Dear Richmond: Journaling Through Chaos

Earlier this year, prior to the pandemic, we quietly worked with the James River Park System to hide the Grid Mailbox in a secret spot as part of a journal writing experiment. Located near a granite cliff covered with ivy, the vintage mailbox became home to the “Dear Richmond” journal—a special place to write a love letter to RVA or something you wish would change about it. 

Since tucking the “Dear Richmond” collaborative journal inside the hidden mailbox, Richmonders have documented their thoughts about the two viruses we face — COVID-19 and systemic racism. While others have used the journal as opportunity to leave words of encouragement for those feeling isolated, suggestions for working toward an inclusive community, and some have simply recorded trail observations about their natural surroundings on any given day. 

Along the way, the Richmond community has also used the mailbox to leave unexpected surprises, such as flowers for others to enjoy, hand sanitizer, art, and even a series of Lone Wolf Outdoor Club stickers as a tribute to those solo adventurers out there following social distancing guidelines. 

Here are just a few of the many journal entries from recent weeks in the “Dear Richmond” journal. We hope you keep leaving your thoughts, and we’ll keep restocking the mailbox with “Dear Richmond” journals and pens for you to enjoy! 

“No more living in fear, use this moment to build mountains toward change.”

“All lives can’t matter if BLACK lives don’t matter.”

“A rock tripped her as she ran her heart out, but before the panic set in her hands grasped the bark of a tree keeping her safe from the dirt ground. The sun threatened to take her breath away but the shade cooled her soul. Every time she doesn’t give up. She does more than survive. Heart pounding, feet pounding, she’s never felt more alive.”

“I live alone and I work from home, so all this isolation has been rough. No human touch in months. Some days I think of a hug and breakdown crying. I was walking today because it is one of the only things keeping me safe and I found this mailbox. I really needed this bit of unexpected connection and hope. Thank you all!”

“Dear Richmond, I love you. Let’s fire the politicians and hire leaders instead. That could work.”

“We can’t tire in fighting the good fight.”

“Spending a magical ‘gay’ day with the boys! Couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to live!”

“Dear RVA, quite giving into your history of hatred! BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

“I love that RVA has a magical mailbox in the woods and I’m so glad to have found it in the midst of all this craziness. Love to all who found this and needed a bit of hope.”

“Dear Richmond, out of state travel nurse here! I received a call in April during a time of crisis, and I regret nothing, answering that call. This beautiful city has taught me growth and strength during such a dark time. I’ve spent all of my days on the trails and it has been the brightest light preventing me from my own darkness. My moto has always been ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Thank you for allowing me to enjoy your beautiful city!”

“Thank you to all who tend our beloved trail system. This is the greatest form of anti-social social distancing. Finding this mailbox and book was a very rewarding part of today’s run. Don’t stop being a little weird and so very great Richmond!”

“Stay safe, stay healthy, stay hopeful and take care of yourself. Thank you for the energy to keep going, for always giving me a reason to care. Thank you for blessing me with the power to make real change happen by producing actions. Take care of your mind. Check on your friends.”

“Today is my birthday and all of my family is on the other side of the country. I’m here for school when my life took an unexpected turn. My mental health went down the drain. I wrote a book of poetry and I honestly think writing has saved my life. Writing and getting lost on these trails. I’ve lived here the last six months and I’ve decided to make it my home. It’s hard to be here without family. But discovering this mailbox made me feel less alone. Best birthday present.” 

“Black lives matter. Their names were George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. Rayshard Brooks.”

“Hello Richmond! Stay beautiful! Stay strong! Explore, encourage, live life fully! Take risks, do not care what others think, go out with a bang! Be kind, always.”

“Hello Richmond, this place makes Richmond, Richmond. I love this city because of the nature. Don’t stop what you’re doing.”

“Covid-19 is still with us many months later, but I think we’ve all adapted much more. Months of chaos, micro and macro, but the trail is peaceful.”

“I am so sad. Yesterday my partner and I put down our dog today. He’s been part of our family for 12 years. He is forever with me. I love you, Jake.”

“We are so thankful for this place. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Some people look at the absurdity of a mailbox just sitting by itself and a small loop on a trail. I’m glad I opened it and I feel grateful for this change. I also might be a little sad right now but I’m here to walk it away.”

“Richmond, I’ve lived here now for 3 ½ years. Just writing it out makes catch my breath a bit; it’s been simultaneously so long and so short. In that time, I’ve changed. Some passions have ignited, while others have sputtered out. I’ve realized various character flaws and strengths and worked on both. I’m certain that it is because of this place that I have grown so much. If I had been anywhere else I would be so different than who I am now.”

“Today marks one week since I’ve talked to my father. Last Thursday he had a massive stroke and has been in coma ever since. I pray that he is able to recover, and I can talk to him again. I dedicate this walk to him; he loves nature and we’ve been on many walks together. He’s never been here in Richmond, but he would have loved it here with all this beautiful nature. Never take a single day for granted. I love you, Dad.”

“After a two-month absence. The forest is lush and wild and ripe for adventure. Such beauty!”

“Thanks for providing this space to breathe. I recently separated from my wife. We have three children. I often find myself hiking and exploring so I can clear my mind and focus on the positive. I’ve never been a ‘depressed’ person. But this new life has brought a huge hole in my usual optimism. I love that I found this incredibly awkwardly placed mailbox so that I may come and share my thoughts. Thanks for listening.”

