Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Aesthetic Joys of a Calendar with Pictures

Lawrence Hall, HSG

The Aesthetic Joys of a Calendar with Pictures

Picture calendars are nice. Facing the new day is easier if the first thing you see is a picture of puppies or sailboats. Otherwise you might be alarmed by looking into the mirror and having to ask yourself “Who is that old man?” A cold, grey dawn is not the time for introspection.

At the bookstores calendars are discounted after the beginning of the new year, and while the dachshunds are all gone you might find some kittens or airplanes or icebergs off Newfoundland. Italian scenes are always popular, although trying to sort out The Leaning Tower of Pisa while waking up could lead to a skewed perception of reality.

Imagine living in Pisa and seeing the leaning tower most every day. You’d be asking yourself if it’s going to fall today, or maybe tomorrow. Maybe you could petition the city council to go ahead and knock it down so no one would have to worry about it ever again. But what would visitors then do for photographs? They’d have to take gag pictures of each other holding up a coffee shop or something.

Beagle puppies are fun. You cannot look at a calendar picture of beagle puppies and not feel optimistic about the coming day at work.

Cats, well, maybe. Cats are decorative, but, really, how much fun are room accessories that might choose to hiss and spit at any time? Soooo Harry Pottery.

In Ye Olden Days the calendars in barracks, fire stations, cop shops, and dorm rooms tended to be of a somewhat, um, frivolous nature. Given the Comrade Grundy grimness of popular culture just now one supposes that Miss April has been taken out and shot, and her amusing image replaced by a collective photograph of diverse assemblies of DNA sternly examining an algebra book for insensitivity and cultural occupation.

The English word “calendar” comes from the Latin word “calends” or “kalends,” originally referring to the first day of the week. It has come to mean the measurement of the solar year for the inconvenience of humans. Really smart people who do thinky-stuff tell us that humans have always constructed calendars – Sumerians, Akkadian, Chinese, Hebrew, Roman, Julian, and Gregorian, among others.

The calendar makes it possible for the left-brained among us to discuss the meteorological significance of the 21st of September as the autumn equinox and the first day of autumn, while the more practical individual simply opens the door to determine whether he will need a coat.

Just before Christmas funeral homes begin giving away Christian calendars marked with all the usual dates and lunar indications as well as religious observances. Thus, beneath “Martyrdom of St. Lawrence” you can write “Men’s Bible Class Barbecue,” and on the occasion of the beheading of St. Thomas More pencil in “Haircut – maybe closer this time.”

A calendar can note a full moon, but it cannot anticipate that the children will run barefoot around the backyard and chase lightnin’ bugs through a long summer dusk while waiting for it to rise. A calendar cannot replicate the hypnotic humming of cicadas under the noonday sun on a still, gaspingly hot day in July, nor can it communicate the joy one feels when, on a 90-degree afternoon in October, the wind suddenly shifts north and blesses the hot, tired earth with the first cool breezes since May.

In old movies a narrative technique to indicate the passing of time was to have an offscreen fan turn the pages of a desk calendar. Life doesn’t really pass that fast, though sometimes it seems that way.

But a calendar of happy pictures will help begin the day. That’s better than staring into a grumpy old face in the mirror.


No comments: