Monday, January 5, 2009
A year of promise hangs from a thumbtack
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel January 5, 2009)
The first week in January is such a hopeful time. With the tossing aside of last year’s calendar we throw away unfulfilled dreams, broken promises and unmet goals. A new calendar is tacked to the wall and with it comes a year of blank pages. An empty grid of potential, promise and possibilities is ready to be either crossed off with X’s or filled in with memories.
As an unabashed optimist, I could never mark a calendar with giant black X’s. I’d feel as if I was wishing away time. That’s far too negative an approach for my positive mindset.
Just as unlikely would be to leave the pages blank, reflecting no record at all of the passing days. To me, that would seem too passive, as if I didn’t care what happened. On my calendars, the rectangular boxes become repositories of pertinent notes. They track appointments, record accomplishments, mark celebrations and memorialize moments I hope never to forget.
With the previous year’s calendar spread on the table before me, I can be a time traveler, reveling in the past, reflecting on what was. Memories return with the flipping of a page. Last January was filled with notations about exercise — how many miles I walked, which days I rowed, how frequently (or not) I bounced on the trampoline.
Like most people, I entered 2008 filled with resolve to get back in shape and quickly found that recording my accomplishments motivated me to continue. Had I not kept a daily record within sight of anyone who chose to look, my determination to exercise might have diminished. Instead, it grew with each passing month as I competed with myself to tally on the calendar more and more accomplishments, more and more miles.
Although exercise routines are consistently noted, athletic activities are not all I listed. In February, I marked down when we picked loquats and wrote in March when mulberries began to ripen. My first plunge into the lake’s cool water was on March 15 and just seeing that day on the calendar brings back the shivers. In April, we installed a solar hot water heater and then proceeded to fret as clouds blocked the sun for most of the month. Fortunately, by May, the sun had reappeared and we could finally enjoy steaming hot showers without relying on fossil fuels. May also was blueberry-picking month and the time when I played in my first Scrabble tournament.
In summer, I must have been too busy with work to do much notating and by the time autumn arrived, my diligent recording had begun to dwindle. A few exceptions included the day my oldest daughter announced she was pregnant with our first grandchild and the day our second daughter called from Massachusetts to announce her engagement. I also made note of when we saw certain wildlife on the property — the day a bobcat appeared, when a coyote wandered by, the first time an osprey claimed a bamboo pole in the lake as its roost.
I recently tacked a 2009 calendar up on the wall. The lines of my green felt-tipped pen have not yet touched its pristine pages. As I stand in the kitchen quietly flipping through the months, I can’t help but wonder what the New Year will bring. What markings will eventually fill in each square? Which events will I deem worthy of reporting or feel eager to record?
On my kitchen wall, a year of potential is dangling precariously from a thumbtack. You might also have a new calendar hanging on your wall. If you do, I hope it’s soon filled as I intend mine to be, with memories and treasures no matter how small and with the simple pleasures of everyday life.