One of the pleasures of a new year is starting a fresh calendar. It’s easy to think of calendars as restrictive, as ways we schedule and limit ourselves and put our lives into boxes. I prefer to think of them as holders of opportunities, filled with promise and possibility. All those days are just waiting to be filled, not merely with appointments and anniversaries, but with people and experiences.
Calendars can serve as daily journals, not just reminders of what we need to do but as records of what we’ve done. The calendar in our kitchen when I was growing up, for example, had notes like “.65 in. rain” and tracked the births of calves with the numbers of their mothers’ ear tags.
Calendars can be educational—and I don’t mean “Miss July,” either. The first book my son ever read, at age two or three, was a calendar. He went through it page by page, reading all the numbers out loud to his father, who patiently listened through all 12 months.
A calendar, done well, is a perfect combination of utility and beauty. I’m particular about the meaning of “done well.” Wall calendars, for example, need not only great pictures, but also daily squares with both readable numbers and room to write stuff. And I prefer a certain brand and style of spiral-bound planner for my desk, where Monday is always on the left-hand page so I never confuse it with Tuesday and risk missing something exciting like a dental appointment.
I know a paper planner isn’t necessarily the most efficient way to keep my daily to-do list and record my billable hours. If I did it electronically, the computer could alert me to appointments with alarms and pop-up notices and would probably even do the math for me. But I don’t want to give up the emotional and tactile satisfaction of taking my pen and crossing something off my list when I’ve finished it. Sometimes I even write items on the to-do list after I’ve done them, just for the pleasure of crossing them off.
This is a great year for wall calendars; we have three that are definitely done well. They offer an assortment of wonderful photos, all of which allow us to see our local area in new ways. The dilemma now is deciding which one to hang where.
One will go in my office to help me remember an ever-increasing database of birthdays. I finally got smart enough to write in birth years as well as names, since I’m reasonably good at tracking the dates but fuzzy about ages.
One will hang in the kitchen to keep track of scheduled events like concerts and plays. (January 16, for example: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. Another chance to see my son-in-law on stage in a dress.)
And the third, with duplicate entries for at least the most significant dates, will go downstairs in my partner’s office. After all, for a happy relationship it’s a good idea to be sure you’re both on the same page. Or at least in the same month.