Telluride Daily Planet, Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The winter solstice has teetered, a new year is on its way, and that means palettes of shrink-wrapped calendars will soon be handed out like Bingo cards to all of us, the day-trippers of time.
There must be other people out there like me, yearning for something completely different: Imagine a calendar that shoves us off, sails us through 2010, spinnakers full, with all our space-time continuum needs met. Isn’t that what a calendar is supposed to do — connect alarm clocks to stars and then back to pineal glands so that we can reflect on what another sunrise means in this part of the galaxy? This was my understanding.
Not exactly how we do it, though, on the third planet from the Sun.… Here, it’s more like a game of categories slapped on a second grade template, deboned of all celestial reference. And oh the places the boneless categories go! From heavy hitters like cats, word-a-days and swimsuits to back porches, teapots, shells, purses, covered bridges, cocktails, cockatiels, weird mushrooms (Weird Mushrooms 2010), Go Vegan, Hannah Montana, the Hubble Telescope, Donny Osmond, Ed Rosenthal’s Big Buds, Woodland Faeries, Kama Sutra, and the Beer Pong Wall Calendar. Thousands of calendars. Thousands of ways to tick off the days until blackout Bingo is unanimously achieved. But what’s achieved?
In a time capsule of 21st Century Earth calendars, how will other life forms cipher what lighthouses, beaches and black-and-white photos of Yosemite had to do with our orbit around the sun? Did Doodle-a-day help connect our hands to our diurnal segments? Were the Twelve Poodles of 2010 keepers of the secret? Were Nuns Having Fun whirling dervishes, a mystery school of time, space and beyond?
You’re probably thinking, So what would you propose, Little Miss Better-Than-Bingo? What’s so bad about x’s in boxes, countdown, appointments, Big Days? We need calendars to file events in time. The categories are simply phyla and sub-phyla of our culture. It’s how we DO it. I suppose you’re opposed to watches, too…
No, I’m not opposed to anything. I don’t know! At first I thought, just stick to Bingo, but with better categories. The Stephen Hawking 2010 Calendar, Page-a-Day Time Quotes by Super Smart People. Poetry About the Quantum Field Desk Calendar. Whispers of String Theory Oversized Wall Calendar. What Emily Dickinson Had to Say About Time Mini Calendar. But it’s all still Bingo.
Now I’m thinking a calendar has to be ground breaking. Revolutionary. And idiosyncratic. Like a bird calendar, since birds are mysterious, have secrets, and we see them everyday. (There are some quirky bird calendars already out there — Birds in the Garden 2010 Linen Towel Calendar, Loon Magic with Sound 2010 Wall Calendar; but they still don’t send me skidding across the space-time linoleum.)
My calendar is about winged creatures that have flown into my life in the past year. And since I’ve collected only ten important bird moments this year, I’m simply re-dividing the calendar into ten months of 36 days — with a five-day party at the very end. I’m not renaming any months but I am leaving out April and November, just this once, and putting April Fool’s on my birthday (March 31). Thanksgiving I’m shoving in with Halloween. April and November birthdays will all be celebrated at the summer solstice with giant bonfires and punch.
In terms of weeks, I’m going to six days instead of seven, for an even six weeks per month. And I’m leaving out Monday, for obvious reasons. All lunar and planetary information will be noted in sidebars with little thumbnails of deep space. And the Bingo grid? No grid. Circles spiraling outward from the center of the page in a Fibonacci spiral and right off the page. Can’t play Bingo on that.
The text? Obviously, the hard part. How to impart time, space, poetry and human emotion in three or four narrative sentences? But October, for instance, would feature the bird I met hiking up a steep trail as the last leaves fell to the ground. I’m breathing hard in the still air when suddenly I hear a Camp Robber swoosh past and up and then land in a tree. Admiring its grace, its perch, and without thinking I say “Hi,” and keep marching. Six or seven steps later, I hear “Hi” repeated back, same inflection, same tone. I peel around just as is its wings have begun to flap. In a flash it’s gone. I feel my place on the planet, frozen as things whirl around me.
Time is the present, nothing behind, nothing in front. It is a window on eternity, which we cannot grasp. It is deep rather than long, folds over itself like a burrito, bends in the light, slips through our fingers but lodges itself in our cells, our minds, our time-traveling souls. That is what the Camp Robber told me.
For other bird secrets, see me — the calendar isn’t available yet.