In an age of digital planners, I know that the paper calendar might be on the way out. Even so, I still like getting the wall and desk calendars that cross my desk each January, heralds of a new year.
I’m comforted by a calendar’s sense of time as something with tangible shape, making the year into a story with a clear beginning, middle and end.
The inspirational calendars are corny, as anything must be when it wears encouragement as a fashion statement, but there’s an innocence and optimism about them that suits me each January, before the year has lost its luster.
You know the kind of calendars I’m talking about — the ones that bookmark the arrival of each new month with a pithy proverb or pronouncement meant to summon a sense of possibility.
The 2015 wall calendar from the Rand Corp., the global think tank, kicks off January with a popular observation from novelist Edith Wharton: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that refects it.”
Light is something I think about in January, with all those strands of Christmas bulbs tucked away for another year, and the collective wattage of my house and neighborhood suddenly diminished. The landscape looks grayer now, and blander, and maybe it’s good that the plain, cold days force me inward, looking for what light there is within the fold of family, and perhaps within myself.
Like anyone with a new calendar, I cheat, flipping through the whole year, looking at every picture and passage printed on each month — as if, by doing so, I can somehow literally travel into the future.
I scan the pages to find my birthday, my wife’s birthday, the birthdays of my children. It’s an odd ritual of placing myself, similar to my habit, upon getting a new phone book, of seeking out my own name and number in the listings, my personal claim on existence.
I see that my birthday falls on a weekend this year, which will make it seem more like a holiday, with perhaps more spare time to enjoy it.
Spare time, or the illusion of spare time, is what the new calendars promise, with their expanses of blank blocks unblemished by obligation.
At the start of the year, each month’s stack of squares reminds me of an empty honeycomb, but I know, as the days reclaim their routines, that this hive of time will start to hum with its old fevered urgency.
I hadn’t yet carried my Christmas tree to the curb when my new calendar began to darken with reminders of medical appointments, trips to the dentist, lunch engagements, professional deadlines.
I’m already looking ahead to February, where the aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry graces the page with this bit of advice: “As for the Future, your task is not to foresee, but to enable it.”
Danny Heitman is on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.