Media & Society
2:20 pm
Fri January 1, 2010

Page Turning

Computers are useful for keeping track of schedules, but I like beautiful, nature-photograph desk calendars. Last year’s was by Ansel Adams. Week after week I turned the page to another black and white photographic marvel — the grand foamy cloud of spray from Yosemite Falls, snow hummocks looking like powdered biscuits on a platter, the long curve of very white ice on a very black lake. Every turn of the page was a new delight.

But photographs are only half the joy of a new year’s calendar. The other half is the joy of all those blank pages — days of the week empty, uncluttered, clean, promising all the time in the world, all the time in the year, to do everything that needs or wants to be done. Like Prufrock I can think, “There will be time, there will be time.” Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday — empty pages, and then I turn the page and start again: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…. Each page — each week — provides space to organize my life: meetings, appointments, deadlines, classes, lectures, schedules for train rides to see my granddaughter. White, white pages promise endless opportunities to fulfill New Year’s resolutions, to accomplish what last year failed to provide, to be careful and neat and precise in filling out the hours, the days, the months. Miniature calendars of the current, previous, and subsequent months on each page assure that I keep track of the day of the week, the week of the month, and the month of the year. Nothing can go wrong — no missed appointments, mixed-up dates, forgotten meetings. It will all be there on the calendar.

Such is the promise, but last year’s calendar tells a different story. Entries are not always careful, neat, and precise. Appointments are crossed out (missed or canceled), beautiful photographs wrinkle at the edges from the dampness of rain, pencil lines smudge, travel directions spill onto the wrong day — a year no longer full of promise but done, finished. There will be no more time to get things straight.

But last year’s calendar also tells other stories. “August 20–23, Hiking in the Marbles,” floods my mind with images as sharp and as beautiful (but in full color) as Ansel Adams’s photographs. I can follow the progress of my new house by turning the calendar pages: Feb. 5, “Flooring”; May 27, “Phone hooked up”; June 21, “Railing installed”; September 12 “Housewarming party.” If the jubilant X through four days, noted as “Siblings here!” recalls stories of yoga on the front deck and a long game of Rail Baron on a rainy day, other stories are more enigmatic — “April 7, Jim [that’s my dissertation adviser], 3:00, Marché Cafe.” Did I have a paper ready for him? Was he pleased with my progress? —  or more sour: “March 26, Terry, 4:00.” Well, that promise of a relationship fizzled fast.

But there it all is, the whole of 2010, with its exciting adventures and mundane activities right there on the page next to the beautiful photographs. And the new 2011 calendar lies expectant and bright. I like it that way. Computer scheduling can’t compare to the double pleasure of paper-and-ink calendars: the beauty of the pictures and promise of the blank pages for the year to come, the beauty of the pictures and reminiscence on the pages of the year gone by.