Calendar It

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.