Methods for Remembering

On Remembering the Run: the Basics

  • After you finish, spend a few minutes typing up what you remember from your run and post it on your online log.
  • Keep a Notebook in which you write down things you’ve read or heard; ideas you’re working through, questions you’re pondering; poems and quotes you want to study.
  • Record your thoughts while you are running, after stopping mid-run, on your walk home, or after your return home, by speaking them into your voice memo app.

More Details

Online Log: RUN!

The primary way I remember things that I don’t want to forget about my run (or about what I’m writing/thinking) is by typing them up in my daily online log entry right after I return home at the end of my run. First I document my distance, my route, and the weather. Then I write about how I felt when I was running, what I noticed (saw, heard, smelled, felt), what I was doing, and what I was thinking about. Sometimes I also mention what I didn’t notice. I might describe what the river looked like, whether or not there were leaves on the trees, how spazzy the squirrels and noisy the birds were. I include the fragments of conversation I overheard and speculate on their larger context. I describe distinctive characters and ridiculous moments. I document the a-ha moments when a solution to a problem (writing or otherwise) comes to me, or I experience a realization/revelation. I post these entries on my public wordpress blog and I know that at least a few people read them, but mostly I post them for future Sara to revisit and to use in her writing projects or to consult for remembering past Sara and the world she inhabited.

So far, almost all of these log entries are typed on my computer at my desk. In anticipation of my central vision loss, which has already made it harder (and more tiring) to see the letters on the screen, I have started experimenting with dictating entries. My first attempt, in February of 2020, didn’t last long. I’d like to experiment with this more in 2021.

Keeping a Notebook

In addition to my online log, I also like keeping a notebook. I write with a Staedtler Triplus Fine Liner black pen. Sometimes I use crayons too. Recently, I started using crayola colored pencils for highlighting key ideas, embellishing the date, and coloring in block letters, which is interesting since, because of my cone dystrophy and color-blindness, I cannot always tell what color I’m using or whether or not I’m filling in the space I’m trying to color. (Usually, once I’ve read the color etched on the side of the pencil, my brain adjusts and I “see” the right color, but not always). Up until last month, I wrote in Mead Composition notebooks (2 green, 2 blue, 1 purple), but now I’m trying out a Field Notes notebook from the “Pitch Black” series. It’s bigger then their typical notebooks, but smaller than a composition book. My notebook focuses on notes about what I’m reading or writing or thinking about. It is not a diary but a record of what’s already been “said, read, or heard” (Foucault, “Self-Writing”). It’s also where I write poems and document the process of figuring out my poems.

The Plague Notebooks

I started writing in a “pitch black” field notes notebook on Jan 15, 2020, just before COVID-19 became a pandemic. In March, while writing in the second one, I decided to name these black notebooks “The Plague Notebooks.”

Vol 1: Pre-US Infection (15 Jan – 24 Feb, 2020)
Vol 2: On the Brink, Wave 1 (25 Feb – 5 May, 2020)
Vol 3: Wave 1 (6 May – 30 June, 2020)
Vol 4: Denial and Gaslighting (1 July – 29 August, 2020)
Vol 5: Schools Reopening (29 August – 31 Dec, 2020)
Vol 6: A New President, Vaccines, A New Strain, A New Year (1 Jan – 7 March, 2021)
Vol 7: This is the Dawning of the Age of the Variants (8 March – 22 May, 2021)
Vol 8: A New Normal? (22 May – 16 July, 2021)
Vol 9: Delta (17 July – 15 Oct, 2021)
Vol 10: Nearing Normal (16 Oct – 2 Feb, 2022)
Vol 11: Is Omicron Over? (3 Feb – 28 April, 2022)
Vol 12: The Pandemic is Over (sez Fauci) (28 April – 1 July 2022)
Vol 13: Finding Wonder, Avoiding News of Supreme Court Decisions, and Masking Up Again (BA.5) (5 July – )

Recording Thoughts

Further Reading

On Memorizing Poems

I love going and walking out in nature and just like hearing a poem over and over again because I love poetry and I want to hear it over and over again. How lovely to just have it in my brain so then when I’m standing in line the at post office, I cannot be thinking about the fact that I’m standing in line at the post office and I can just recite a poem in my head.

Paige Lewis on Paige Lewis vs. Tiny Things

But I do think poetry has enticements of sound that are different from literature. Literature certainly has it too, or some literature, the best literature. And it’s easier for people to remember. People are more apt to remember a poem and therefore feel they own it and can speak it to themselves as you might a prayer — than they can remember a chapter and quote it. That’s very important because then it belongs to you. You have it when you need it.

Mary Oliver in Listening to the World

see also:

Remember to Remember

I will not tell you anything today that you don’t already know, but we forget, we human people, and our elders have told us that our job is to remember to remember. And that’s where the stories come in.

Braiding Sweetgrass/ Robin Wall Kimmerer

would that we could wake up to what we were

Singularity/ Marie Howe

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money—

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.   Remember?
There was no   Nature.    No
 them.   No tests
to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home

How Others Remember

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards would sometimes break open his days and ride to what one biographer calls “some lonely grove” where he’d get down and walk. When he mounted up again, his clothes would be covered with slops of paper where he had pinned his passing thoughts. A private bible. As if it were possible to catch spirit in flight, to take in its passing bear it home.

Poverty Creek Journal / Thomas Gardner / Aug 1, 2012

Emily Dickinson

[in a podcast about the show Dickinson, discussing the first episode in which Emily is trying to remember a line that comes to her as she’s getting water from their well]

Brionne Janae: I find myself having so much respect for early writers and what they went through to make their craft because you get a line at the well, you don’t have any paper. And just the discipline it would have taken and the attention to calling to hold that line with you and to be keeping it, reciting it, and reworking it in your head as you hauled that water back.


I love the way the show invites us to think about the writing process, but also the way your time period and you tools shape the way you write.

The Slave is Gone

Writing to Remember, Reading to Not Forget

Since my mom died in 2009, I’ve written about her a lot, especially on the anniversary of her death, or her birthday, or mother’s day. Writing these accounts is an opportunity to remember her. Later, revisiting these accounts is a chance to not forget: Mom