Jessica Homann was not much of a walker.
But when the pandemic hit and she found herself in lockdown, she chafed at the notion of being stuck inside all day.
So during her lunch hour she began going on short strolls around her suburban St. Louis neighborhood. Just a few blocks, in her flip-flops.
Before long, Homann had bought walking shoes and athletic clothes, and she was striding two miles each morning. Then three miles. Then four.
She began to notice little details around her neighborhood, as if for the first time. She admired the trees. She spied hawks, bunnies and even a fox. When it snowed, she surprised herself by making a snow angel.
And she felt restored.
“These walks, with the fresh air, nature, and opportunity to stop and take in the beauty all around me, have returned me to myself,” Homann, 47, told CNN. “They have physically and emotionally saved me.”
The walks have also encouraged her to delve more deeply into photography, one of her hobbies. Homann uses her phone to document her neighborhood walks on Instagram, sharing scenes of foliage, flowers and holiday decorations – along with occasional shots of rolled-up newspapers in her neighbors’ driveways, their headlines marking the passage of pandemic time.
She’s also connected more deeply with her neighbors – fellow morning strollers, dog walkers and others.
“I have walked through all seasons and holidays – admiring the festivities and decor of the homes I pass,” said Homann, who works as an executive search consultant in the health care field. “I have seen families bring home puppies and babies.”
Homann now walks four to five miles a day, almost every day. Her husband rarely joins her – most days, she goes solo. She’s lost 25 pounds, and her cholesterol has gone down.
But for her, the biggest benefit of her walks might be psychological.
“They have brought me joy and perspective that I am passing on to others,” she said. “It has been the greatest gift – one I had the ability to give myself all along, but likely would not have if not for the pandemic. As a result, COVID will always represent a positive turning point for me – a precious bend in my life for which I am grateful.”