.

To me, this is evidence of the power and the far-reaching effect of doing “small things with great love” (Mother Theresa).

Be Brave.jpg

Live Your Dreams

Live Your Dreams

“I stumbled across this little stone in early 2015, tucked in the side of a window on Westminster. I had just moved to Wolseley. I was feeling a bit trapped in my 8 to 5 and I was just starting to think about going to photography school. This little message felt special to me, a tiny reassurance taht I should be brave, I should work to do what I love. i took the picture and left the stone, figured I might not be the only one who needs it. And now, after graduating with my diploma, I discovered an Instagram account that explained where that encouragement came from. Thank you @stonestories for helping people in small and powerful ways.” - Carrie Unger

You are more than enough

You are more than enough

I had the honour of speaking to a group of high school students about the Stone Stories project through a program called Manitoba A.L.I.V.E. (A Leadership Initiative in Voluntary Efforts). I shared a bit about this project and left them each with a couple stones. One of the counsellors was especially touched by the project. He shared this story with me and said was happy to have it shared here... thank you Carter.

I bought a package of stones at a craft sale and I was recently given one at a volunteer symposium that I was a councillor for. There are two stones in particular that stood out for me. One of them said "You are more than enough" and the other said "You deserve to be cherished". I have dealt with depression and because of it, I had no self worth. I once struggled to see myself as worth anything. I hated everything about myself and felt like I deserved nothing. I've been doing a lot better in the past year or so, but there are still times when it's tough. I will always keep these stones for a reminder on those days where it's tough to feel good about myself. Thank you for creating this and thank you for the positive messages." - Carter


You are more than enough

You are more than enough

Be Brave

Be Brave

Last week on Tuesday my daughter spotted one of your stones placed on a little ledge of a path marker in Assiniboine Forest. Truth be told it was the second stone of yours she found in the last year. 

Last weeks stone said "be brave", and she immediately ran over to show it to me. She had just begun a series of orthodontic work and I thought, "how fitting"...I found it in the laundry again last night and put it on the coffee maker so I would make a point of joining in the project. I remember feeling remorseful when I didn't join in the first time we found a stone. That one had been placed in a little nook on a yards edge on Wolseley avenue. She found it as we were walking to the park with her brothers and the little girl I care for. I can't remember the exact message but I remember smiling at it. 

I can't help but wonder if my daughter (age 7) has taught me to pay a little closer attention. Perhaps I am the one who needs to be brave? I suppose we all need to be. Life can be overwhelming, and fear of "feeling" seems to stop me from doing the things I really want to. I've been listening to some thoughts lately on taking action in your own life rather than passively living. I've been "a victim of circumstance" for years. Time to "be brave". 
Thank you for these words. How can I join in on this project? Shall I put the stone in another place to be discovered? Shall my kids and I make our own stones? My sisters and I are going to Gimli this weekend and we always scour the beach for stones...

(Addendum to the story above: "I found the first stone again! In fact, it was right in front of me this whole time. My partner had been using it to block a tiny light on our tv in the bedroom when we sleep. I haven't always believed that "love always wins", but somehow it seems to be. Imagine that." )

I believe in you

Like many people, I struggled a lot in school.. for a number of reasons. Mostly, I just wasn't sure how to fit in. I had a hard life at home, and school wasn't much easier. I had a few good friends, but the truth is that most of the messages I got about myself weren't positive. And so, I didn't think very highly of myself back then.

I remember the first person who inspired some new thoughts.. the first time I began to believe in something different. In Grade 10, I had a really amazing french teacher (J.H. Bruns - Madame Pelletier). She saw something in me that nobody else had seen before. She saw my heart and my determination.. and she believed in me. I remember this one particular day, she pulled me aside for a talk.

She said: "Do you know that you could be the Prime Minister one day?" I remember laughing.. telling her I don't want to be the Prime Minister. She looked at me, and more seriously said - "yes, but you could be." She told me "I believe in you" and made sure I truly heard her when she said "you can do anything you put your mind to."