“I am not this body…or these thoughts or emotions. I am spirit. I am one with nature. Stay beautiful RVA!”

“My three-year-old and I just strung up our tree hammock and enjoyed listening to the sounds of the forest. I’m glad she enjoys nature as much as I do.”

“What are you going to do when all of this is over?”

“Dear Richmond, thank you for your river and the rapids along it. Thank you for the mighty James that has put me in my place on more than one occasion. Thank you for your network of trails and green spaces that have provided solace from the average daily stresses of living. Thank you for your art community that spills out from the museums into the sidewalks. 

“Dear Richmond, I’m leaving soon. My lease is coming up and I have the itch to see more places. But you will always be the first city I learned to love. I’m not sure exactly where I’m going nor how long I’ll be away, but I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. I love you, Richmond, forever and always.”

“Dear Richmond, just walking this lovely trail, and I thought I’d leave my feelings. I hope things get better.”

“Dear person reading, I hope you have a great day! In this time of despair, you have to find hope. Spread kindness.”

“Richmond, I’ve been here two years now and I’ve seen my lowest lows and highest highs. This city will break you down in the most hardening of ways. And you will come out on the other side a better version of yourself. It’s coming to be my time to move on, and I just hope I can take everything the city has taught me and share it with the world. Remember to love, care, and adventure!”

“Don’t forget to make a little bird house in your soul.” 

“Wonderful escape from COVID-19. Grabbing some rocks to paint and then return.”

“I moved to Richmond this past September. Experiencing one of, if not the, hardest times in my life. Alone. With no one. It felt like I’ve grown so much in these last few months. And I’ve never felt loneliness since being here. Thank you, Richmond, for your welcoming arms. Stay rad.”

“Be good to each other, much love.”

“My handwriting may suck since I’m wearing a cast, but at least both of my legs still work!”

“Times are tough, but at least we have the woods.”

“It’s been close to half a year since I’ve ran along the James. I know the trail so well, yet I’m blushing with its unfamiliar growth and smells.”

“Life is short, so live it. Love is raw, so grab it. Fear controls you, so face it. Memories are precious, so cherish them.”

“I’ve lived in Richmond for over five years. In these times of pandemic, it’s nice to get outside and just breath. The woods are so green, so vibrant today. They are almost yellow. I hope all of this we’re going through, and the pandemic, will remind people to be more kind to one another.”

“It is time to make peace with my mother.”

“Moments like this can save people’s lives. Thank you.”

“This find made me so happy. Nature is the medicine. RVA Strong. Be kind to each other and explore every corner.”

“Greetings from isolation. Anyone else missing ‘freshman 15’ because they have COVID-19 lbs? Keep on moving and enjoy this gift of the day!”

“Despite all that life throws at you, remain grateful.”

“By the river’s edge I lingered barefooted. I put my shoes and socks back on. Tired of the reminder of being a tender foot.”

“Thank you for this sweet little spot in the woods to sit and think, for this magical mailbox around the bend, for hope and love and sharing it with us all. Thank you.”

“You are loved!”

“Feels good to get out and enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and trails during COVID-19.”

“A beautiful day for a treasure hunt! I came with a friend with the intent of finding this ‘Dear Richmond journal’ and what’s in it. Mission accomplished! Thank you for giving me such good instincts for finding this treasure.”

“I am a nomad. Originally from VA. I now teach online and travel the world. Exciting yet can be lonely at times. I got stuck here in Richmond with COVID. I never planned to stay this long. But I feel lucky to be here. I’m spending wonderful quality time with my family. There are so many things about this period of our lives that are so difficult to handle. Finding some gratitude in each day feels important. I miss so many things, but I am still thankful for family and friends far away. I love these trails. The nature here is so green and lush. Finding this mailbox and each new hidden bridge, mosey stone bridge wall, tiny trickling stream, and the impressive graffiti. Castel-like forts I discovered last week, brightened my days here in beautiful Virginia. I wish you blessings of gratitude, joy, and adventure dear reader. You are deserving!”

“Visiting Richmond while on duty. Happy to be here. Sharing this moment during these hard times. Stay safe everyone we will get through this together. 2020 will not last forever.”

“You’re beautiful and I adore you. I walk through fire for you.”

“I was so fully prepared for a snake to jump out of that mailbox. Fortunately, no snakes. Always amazed at the little treasures I find around this city. I told myself I would keep aimlessly walking these trails until I found something cool enough to contently seize my exploring today. I think it’s safe to say I can begin my trip home.”

“I love the James River. Please care for this wonderful place. Love from Costa Rica.”

“Be kind. Love your brothers and sisters. Color has no boundaries. Love the earth and love yourself. Peace!”

“It’s lovely sharing this earth with all you beautiful lights. Shine on.”

“In this place, it is clear that life is infinite. It levels every square inch, the dappled sunlight coming through the forest canopy. There is no need to go to the Amazon rainforest or a Tibetan temple. It is always just right here. Right now. It is inside. Places like this make you aware.”

“Keep serving and loving one another.”

“Grateful. Sweaty. Tired. Energized. Hopeful. Optimistic. Joyful. Purposeful. Sad. Curious. Abundant. All of it. Experiencing and embracing it all. Much gratitude for this project and community.”


Grid is a solutions-oriented news platform that celebrates makers, storytellers, and community builders. Our goal is to share stories about people inspired by a purpose beyond themselves. We are interested in hard work, humility, authenticity, and stewardship. And most of all, people who roll up their sleeves and push Richmond forward.