May 1, 2002
Calendar Ceremony

The "Little Prince" calendar hangs on our bedroom wall, right next to the bathroom door.

I bought this calendar with the Barnes & Noble gift certificate my sister sent me for Christmas last year, along with a Stephen King hardcover that I still haven't read, a box of coffee-cup notecards that I still haven't mailed to anybody, and an Itty-Bitty reading light that David absconded with before it was even out of the B&N bag, basically.

At least I'm enjoying my Little Prince calendar. 

On my way to the shower this morning, I pause for a moment and flip the calendar over from April to May. I've been looking forward to this moment for days: the ceremonial unveiling of the new month ... yet another of the myriad small rituals that decorate my life. And yes, I'm as anal about The Calendar Ceremony as I am about my other 43,897,621 'rituals.'  No changing the calendar until the first morning of the month. If I accidentally forget to change the calendar on the first morning of the month, I have to leave the old month in place and wait until the following month to change it. And absolutely NO looking at future months in advance is permitted, not even as you're standing in the middle of Barnes & Noble trying to choose a calendar. You can look at the front cover ... but that's it. Peeking at upcoming calendar art is the worst kind of bad luck.)

This month, I am pleased to see, I will be waking up every morning to an inside-out drawing of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. ("I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained.")

This is good. This will work. I woke up looking at baobobs for the past thirty mornings in a row: I'm ready for a change.

April wasn't the worst month in history. The Tot Visits alone made it fun and memorable and journal-worthy. My new bike got stolen, which sucked, but then a bunch of *FootNotes* readers rallied together and raised more than half the purchase price of a replacement bike. THAT was certainly a month-brightener. Plus I survived the Mold Seminar, I received the best damn job performance evaluation of my entire working life and I didn't miss a single episode of "Survivor: Marquesas."

On the other hand, I posted a measly eleven *FootNotes* entries in April, none of them exactly Pulitzer material. Most of my auxiliary writing projects stalled, as well, and I still owe more e-mail than God. I made absolutely no progress whatsoever with my credit card debt: if anything, I'm more in the hole now than I was a month ago. I'm still on page 279 of "Outlander." I logged a miserable 88.2 miles on the bike, leaving 1,698.7 miles to go, as of this writing.

Plus I gained six pounds.

I'm hoping to do much better -- at ALL of this stuff -- in May.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

An hour later I'm standing at the kitchen counter ... partially dressed, fully caffeinated, doling out orange juice and One-A-Days.

As I'm doling, I'm looking at the "Earth From Above" calendar that hangs on the wall next to our computer desk. This calendar -- like the Keith Haring calendar last year, and the Route 66 calendar the year before, and the I-can't-remember-what calendar the year before that -- was a Christmas present from Jaymi to David. (A lovely stepdaughter/stepdad holiday tradition which has flowered, over the years, with only minimal encouragement from me.) This year's gift calendar features interesting nature photographs, taken from miles above the earth: mangrove swamps in French New Caledonia, flocks of pink flamingos in Kenya, date groves in the Nile Valley.

Last month it was a mineral forest in Madagascar. We've just completed the kitchen version of the Calendar Ceremony (David looking on with his usual tolerant amusement): for the next four weeks, we will be enjoying an aerial view of the Buccaneer Archipelago in West Kimberly, Australia. Thousands of tiny green islets, like puzzle pieces, set against the cobalt blue background of the Sea of Timor. It is very beautiful, very serene, very happy-looking.

I can look at this for a month, easily.

I am enjoying a period of almost unprecedented emotional equilibrium these days. I like going to my job in the mornings, and I like coming home from my job in the evenings. Historically it's been one or the other (or neither), but never both at the same time. In fact, except for missing The Tots -- the pilot light of sorrow there never goes out -- I am probably as happy as I've ever been in my life.

It seems appropriate that the kitchen wall calendar should reflect some of that happy feeling.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

By the time I get to the office, the 5 a.m. *Caffeine Molecules* are wearing off. Time to reload.

While I'm waiting for the Peet's to brew/waiting for the phones to start ringing/waiting for my co-workers to begin straggling through the door, I wander around the Dirt Company office and change everybody's calendar for them. No ceremony here: just a quick-and-dirty flip of the page before moving on to the next cubicle. My theory is that you can tell a lot about your co-workers by their choice in wall calendar. Personal interests, for instance, are well represented: surfing, trout-fishing, dogs, semi-clad young women draped over soil gradation meters. Individual tastes in art are defined, as well: Monet, Ansel Adams, Dilbert (lots and LOTS of Dilbert, for some reason), babies dressed as chrysanthemums and stuffed into oversized flowerpots. The Main Marketing Guy maintains a pristine text-only calendar: no superfluous graphics of any kind. JoAnne, the Earth Mother of our office, has a funky patchwork quilt calendar. (The New Guys -- read this: anyone hired after January 1st -- are stuck with the Mold Remediation Association freebies.)

It's actually sort of interesting, matching personalities to calendar art.

Scott the General Manager breezes into the office shortly after 9 a.m., fresh from his 'dentist appointment,' just as I've finished swapping out the dog-eared April calendar pages in my Day-Timer with a fresh batch of May pages. (As usual, I've missed a couple of key birthdays in April. Happy belated, Feef and Mizz: I love you guys.) As he signs himself in, Scott glances at the calendar hanging above my desk to double-check the date.

"Guess you need to change your calendar," he says. "Today's the first of May, y'know."

Geez. Wouldn't you know it?? In my zeal to update every OTHER calendar on the planet, all morning long, I've somehow managed to overlook the one calendar I probably spend the most time looking at every day: the huge "National Parks of America" monstrosity hanging above my own desk. It's not a style I would have picked out for myself  --  I might have gone for bicycles or bridges or The Men of The Today Show (Including Al Roker, As Long As He's Not In Spandex, OK?) -- but it was a gift from my boss, right after I started working at The Dirt Company, so I'm pretty much stuck with it for another seven months. I briefly considered sticking a Post-It note to it, saying "My real calendar is an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry" ... but I thought that might hurt JoAnne's feelings. So I'm sucking it up. For the past thirty days I've been forced to endure a spectacularly ugly orange rock formation that reminded me either of Hell or the 1970's. (They're basically the same thing, anyway.) I've just been counting the days until I could flip the page.

I have no idea what the month of May is going to look like, of course. I just know it's got to be an improvement. So when Scott points out my oversight, I joyously leap from my chair ... rip the ugly April rock formation cleanly off the calendar ... and ceremoniously reveal the month of May, where this month's featured photograph is ...

... Mt. Rainier National Park in TicTac!!

The real-life desktop wallpaper of the first forty years of my life, and one of my all-time favorite things in the entire world! 

Right after baobobs and archipelagos and babies dressed like chrysanthemums stuffed into flowerpots, that is.

Maybe May is going to be *my* month, after all.

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