I’ve been needing this new year to start but found myself stuck in December 2021.
There’s absolutely no reason anyone should stay stuck in 2021. It’s just that— I needed a new calendar.
The first year we were living in the Hudson Valley, I saw this beautiful calendar on the wall of a shop in Hudson. Screenprinted on bright white paper — the colors, the design — it was wonderful. “Where did you get that work of art?” I asked Mary the shop owner.
“Isn’t it fabulous? Isn’t it inspiring?” she said. Dolphin Studio in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, she told me. Then she added: “Be careful — it’s addictive. You’ll see.”
I didn’t know what she meant. When 2013 approached, I searched for Dolphin and ordered a calendar online. It was a splurge – $60! But I justified it as “my Christmas gift to myself.” There was a perfect spot on the wall, the exact size for the 12” x 24” calendar. Every month’s turn of the page reveals a new work of art. Some of them are wacky, some stylized, some WTF? But every month is a fresh start, fresh colors, a new perspective. Turning the pages helps shape the year.
And because the pages aren’t bound, the operation is ceremonial. The calendar must come off the wall, the bulldog clips removed, the old month shuffled to the back of the sheaf of paper, revealing the fresh new design and colors. I snap the clips into place and feel like I’m in control.
At the height of the pandemic I started crossing off days, like a prisoner making marks on the wall of their cell. Then things kept dragging on and after a few months I went back to leaving the pages pristine.
The year ends and I can’t dispose of all this artwork, all this hand-silkscreened paper. I cut it up for cards, use it for wrapping paper. I take inspiration from the old calendars all year round. But after nine years, the paper is piling up. Should I send more cards? Make some journals? Paper a wall?
And every year I go through a dance with myself when December rolls around: should I order again? Is it wasteful to go through another calendar? I weigh the cost that’s gone up, like everything. I wonder if it might be better to try something new in the calendar spot. I hate to feel dictated to or obligated to do anything, even if the decree comes from…me.
We were into the second week of January but December still sat up there on the wall, taunting me. You fool! it seemed to say. Why do you do this dance? Just get the damned Dolphin calendar.
But life can never be that easy, at least not when a part of your personality is built on these struggles with gratification and self-denial. So I tried a free calendar I’d received when I ordered some tea towel blanks the other week. See I do some printing too, and sometimes sell the results. I could almost call the Dolphin calendar a justifiable business expense: research. But money is tight and the free calendar had all these “go for it” statements on every page, in every font imaginable. Neon colored “You Are Awesome” on a black background. I thought it would be funny, and secretly inspiring. It lasted less than a minute on the wall.
“Fuck you!” I yelled at the calendar.
I knew I was going to cave. The Dolphin Studio calendar grip was too strong. I went online and ordered, wincing a little at the cost of postage. If I drove to pick it up I’d save those dollars but then there’s the cost of gas-oh for God’s sake. I took a deep breath and pressed the BUY NOW button.
A large cardboard package arrived in a few days. I sliced it open, read about the Ffrench family (as I do every year) who’ve been hand-screening these calendars since 1970. The calendar was tucked into a brown paper envelope, beautifully printed, the whole package a work of art. The Ffrench family smiled at me from a photo in their literature. What an amazing group of people. The mother and father started things. Now their children and grandchildren are involved as well.
Out came the calendar. The first month was a delicately rendered ballgown, the colors cool, creamy and perfect. I hung it on the wall in its rightful place, where it seemed to light up the whole kitchen.
It’s okay to treat yourself to something you love; something that works, that makes you happy every day.
“You Are Awesome And I Believe In You” the calendar seemed to say, in a language I could live with.