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The Way I See It: It’s Time to Take Down My 2005 Ansel Adams Calendar

pencil drawing of older white male
On the first day of the new year, I took down my 2005 Ansel Adams calendar and my 2011 Scotland calendar, along with two 2022 wall calendars. While some of you are wondering what’s going on, others recognize that I utilize a perpetual calendar — a master guide that matches the current year to previous ones.

If our 365-day year were evenly divisible by seven, we could use the same calendar every year. But since 365 divided by seven is 52.14, January begins on a different day of the week each year. With that factor alone, we have seven different calendars; when we add in leap years, it doubles the number of patterns to 14. What a boon for publishers!

I’ll get back to the perpetual calendar in a minute. First, let’s talk about Ansel Adams, the great 20th century artist who helped to make photography into a fine art and who is the reason I started keeping old wall calendars.

Adams worked primarily in the American West and Southwest and is best known for his black-and-white photos of California and Yosemite National Park. With fellow photographer Fred Archer, Adams developed a technical process called the zone system. This system requires carefully coordinating film exposure, negative development, and printing.

The results — very fine focus and an exceptional tonal range of shadow and light — provide extraordinary depth of field; if you look intently at one of his scenics, it’s easy to forget it’s only two dimensional.

Gazing at “Monument Valley, Arizona, 1958,” I imagine I can touch that rock in the foreground, lean on it, and watch the shadows crawl across the valley. I’ve been there, and every day for a month, Adams takes me back.

I’ve never been to Hernandez, New Mexico, but every time I stare into Adams’ photo of the moon rising over that village in 1941, I am awed, and it’s hard to stop looking. When “New Church, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, 1928” is on my wall, I imagine walking through the arch and ambling among the sunlit adobe walls.

I have seven of his wall calendars, from seven different years.

My daughter Amber and I have been exchanging calendars since she was in college. I have been consistent, although I hope not boringly so: She went to college in New York City and still lives in New York state, so I always give her a Vermont calendar. She has given me calendars from locations as diverse as the city (there’s only one, of course) and Walden Pond. She has also given me all of my Adams calendars.

To me, good wall calendars are rotating art exhibits. I don’t need them to keep track of the date and I don’t write on them.

Before the 2005 Adams calendar, I had saved a couple of calendars, but that was the year I got serious about it. Today, I have calendars with Barre painter Fred Swan’s relaxing Vermont scenes and Calais photojournalist Craig Line’s engaging photos from his international travels. I have calendars from the Sierra Club, National Geographic, various national parks, and Vermont. I get one or two new ones each year, and I thin the collection periodically.

So how does it work to use calendars from previous years? The best are those with minimal information on them. You can never use old calendars to check the first day of spring or the time of the summer solstice. Phases of the moon? Forget it. Many but not all holidays are the same each year; however, as I said, I’m looking at the art, not writing down appointments or following the seasons.

Perpetual calendars can be set up in various ways, but they all do the same thing: tell which of the 14 calendars each year matches. Looking backwards, 2023 matches 1950, 1961, 1967, 1978, 1989, 1995, 2006, and 2017. Going forward, it will match 2034, 2045, and 2051.

It’s easy to find perpetual calendars online, but I use a reference book that lists every year from 1775 to 2076. Next to each year, it gives the calendar number; the following two pages show the 14 calendars. To match years, I just go down the list to find the same number. Online, you usually get a list by giving a year and asking for matching years, which works just fine.

One of the great things about wall calendars is that you can find one to match anyone’s interests — such as travel, nature, art, books, movies, sports, celebrities, or pets. A couple of years ago, Amber stopped giving me commercial calendars and switched to making family calendars. It’s amazing that with nothing but an iPhone — and my grandsons as subjects — she gives Ansel Adams a run for his money!