Friday, March 13, 2020

I remember

Joe Brainard's I remember is one of the most commonly borrowed poetic forms. Anyone can write down a memory. It's such a useful prompt to appreciating the simple things in life and works especially well remembering walks, where that what was of the past and what is of today's walk mingle to create what could be.

This post is a mix of my I remembers, written during my residency, together with some that I collected for people who attended Paths for All National Conference in Stirling (12.III.20), and others which were made with the Letham walking group in Perth, where I first had the idea. 

That walking group told me about a mosaic of a Scottish soldier that had been made in a garden, which they always enjoyed walking past. 

In the same way, I have fond memories of a burn I walked past as a boy, and an arch of trees my wife and I would walk between, when we took the Up and Down Paths together.

Please feel free to send me your I remembers, whether from childhood walks or a hike you made last week.

As Coronavirus impacts on walking together, and large numbers of people have to self-isolate over the coming months, I Remember is a way to visualise a walk while you exercise at home, re-connecting to the places that you are fond of.

I remember the way the grasses in the burn by the middle gate lay flat, as if the rushing water was tiring them out; their leaves were variegated and broad, like bamboo, and they seemed like they only grew there, nowhere else in the world

I remember how I would walk along the seafront in winter storms being soaked by the waves on purpose

I remember my first walk along the beach at West Sands, seeing the sky forever

I remember walking with Brodie

I remember Kenny waiting at the car park

I remember Mr Stewart’s Scottish soldier smart in his coloured glass uniform watching orfe patrol the wee pond

 I remember my walks to nursery, a tiny hand in mine

I remember “Neighbourhood Watch” Mary – she likes to know exactly what’s going on and who’s going with it

I remember walking down the track in the dark, singing so loud I was someone else

I remember welly walks on wet Scottish Summer holidays

I remember when the snow blocked my path home, but the path to yours was open

I remember they didn’t know the names of many places, but they could recall the names of lots of faces

I remember walking with Norma on a forest bathing experience; she helped me realise just how much you miss when you fail to take notice, the sounds and scents of the forest and her breathing beside me.

I remember as a young marine looking down from the top of the mountain, cold, wet, drained, footsore and seeing a bus heading to our destination and asking the corporal, “Why are we were walking, Corporal”?

I remember she was beautiful, like a sunset you mustn’t keek at too often

I remember his first words when he got back – did you see me waving from the top?

I remember Terra and her sister Firma

I remember how she walked like a cat trying to avoid a clothes-peg

I remember what the fog did to those hills – so mind and stay as sharp as a tack

I remember how as a child I was able to walk at all times, day or night

I remember when deer used to live in the woods

I remember walking where you knew everyone you met

I remember the grand view from Hillyland to Huntingtower, Culteuchar Hill and Logie Almond

I remember the night that the storybook owl stopped hooting in Chris's wood

I remember my hand holding my Dad's gloved hand, snowflakes falling as big as spiders on my blue hand-knitted balaclava

I remember following my brother through the woods at night, a lantern in his left hand, a caged opossum in his right.

I remember the skunk who hit Brenda right in the chest.

I remember the skunk who filled my backyard with spray of light in the darkness.

I remember that same skunk curled up asleep in the hose of my vacuum.

I remember North Taylor Creek where the path narrows to a thread between a jumbled moraine on one side and smooth slabs of conglomerate on the other.

I remember things falling out of Marc's backpack because he never used the zippers.

I remember hot days when the neighborhood dogs made their own expedition to the swimming hole and came back hours later, wet, muddy, and happy.

I remember the hill where you had to lie flat on your sled to navigate under a barbed wire fence.

I remember Lisa's crazy long blue poncho dragging through the flowers.

I remember my brother sitting down amid the flowers--taking pictures, he said, but I think he just wanted to be close to them.

I remember the sapsucker that landed on my brothers head.

I remember the dragonfly that followed my right knee for an hour.

I remember the Brown Thrasher turning over leaves under the hollies.

I remember the Great-crested Flycatchers who nested in the paper box.

I remember the blacksnake who lived in the basement and sunned itself at the foot of the steps.

I remember chasing Susie the Angus cow around the stable yard.

I remember the mouse who hid behind my old dog's leg.

I remember the bear cub who climbed up the side of my cabin.

I remember the smell of arnica blanketing a mountainside.

I remember the smell of the yard in winter and early spring, a wet so thick I can taste it.

I remember wet azalea flowers.

I remember planting pansies.

I remember this summer we didn't use the front door because a field spider had spun a web from the gutter to the ground and my brother wouldn't let us touch it.

I remember sanderlings in the snow.

I remember skylarks and the way they made liquid holes of sound in the sky, and peewits (lapwings) zig-zagging wildly on the skyline.

I remember going to fetch water in the snow, how happy I was to walk beside her.

I remember hearing her bones creak as I walked behind Granny, bent over her walking frame.

I remember when we saw a hare near all those yellow irises by the Pagton Burn.

I remember persuading you to taste the wild mint that was growing in Acreknowe Burn and how it made islands of our tongues.

I remember my first walk after Coronavirus, how the boats in the harbour were the same, but people walked apart.



  1. I remember the water
    Ice bound,
    The frosty land and
    I am so glad
    It was always good weather
    On your Birthday.
    The day was normally cold,
    But the memory of it
    Is lit by the glow of low winter sunlight and

  2. I remember the stupid smile on my face the day we arrived in Scotland.
    I remember how sick I got on the ferry ride back from Orkney.
    I remember feeling like we were the first people ever to see Strathy beach.
    I remember finally making it to Nanny’s for breakfast.
    And Torridon and Applecross and Plockton.
    And meeting our kids at the train station in Oban.
    And how wonderful the whisky taste on Islay.
    I remember being ready to come home but feeling lucky my ancestors came from such a beautiful place.

  3. I remember Karen quickly pulling me down onto her before the others came over the brow of the hill.

  4. And I remember the otters on the far side of Berneray.