It’s that time of year again…

…it’s Monkeyshines time!

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Twenty years of Monkeyshining in Tacoma

Every community has its own traditions and celebrations that emerge from the peculiar mix of characters, resources and history and blend into something unique, and in many ways create an event entirely new and its own.

And in the darkest, coldest and most damp and chilling month of the year, we could certainly use an event like this – especially if it involves brightly colored, unexpected serendipitous gems found in what had been ordinary, even neglected nooks and corners of our neighborhoods.

Thus emerged Monkeyshines.

Monkeyshines could be glass orbs (aka floats), ceramic figurines, or even (thanks to rogue monkeys) something like refrigerator magnets, swirly-colored glass marbles (courtesy of @tacomamarbleman) or almost any other glimmering, unlikely surprise that lies waiting to be discovered.

One rule

Every tradition has its rules. Or in the case of Monkeyshines, one quasi-official rule: keep only one treasure per person per year, or even better, keep one as a family memento – and return any others “to the wild”.

There are, of course, no real “rules”. The whole point is to create, explore, share the experience of searching and, above all, appreciate, even contribute to, the acts of creation, discovery and shared journey and encounter with a “tradition” that has emerged almost accidently with no boundaries or price tags.

Tacoma is a place, at its best, where discoveries and opportunities lie waiting to be brought to light.

Monkeyshines is for Tacoma, about Tacoma, and in many ways, literally is Tacoma.

If you find more than one, treat it like an endangered species (which in a sense it is) keep a photo, and keep the process moving by leaving it alone or re-hiding it for another searcher to find.

Guidelines – where and when

Besides the one rule, there are some guidelines to finding, or at least more fully enjoying the search.

Monkeyshines are tucked away in public spaces like parks and along waterways. Don’t trespass — you won’t find them on private property anyway.

Many will be on the ground, but just as many won’t be – Monkeyshines may lurk off the ground in trees, or on sculptures or signposts.

I found one last year hanging on tree at about eye-level. It had been hung like a Christmas ornament on a small tree along a public sidewalk.

Early-morning (or early evening) searches tend to be most successful; the trick is to find it before anyone else does.

I have in fact, found two Monkeyshines – both, in the true spirit of the tradition, discovered accidently, without deliberately searching.

This is what I love about Monkeyshines, and what it captures best about Tacoma; beyond the gritty and often grim news, rumors and reputation of Tacoma, lies a hand-crafted, unpredictable gift without warning, obligation or cost.

So far, you will only find Monkeyshines in Tacoma.

Other cities may have similar traditions, even as a tourist attraction, or as a fund raiser.

Tacoma’s Monkeyshines is free – in every sense of the word.

Anonymous, anywhere and without a price tag, whimsy and magic Tacoma-style, that’s how Monkeyshines works.

When to look

Monkeyshines is wrapped around Lunar New Year (January 22 in 2023), but treasures can be found several days before and sometime long after the actual day.

A few Monkeyshines have eluded seekers and remained hidden far longer – sometimes for years.

In many ways, this whole event is an exercise in what makes Tacoma interesting and forever mysterious: Monkeyshines is open to all ages, skill levels and backgrounds.

Like all good things, Monkeyshines is not likely to last forever.

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac calendar.

The original team of Monkeyshiners has been “shining” for twenty years now. Two rounds of the 12 year cycle just might be the limit – at least for the “founding monkeys” that started it all.

The search

More than 2,000 glass creations commemorating the Year of the Rabbit can be found around Tacoma this year.

For a family bonding time with a difference, grab some flashlights, friends or family members and head out on one of our dark early evenings and search for those shiny surprises that could be anywhere.

If you want to support Monkeyshines, there are several ways to do it. You could track down your local artist friends or organizations, or even make your own art and tuck it around town somewhere or you could support Monkeyshines directly through their gofundme site.

The lunar calendar

The Chinese calendar is lunar – based on the phases of the moon. This means that the dates “float” on the 12 month calendar most of us are familiar with. This year Lunar New Year begins January 22nd, 2023 and ends on February 9th.

The new year is the year of the rabbit. The sign of Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture. The year otherwise known as 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope. Besides 2023, Years of the Rabbit include 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951 and 1939.

Following the Rabbit is the year of the Dragon. The Dragon symbolizes power, nobleness, honor, luck, and success in traditional Chinese culture. The Dragon is a supernatural being with no parallel for talent and excellence.

Among the Chinese zodiac animals, the dragon is the sole imaginary animal. Known for their innate courage, tenacity, and intelligence, Dragons are enthusiastic and confident. They are not afraid of challenges, and willing to take risks. Their eye tends to be on the future more than tradition or the past.

Stay tuned for a Dragon-themed season about a year from now.