Kage Baker liked calendars. They were a form of art that pleased her with their formality, and their sequential nature. When they were well done and paid attention to their advertised themes, they slowly unveiled a broad vision of a year. That pleased her. She said they were like very slow motion animation.
She always went carefully calendar hunting in December or January. She’d pore through entire racks of them, looking for a subject that stirred her. Then she’d check June – her own birth month – to make sure it was a good picture. If June wasn’t up to her expectations, she’d reject the entire calendar.
Puppies, kittens, bunnies and other fuzzy creatures were automatic NOs; Kage’s tolerance for cute was pathologically low. Maritime subjects – lighthouses or ships or islands – were always possibilities. Had she been able to find a calendar from pirate movies, it would have been her favourite, as long as June showed something cool like the Sack of Cartagena. Or maybe that opening vignette from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, where you enter the burning town under the cannon fire on both sides …
Calendars from book illustrators were what Kage most preferred – she adored illustrations, and always looked first for calendars by the artists she’d loved in books: people like Maxfield Parrish (fantasy), Howard Pyle (pirates), N.M. Bodecker (Edward Eager books), Paul Kidby (Discworld), That last is Paul Kidby, mind – not Josh Kirby, who did the original British Discworld covers, and whose art Kage thought was, ahem, rather vulgar. Too many buttocks.
When we were teenagers, Tolkien calendars were madly popular. Although it wasn’t Kage’s favourite fantasy, she often picked them because of the exemplary artists who illustrated them: Pauline Baynes, the Brothers Hildebrandt, Professor Tolkien himself – and, Kage’s utter favourite, Tim Kirk. She loved his water colour of Orcs in the rain, The Road to Minas Tirith, so much that it hung on our wall for years.
She only kept the one page from that calendar. But a couple of others she not only kept, but re-used: they hung on the wall every year, ceremoniously turned to January. Every 7 years or so, the dates worked out again. There was the 1993 Narnia calendar, with illustrations by Pauline Baynes; the 2000 Vermeer calendar, following her obsession with his work while researching the story “Standing In His Light”. Her favourite of all time was the 1969 Yellow Submarine calendar, with the Peter Max-inspired scenes from the movie. I still have it – held together with varieties of tape now extinct in the wild, stained with paint, diverse colas, wines both cheap and rare …
Kage was very fond of the year 1969. Her other Beatles memorabilia are in excellent shape, as she cherished them. But that calendar got The Velveteen Rabbit treatment, and has been loved almost to bits. It’s safely in storage now. It’ll be in synch again in 2025.
This being January, it’s time to get your calendar, of course. If you haven’t already. I’m notorious for forgetting, probably because Kage and Kimberly have always been so precise about it. But the last several years, I’ve indulged in desk calendars of knitting patterns. I’m no artist, but I’m a textile freak. Every couple of days there’s a new pattern, and I can keep them for reference afterwards, in tidy little boxes. It’s handy, and sensible, and useful. The date hardly matters to me, but I’ve got 2,000-odd patterns stored away now for some amazing projects – a treasury of potential creativity for one of the few arts at which I have ever excelled.
Marking the days with fantasy and adventure was Kage’s thing. So except when I am living in her world – I’ll mark my days with socks.
We have five calendars hanging on our walls at the moment. Scenery from the Great Lakes, artwork, historical photos of old Montana, recipes (in the kitchen) and plants! However, beware any British ones. They often (in fact, usually) begin on a Monday rather than a Sunday. The first (and only) year I tried one of these, I kept getting dates all wrong, missing appointments and birthdays and other lapses of attention. It’s automatic to look to the middle of the calendar and expect it to be Wednesday, isn’t it? When it’s Thursday instead…? Some things my brain just can’t adjust to.
Yeah, the British ones are a trap and a snare. But it does make life interesting, finding yourself sliding around in Time like that: like a skateboard ride through a bowl of fettucine. Luckily for me, my sister Kimberly is super-attuned to calendars (she favours wonderful Mary Englebright ones, as well as Levenger day planners); otherwise my life would probably fall apart.
The Wretched Mess calendars were my favorites. They were created by an ad man named David Bascomb under the wonderful pen name of Milford Stanley Poltroon. They were subversive and riotously funny, done in an old-timey clip art style. Every day was some kind of weird holiday and each month had a theme. They were much, much better than the ones featuring kittens and puppies and “inspirational” quotes. If I made a calendar it would have pastel drawings of kittens and rainbows and ocean vistas with sayings like: “Everyone hates you” and “Your feet smell awful.”
I’d never heard of Wretched Mess calendars – and they look wonderful! Thanks for the giggle.
Calendars are a Thing for me as well – despite living alone in a one-bedroom apartment, some years I have as many as four! I have two this year, one of varying sorts of weather that I picked out partially because it was inexpensive as well as pretty, and a catalog of Kliban cat cartoons my father surprised me with. I hadn’t thought of Kliban in a long time and it stirred all sorts of memories.
I still love Kliban cats, and have mugs and totes of them. Some of the truest observations on the strange reality of cats.
Speaking of knitting patterns, I keep wanting to tell you about the following:
When I was in downtown Guadalajara, I was looking for some “papel picado” (apparently they have a different name for what I wanted, but that’s another story). I was told to look for it on the “Calle de Vendedores de Papel”. Apparently their system is to put all the stores that sell like items on the same street. On my search for said street, I encountered the “Street of Yarn Sellers”-yarn shops along both sides and a pedestrian walkway between them with benches to sit on and rest. The benches were filled with older women knitting industriously and chatting away. My first thought was:
I’ll have to tell Kathleen about this…