Dear Richmond Community Journal’s New Home

Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic began, the Richmond Grid team quietly worked with the James River Park System to hide an old mailbox in a secret spot in the park as part of a journal writing experiment. Initially located near a granite cliff covered with ivy, the vintage mailbox became home to the “Dear Richmond” journal — a special place for the community to connect, to express our shared gratitude, our hopes, and our fears. A quiet place in the woods, away from distraction, to be human.

After tucking the “Dear Richmond” collaborative journal inside the hidden mailbox, Richmonders began to document their thoughts about being in quarantine, the Covid-19 pandemic, and systemic racism. Others used the journal as a place to leave words of encouragement for those feeling isolated, suggestions for working toward an inclusive community, and some simply recorded trail observations about their natural surroundings. And for others, the mailbox became a place to discuss loss, being alone, their fight to remain sober, and their search for love. Some have asked for suggestions for baby names and others have asked if anyone was out there listening. Along the way, the Richmond community has responded with words of encouragement left for complete strangers, entries filled with inspiration, and even gifts — such as art, flowers, hand sanitizer, candy canes, and good luck trinkets.

In the winter of 2022, Grid again teamed up with the supportive crew at the James River Park System, now led Park Superintendent Giles Garrison, to find a new home for the community mailbox in the park. Now more centrally located near the park headquarters, the mailbox is again available for the community to find and to define what the journal will become page by page.

Your job is to find it. And when you do, leave your thoughts about community, what you love about our home, or what you’d like to see changed. Or simply write a call to action, leave your hopes for a better future, write the words you need to hear…or just leave your name. It’s for you to define. We’ll make sure to periodically share journal entries here. Happy exploring and journaling.

Image of the Dear Richmond community journal.
Dear Richmond community journal found hidden in the James River Park System.

A few recent journal entires:

“I love this city so much. I will cherish the memories I have here for the rest of my life. This trail has helped me through some really rough patches in life and I am so grateful for that. Today I came seeking some clarity and hoping to see some cool birds. I just saw two red headed woodpeckers and I found this mailbox; so, looks like the trip was a success. I hope whoever is reading this finds love and peace wherever they go!”

“As I am writing this, I feel so alone and scared. I am so hurt and angry. I am not sure what the future holds for me, but I am so broken. Please pray for me. Thank you for reading and listening. All I have is my health and hiking now.”
“I hope you return to this mailbox. You’re in my thoughts. Your struggle is unique, but you do not struggle alone. I feel how you feel. Let the trails do the work. Keep walking.”

“Love one another. Disagree. Walk away. Be brave. Start again. Get going. Fuck up. Start again. Keep going. Learn. Explore. Make new friends. Be better than yesterday. Love who you are becoming.”

“Place your feet flat on the ground. Sit still. Listen. And look.”

“At first, I was scared to open this mailbox in the middle of the woods, but this is really cool! I hope whoever reads this has all their happy manifestations come true!”

“All human beings are beautiful, and the universe needs sensitive special people.”

“Moved here from Portland OR two weeks ago. Feeling a bit lost today. Not sure what I’m going to do next. What direction will love take me? Sense of un-groundedness and rudder- less, not to mention that my momentum has slowed quite a bit. Time to pick up the pace. This hike, this mailbox, and this evening are helping me find my anchor.”

“One week sober today.”
“I’m proud of you. Me too! Everyday gives us challenges and opportunities to grow. Choices to make. Stay strong.”

“I’ve hidden candy canes in the forest. Go find them.”

“I’m old, I’m fat, but…I’m alive and breathing. So…there’s that.”

“We’ve hiked these trails dozens and dozens of times, rain or shine. I was surprised to find a mailbox posted on the side of the trail and of course immediately had to investigate. One of my favorite parts of Richmond is that it is so small yet so full of character and community. So a project like this is so Richmond-y. I love it. I haven’t handwritten something in so long that holding a pin and filling these lines feels almost alien. It makes me hopeful for the future of the city.”

“I am the observer and not my thoughts.”

“Climb every mountain.”

“Hello! I hope the trail is treating you well!”

“I feel scared today.”

“I often come to the 42nd street island alone looking for someone. I don’t know who exactly but anyone really. I know all I need is myself but for once, I am manifesting of meeting someone to fall in love with and eventually I’ll take her to this spot. Till next time.”

“I’m super happy to be alive. Life has endless moments to offer. Make sure to always keep a look out for them. Cherish what you are and welcome change when it comes. I’m so grateful for the people I have.”

“I really did not want to go on this hike but I’m happy I did. Happy I found this mailbox alongside the person I call my best friend. I think the both of us needed to find something of wholesome nature today, and that is exactly what these woods and mailbox did. Magic of its own.”

“Something that puts you in the moment. Water pouring, a stream, a downpour. Something that ruins the moment. A phone, stress, work. Go outside, you’re an animal. You’re human! Does that make sense? Of course, it does. Be here now.”

“My bother died last week. I decided to go for a long walk to clear my head. Went to our old river spots. I miss him so much.”

“May you find peace and joy every day. And remember this place when you need a boost.”

“You can’t rush your healing. Darkness has its teachings. Love is never ending. With the darkness comes light. May you never forget that.”

“Enjoy all the beauty this life offers.”

“Dear Richmond: you have been my home for seven years and I love it here. You have turned me into a foodie, hiker, and mural lover. I’m forever grateful for the friendships I have here.”

“Make more space for love.”

“The weather is beautiful and my dog and I are enjoying this beautiful trail. Having this space in the middle of the city is what brought me to RVA. But I wasn’t expecting to find my true self and my chosen family. It sounds corny but I am so grateful for what RVA has brought to me.”

“I never want to drink while making memories because someday it will be all I have.”

“My wife and I are on a great walk, we just found out we’re having a baby. Write down what its name should be.”

CategoriesGeneral, Live, Storytellers

Contributor at Richmond Grid; "Dear Richmond" community journal lead; photographer; equestrian.