It’s so important for us to have a daily or at least weekly practice that gives us a moment to slow down, be present, and interact with the natural world. Not all of us are lucky enough to live in walking distance of a park, but simply finding a spot in your yard or on your balcony to sit for a few minutes a day can be a place to reconnect. During our monthly James River Rx walks in the James River Park System, one of our regular participants, Vicki, shared her practice and how it led her to looking out for hearts in the landscape during her regular walks at Pony Pasture. Below is her practice, in her words, and a selection of her photos.

I’m originally from Overland Park, Kansas but I’ve lived in Richmond for almost 25 years. I work as an After Care teacher in a private school. I love being outside! When we moved close to the river, I started walking by it every day. At first, short walks, but then I began exploring various trails and would walk for 2 hours without realizing it. I like being by the river, but the trees are my true love. I love the changes in the seasons and the surprises that each brings.

When I walk, I listen and truly look and see what is around me. The birds often sound like they’re saying things and I’ve heard one that sounds like laughter. I take pictures most days, sometimes big things, like the river, though many days, it’s just little things, flowers, rocks and leaves.

One day, in the parking lot, I saw a leaf that looked like a heart, so I took a picture. As I walked through the woods, I kept seeing more and more heart shaped leafs. I took pictures. Then, I noticed heart shaped rocks. And through serendipity, I even found a shadow that resembled a heart!

I was a teacher in a city school for a long time, and it took me quite a while to get over some of the stress I carried from that. Gradually, after many hours in the woods, I began to feel more like myself. I lost weight, some due to walking and some due to feeling like me again. I walk in the heat and the snow (which I really enjoy). I’m not fond of walking in the rain, but right after it is very nice.

What is something you could weave into your everyday life to help you connect to the natural world around you?The James River Association is here to help you Connect to the James!