I have never forgotten those words. Nor the impact of her belief in me... how much one voice can inspire another. How one person reaching out can change the course of someone's life. It's that simple sometimes. Spread love.


Life is full of surprises if you're paying attention.

On the beach where I collect many of my stones for this project (in Gimli, Manitoba), I left a stone that I didn't ever expect to be found. I left it in amongst thousands of others. Of course, as fate would have it.. it was the first stone I ever got an email about. A beautiful story...

I got an email from a man who wanted to know who I was, and what the stone was all about. I wrote back with this email:

For you (fellow adventurer and treasure hunter),

The stone stories project is an experiment in serendipity. An experiment to see if the messages on the stone have any resonance to those who find them. There are many stones hidden in various places in Manitoba, each with a different message. Lots of them have also been photographically documented and will eventually form a series of photo cards and prints. 

I am curious about the people who find these stones... those who stop and take the time to notice.  People like you. Not everyone sees the world in the same way.. many would never find the treasure you have discovered. I would love to hear your story.. a bit about you, your discovery (what the stone said) and if it touched your life. Thank you for contacting me and I hope you will be part of this project!

From me (a passionate explorer of life and believer in serendipity)


This was his response:

I was walking along Gimli beach in front of the Lakeview hotel with my wife, looking for stones with holes in them. As we were celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary, and this walk on the beach finding these stones is something we have done for as many years. Your stone said LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES IF YOUR PAYING ATTENTION. I am an artist in watercolour, stained glass, traditional rug hooking, wood carving etc.. I guess you could say that I am paying attention. I will be going to British Columbia in September and I'll make a copy of your stone to take with me to put on the beach in Steveston BC. I'll use a stone with a hole in it so you can identify it as coming from me. 

What a beautiful start... a message written on a stone. A moment of connection shared between strangers and a desire to pay forward the love and mystery to someone else.


It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see

I got this message one day from a woman who found this stone...

I am a photographer and as of late have been feeling uninspired. I went for a walk in Assiniboine Forest with my dogs and found your stone lodged between 2 branches. It read "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see" - Henry David Thoreau. Thank you for inspiring me to pick up my camera again. Priceless! 

Blessings to you.

Be brave. Be free. Be true to yourself. Be awesome.

Be brave. Be free. Be true to yourself. Be awesome.

My little stone project has been re-inspired lately. I took a trip to the beach to collect stones and since then have been writing notes and placing them out in the world again. For those who don't know.. on one side I write little notes of inspiration or wisdom and on the other side is an email address that people can write to if they find a stone and are compelled to reach out. To date, I have put out hundreds of these stones across Canada. I call the project an experiment in serendipity. I am curious whether the stones have meaning and resonance to those who find them.

This summer, I received one of the most beautiful letters, and it reconnected me with the heart of this project. This is what it is all about. This story is shared with permission...

A young man who was going through some pretty big changes in his life found a stone recently. He reached out letting me know that he had found it. I wrote back asking which stone he found (what it said) and whether it had any resonance in his life. He shared this...

"I had a feeling as soon as I saw it that it was special., it stood out against the morning grey and looked like it had been placed with care inside a concrete footprint on the dock in Gimli, Manitoba. It reads Be brave. Be free. Be true to yourself. Be awesome."

He told me that he had been going through a lot of changes lately, trying to become more independent, and that it had been a hard road. He was having a particularly hard morning that day.. his dad had just had a heart attack two days earlier and he had been feeling a sense of dread and hopelessness for where his life was going. I'll share the rest of the story in his own words...

"That's when I saw it, I was instantly drawn to it - also cliche but it felt like it was there for me, it's a very hard feeling to explain. I've had that stone close to me ever since that day and read it everyday to remind myself that even though things are getting harder and life seems dim at some points, that I can still be strong and do and be what and who want all on my own power. I can't thank you enough for putting it there, it's literally a life raft to me."

Ah what a beautiful reminder of how easy it is to touch each other with our actions. A total stranger found a life raft in a stone I placed on a pier in Gimli. You just never know what might reach out and touch someone else's life deeply.. all our actions are important.