A calendar is a hopeful purchase, what with all the empty spaces full of possibilities and the tacit assumption that the buyer will survive through December.
I usually select a wall calendar among whatever’s on the clearance rack in January. I would prefer for the monthly images to be dog-related, but in the past I’ve settled for owls, cats, architecture, and Pop art.
In 2020, I bucked tradition and went with a desk calendar (theme: Japanese woodblocks). We all know how that year turned out. So for 2021, I’m hedging my bets with one of each type—wall and desk.
The calendar I’ve tacked to the corkboard hanging in my bedroom features photos of Central Park collected by the Central Park Conservancy. The nonprofit sent me the calendar for free in a mailing.
But then I felt guilty about the prospect of pinning the thing to my wall as though I had earned the gift with a contribution, so I made a small donation. Whereupon the group sent me a canvas tote. So I guess we’re still not even and now they have me on the hook for the rest of my life.
The calendar propped up on my desk is a personalized Shutterfly affair that was created by my mother to help me keep track of my family members’ birthdays. She’s gone through the pages and helpfully circled in red ink 15 dates corresponding to when my three sisters, their spouses, my six nieces and nephews, my grandmother, my mother herself, my own spouse, and I were all born.
The photo collage for each month matches the birthday girl(s) and/or boy(s). So on the August page, for instance, there are pics of one of my brothers-in-law, my oldest niece, and me ‘cause that’s the month when each of us came into the world. On months with no family birthdays (November and December, for example), you get group shots.
I expect the calendar to be useful this year when it comes to dispatching gifts and greetings on time rather than, as is usual for me, up to two weeks late. Maybe in 2021 I’ll be better. What did I tell you? Calendars inspire unfounded optimism.
And while we’re on the subject, I recently encountered a wise passage on optimism in The Givenness of Things, Marilynne Robinson’s 2015 collection of essays. The piece in question is about the Protestant Reformation, but toward the end, the author makes a case against pessimism that feels especially apt at the start of a new year following a terrible one. She writes:
It is easy to forget that there are always as good grounds for optimism as for pessimism—exactly the same grounds, in fact—that is, because we are human. We still have every potential for good we have ever had, and the same presumptive claim to respect, our own respect and one another’s. We are still creatures of singular interest and value, agile of soul as we have always been and as we will continue to be even despite our errors and depredations, for as long as we abide on this earth. To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt is our gravest error.
My only resolution for 2021 is to keep that in mind through the year’s as-of-now blank days and whatever beauty, suffering, tedium, and mystery they may contain. Happy new year.