In my daily life I spend a huge amount of time staring at screens. I am getting better at avoiding the TV and laptop though and it's definitely easier now it's lighter in the evenings. This week we've swapped TV for board games (where you actually talk to other people rather than just watching the same thing at the same time), walks around our local nature reserve to see swallows and chiffchaffs and just generally chatting with cups of tea rather than staring at the box. It feels good.
One thing I've noticed is that I think about all those fun things in the days afterwards too. Of all my favourite memories very, very few include screens. The best memories I have seem to be of big family meals (a great reason to cook together and eat with the telly off) or moments outside discovering nature. And those are the moments that mark the year and the seasons for me, built up from lots of favourite memories.
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January is the first key nature date in my year. It's always interesting to see which flowers are open by then. Whether it's still snow drops and crocuses or if we've moved onto daffodils is normally a good indication of how far off spring is. This year we were definitely still on snow drops, with snow covering a lot of the country that weekend!
Later it's noticing the first primrose or tulip and buds coming out on trees and bushes. With a winter that seems to have gone on forever we're finally there now and although I'm not in Northamptonshire my mind always wanders back to looking for rare pasque flowers with my family at a local spot around Easter time. The occasional sound of a cuckoo makes a spring and any spot where we hear one will be remembered and talked about for a long time.
University days brought new memories for springtime; with May and exams inextricably inked to huge banks of wild garlic under shady trees. Then always quicker than I expect swallows become a common sight and we return to the pasque flower spot to look for glow worms on summer evenings. The summer passes with sightings of butterflies marking out the months; brimstones first, with trips to see purple emperors a seasonal highlight.
As summer passes the last few days of warmth are used to pick blackberries for pies and freezers and fruit and seeds are everywhere. My mind turns to sloe gin, preserves and storing things up for the coming winter. Eventually there are conkers on the trees (never as many as I claim to remember from last year) and the leaves fall and winter migrants like jays appear.
Winter means rediscovering your coat, remembering bird feeders and going for long brisk walks and enjoying the silence of newly fallen snow.
Whatever the season I know there are lovely days ahead and just writing this blog has got me all excited for the coming months. With buds on the tree, chiffchaffs and swallows over the river and lots of animals pairing up I think spring is really here. I can't wait to enjoy the season and hopefully by next year I'll have even more lovely memories away from screen mark out the year.