by Denis Doran
‘Where did you find them?’
‘I told you Maddie, in the caravan-‘
‘You were too busy reading that letter.’
‘Here, I thought you’d want them.’
These two paperback books. As long as I can remember they lived on the wooden shelf, the one that became the nature table, along with all the small things collected during our walks.
Granda used to say, ‘We’ll leave them there ok? So I’ll know where they are for the next walk.” Common Wild Flowers and More Common Wild Flowers, lovingly worn.
A Buttercup pressed between the cover and the end paper of Common Wild Flowers stained the page; Buttercup and stain are still there. The page seems to hold, in the wrinkling, something of those moments, such a lovely echo.
I see him framed by the caravan door, hear him.
‘Come on you, on with your walking shoes. The knapsack’s packed, got sandwiches and a flask of tea. Some apples too. Let’s be off and leave your mother in peace.’
Mam kept the books, always took them with us when we went out walking. ‘I know they’re old, could buy something new with colour photos, but, well it’s like having grandad along.’ They’d stay in the rucksack. It seemed enough to have them on the walk.
‘What? Sorry, miles away. Just remembering these books.’
‘Put them away, you can look at them another time?’
‘No, it’s fine. Just memories, that’s all.’
‘Yes. She was never one for keeping things.’
‘Mam. When we were out walking she’d often pick flowers to take home, always put them in a little glass vase that belonged to my Nanna. I loved the colour on the table, as temporary as it was. But Granda, he collected. Nanna gave him these books, but he never did need them, knew what he was looking at, listening to.
Some days he’d come round to take me walking and something on the shelf would catch his eye, maybe a small bird’s skull, pebble, whatever, I knew we’d not get out that day; off he’d go, talking about maps, and his long rambling walks, sometimes for days on end. Nanna didn’t mind, knew he’d be back in his own good time. Perhaps this Buttercup, along with all the other things, simply served as links, as constant echoes of those long solitary walks.
I think I will put the books away now, but maybe we could go for a walk tomorrow, take them with us?’