A calendar is an artificial construct, I know that. But I still wanted it to work better than it currently is.
Time in days and years is set by the solar system, our planet’s rotations, both as it spins and as it makes its way around the sun. These should be non-negotiables, although humankind has tried through the ages to bargain.
Take lunar calendars. I just heard the other day that we’re expecting 13 full moons in 2020, so if you were basing your calendar on that, you’d be in 2021 more or less a full month ahead of the rest of us. The ancient Egyptians carefully apportioned all their months, but at some point realized “Inundation” (a season like we label “Spring”) was now taking place in the dry season. They kept their months, but at the end of their year they installed five leftover days, which turned into one really long holiday.
To make everything match what really happens between the Earth and the sun, you need to abide by their conditions, not ours, and so your year is 365.25 days long, your day is the equivalent of 24 hours, or whatever unit you choose to make that work. But none of that addresses when your “new year” begins — that’s still left to humans.
I still don’t, for instance, understand why the summer solstice, happening as it does as the warm months are barely underway here in Gunnison (and probably less so farther north like Scandinavia, where I think this concept may have originated), is referred to as “mid-Summer.” I suppose it’s because days immediately start shortening, but to me that seems a start or an end, not the middle. Which is why, I suppose, people don’t always agree on their calendars.
Jewish people begin their new year in September. I’m reasonably sure the Chinese — for whom this is a major, major holiday — celebrate in February or March. But Christians, and the large portion of the world that now follows this lead, mark January 1 as the start of each new year.
And because it’s a new year, even though it’s really just another day on the Earth’s trip around the sun, we place all these expectations on it and ourselves. Gyms probably make some large chunk of their annual income signing up hopeful, well-intentioned people every January.
Even I fall into this trap, even if it’s of my own devising. I don’t see much point in resolutions, but I do sometimes set out with a steely resolve to clean up my life at least a little.
Some of this comes not from on high, but from the Internal Revenue Service. It is written — maybe this is from on high — that I will get all my employees their W-2s, and I will do all my quarterly reporting, and set up a new year of payroll, all in January. Or else. So while I’m at it, I cull my work files, taking out one year’s worth of information to make room for this year’s.
I think about, but don’t always follow through, cleaning up some of our storage areas, and sorting any number of items that need to be sorted to try to keep us organized. And I think about doing this at home, where the notion is often given short shrift in favor of the work clean-up.
But I have every intention, which perhaps is just a synonym for resolution, of getting files organized and boxes unpacked. My new woodshop, which actually just happened to coincide with the new year, is part of this plan.
So far I have cut several shelves to fit in the library, and I’ve successfully built bases for two of the four sections. I believe I was also successful in putting together a base for my vanity, but I won’t know for sure until Dusty acknowledges the text I sent last Thursday, telling him the correct vanity cabinet had finally arrived, and he comes to install it. (My two weeks of woodshop do not make me feel prepared to take this project on myself.)
A tiny fraction of books have been somewhat organized, so Progress is Being Made, and perhaps I can feel virtuous about that.
But today I feel completely let down by the calendar.
This is a new year and it was supposed to be better. I really don’t know why I thought that, because it is just another day, a bigger turn of a page on your paper calendar than most, but still just a turn. One day it’s Dec. 31; the next it’s Jan. 1. Not really a big deal despite the fuss we make. It’s still dark and cold outside.
But it just felt to me last year like a lot of people I knew — too many people I knew — died, and for no reason at all, other than it’s the way I wanted it, I thought this year might be better.
And then yesterday while I was at lunch, one of our long-time customers, a woman I’ve known since she was a little girl, came in to ask Kara about getting caps. For a memorial. For her stepfather.
I have not verified this, other than what Kara told me, which came directly from Ginny, so I’m loath to offer you any more details, other than Ginny’s stepfather is the man who up until half a year ago we lived directly across the street from. He was our neighbor, and also my mechanic. And apparently he died sometime last weekend. As far as I know, this would have been completely unexpected.
Dave loved his machines, including his snowblower, which he would use on many of his neighbors’ sidewalks, including ours. He was the best diplomat on the street when it came to trying to talk college boys into behaving more neighborly, and he liked riding his bike with his dog Daisy running alongside. (She was Daisy because Dave’s first beloved dog was a basset named Duke.) If Dave was older than Lynn and me, it wasn’t by much.
I don’t know any particulars, not even about the memorial for which we need to have some hats printed. And I really want to hope Kara’s information is wrong, but since it came directly from family, I doubt it.
But really, the first thing I thought was, It’s a new year. Why has this happened?
I know a calendar is an artificial construct, and I know Death is no respecter of any constructs at all. People in Puerto Rico are probably wondering what they’ve done to piss off the universe. But I honestly, for one bright, shiny half-month, thought this year I might outrun the spectres of death that haunted so many people I knew last year.
I guess not. Damn calendar.