I AM sorry to be stepping in last minute for Fidelma Cook, who is too ill to write this weekend. I've all the respect in the world for Fidelma, and to all the loyal readers who have been following her ups and downs, her observations and deliberations, for years. My dad, who died last month, asked for The Herald to be read to him so he could hear how Fidelma was doing.

We felt you could perhaps do with something light and reflective this week, since it will be a cruel shock to see the wrong face here. So I'm writing about spring, that most joyful of seasons.

You may think that spring began at 9.37am on March 20, or at the strike of midnight on March 1, or at the onset of the snow moon on February 27. I recall a particularly heated Trivial Pursuit dispute that very nearly escalated into full-blown fisticuffs over this issue.

Seasons show up and stick their head round the door, then the previous season pops back to pick up its keys and hang around for a drink. It's a transition, a shift; they don't storm in at a predetermined hour and ransack the place. They evolve from the previous into the next – a continuum that is easier in this bit of the globe to divide into quadrants.

READ FIDELMA COOK: I had no thoughts of getting old...but how fast the years go

But whenever we consider it here, spring is a time of new life; of hope, light, anticipation and longer days; a time of bulbs poking through the earth, pushing back winter until it has receded too far to return. Legions of poets have waxed lyrical to the point where it's hard to write about it without resorting to cliché. In a very real sense, though, spring is an awakening, a renewal. Creatures stir, birds sing, shadows stretch and there's a warmth to meet the refreshing chill in the air. But it's more than that. It's visceral, energetic, expansive, restorative. It's that time when you step outside and sense that shift; it's people smiling, waking from the trance-like grimace of semi-comatose semi-hibernation.

A giant buff-tailed bumblebee is buzzing at the window as I type – an impressive queen, foraging for nectar and pollen having survived the winter. Bullfinches feast on what must be the uniquely delectable buds of the blush serviceberry. I watch as a tiny bronze beetle, its back a brilliant shield, clambers up a blade of grass that buckles and bows. It disappears beneath grass then reappears, reflecting sunlight from 93 million miles away.

In the woods, the buds are fattening; the trees sending their energy upward, and from one week to the next, our woodlands are a place of unfettered glory. Sit in a forest and you'll hear it: the jubilant shindig that is spring (noisy buggers, birds – slap 'em an ASBO). I know of no finer therapy. We embrace the sunlight, eat fresher food, feel better, sleep better. And there's summer and autumn to come: six months of evenings and sunsets, hallelujah.

READ FIDELMA COOK:  For the first time in a long time I was looking outwards with enjoyment – not inwards with fear

After the stellar snowdrops, it's the crocuses, the daffies, the bluebells, the wild garlic. I've been out in the garden, filling a colander with ground elder, hairy bittercress, common chickweed and them beloved nettles – weeds that are the nemesis of every gardener. For me, they're food – a little leftfield, but that's because we've lost our connection with food and nature. It's totally normal to have somebody in Morocco grow a vegetable, spray it with chemicals, harvest it with giant machinery, fly it thousands of miles overseas, package it up in a plastic tub, sell it to Tesco, submit our order online and get a driver to deliver it to our door. Yet suggest picking a very similar plant from your own garden and you'll look at me like I'm unhinged. Popeye missed a trick: who needs tinned spinach when you can have fresh nettle by the barrow load?

Spring gives the fat, sticky buds of the horse chestnut, the merry cluster of cherry buds, the velvet black hoof of ash, the slender bud of beech; the chorus as garden birds busy themselves building nests; hedgehogs happily hogging the hedge; the inevitable black and white bodies of badgers struck as they venture out from their setts; the wood mice and voles and shrews and stoats; the croak of a pheasant defending his patch; the delicate, smoky scent that silver birch emits for a week or two each April as it comes into leaf.

And of course, what mention of spring in Scotland could be complete without the lambs? Could anything be cheerier than a field full of lambs charging about without a care in the world, while the mums blether and munch?

Behind the wall of the woodland, my dad lies in his grave, clutching the pebble that I tucked into his hand during his final week of an exceptionally full life. He feared death, but when he neared the door, there was only love and peace. Death follows life as certainly as autumn follows summer, driving home the conviction that life is for living.

READ FIDELMA COOK: 'I’m not the warrior you think I am'

Turn off the news a moment, forget whatever nonsense Bojo and Priti, and all the other numpties are up to, forget the crazy talk of zero covid and policing to clamp down on peaceful protest, and step outside. You will be rewarded with 50 shades of green, and possibly a skip to your step.

Back to Fidelma. I hope you can find some solace in spring – a freshness, a smell, a posy of flowers, a particular quality of light. Your devoted followers – and everyone at the Herald – are with you in spirit, wishing you the very best. Thank you for sharing your very own particular quality of light.