Back in 1975 I purchased a medium sized hard-backed notebook, narrow feint of line and blue of colour. It became my 'book of lists'. One such list was my bird species total for each year. Across an open spread I drew columns, each a centimetre wide, and after allowing for a generous space in which to write the bird species name, there were 26 columns - the first being for that current year, 1975. I was 16 at the time, and all of those blank columns represented to me a vast period of time - they would take me up to the year 2000, which sounded back then like a construct of science fiction, and the year in which I would celebrate my 42nd birthday. It was so far away that it really didn't warrant any thought at all. They were just there.
The years slowly passed, and they then picked up speed as they do when you grow older. Life happened. I left college. I started a career. I got married. We had children. And shortly before those columns were due to be finally filled, I became seriously ill. And it came to pass that the final column, for the year 2000, was completed and I turned over the page to start drawing another set of 26 columns, but stopped. 26 columns.... they would represent 26 years. They would take me up to 2026 when, if I were still alive, I would see my 68th birthday. No, this didn't seem the right thing to be doing, so I put down my pen and ruler and shut the book. I was still ill (and it would be another four years of treatment before I could consider myself to be well again). Would I be tempting fate to draw those lines? Would my presumption be waving a red rag at fate? Either way, those blank columns seemed to represent my life in a distilled and disturbing way. They never got drawn.
Now, that does seem a little bit bleak, doesn't it. But it's not meant to be. It's just that many of us natural historians are 'governed' by time and dates. We keep notes on earliest and latest dates, keep lists, compare years with other years. And, if we are honest with ourselves, with every passing year that we add to our data bank, it is one closer to when we will stop recording at all. That could be through Ill-health, incapacity or venturing off to that great big nature reserve in the sky.
So forget about time. Or the date. Dress appropriately for the weather and get out there and enjoy whatever might be on offer. One day at a time. And forget about drawing those blank columns.