ALTON - Jennifer Sillivan has always loved sunsets. Now that she’s an empty-nester, she catches every one she can.

Each night, she sets up a chair in front of the empty bank building near Alton Square Mall. She takes off her shoes and socks. And for 45 minutes, she sits with her feet in the grass and watches the sky.

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“It’s physically helpful and spiritually helpful,” Sillivan said. “And then it’s just a time to reflect on the day. What I loved, what I would like to be different. It’s just peace.”

Sillivan started this ritual for herself, but she’s been pleasantly surprised to find that it resonates with other people, too. Recently, a man stopped his car, rolled down the window and asked what she was doing. When she explained, he asked if he could join her.

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“I said that would be lovely,” Sillivan remembered. “He was younger than me, and lonely. He said that he was lonely. And he just talked and talked and talked, and all I could do was agree and nod my head. I was glad to be there for him, because he needed somebody to listen. So I just listened. And he said, ‘Next time I come, I’ll bring my guitar.’ And I said that would be great.”

Sillivan added that human moments of connection like that are “rare, so precious when they happen.” She gets a lot of curious looks from passing cars, but there’s something special about the nights when someone decides to join her.

While Sillivan never really expected others to connect with the idea, she hopes it has helped some people. At least, she knows it helps her.

“It’s been very cathartic and very enjoyable,” Sillivan said. “I do it for myself, I do it because I enjoy it, and it’s physically beneficial to put your feet in the grass. But I’m kind of really loving the idea that I’m accidentally planting seeds. Slow down, watch the sun come up or go down.”

That’s her advice. If you want to give it a try, she says you’re always welcome to pull up a chair, take off your shoes and watch with her.

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