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These were the days of our lives, but what do we do with them now?

January 07, 1999

The pigs wearing tutus were easy, but the others are giving me fits.

That's part of a frustrating problem that confronts me at the start of every year: what to do with last year's calendars. They're too nice to throw away, or even recycle.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Most of them were gifts from thoughtful people who chose gorgeous photographs of things I love, such as wildflowers, songbirds or landscapes.

There are some exceptions, like the pig calendar with cutesy, spanking clean piglets in tutus, evening gowns or fur stoles, lolling around eating chocolates. But I can't throw away 12 scenic landscapes of the American West.

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They deserve to be framed, but that would cost a lot, and I'd have to find places on my wall to hang them. My walls are already full, and I have at least four calendars a year that deserve to be kept. That's as many as 48 new pictures every year.

To make it worse, I feel guilty about all the trees that were cut down to make the paper they're printed on. It's usually high-quality paper, too, the glossy type that isn't easy to recycle. I cringe when I see the thousands of calendars on sale every December, and I cringe even more in February when I go see still more thousands of unsold calendars being offered at reduced rates.

I thought about asking my friends not to give me calendars, but I've already asked them not to give me almost everything else, so calendars are about the only thing left. And they are useful, so if I didn't get nice ones, I'd be forced to hang up the cheapies that are given away with advertisements on them.

Last year I thought I had a brilliant idea. I saved my 1997 calendars and put them away in the attic. Quite pleased with myself, I figured I'd use them like a perpetual calendar. I'd pull them out again in 2003, 2014, 2025, 2031, and, if I lived to be 99, one last time in 2042. I could even leave them to people in my will, and they could last for centuries.

But, alas, I ran into two problems. First of all, there are 12 different configurations, so I'd have to save 12 years' worth of calendars. It would take me 11 more years to be fully stocked, and figuring I use at least four a year, I'd have 44 of them stored in my attic. To someone who dislikes accumulating things, I'd be uncomfortable having them there, unused.

I'd also be in trouble on Easter, which is not on the same date every year, an annual frustration for me. I'm forever asking people, "When is Easter this year?" and nobody seems to know, so they go running for their calendars.

I wish the Pope or someone in authority would just pick a date a stick to it, instead of telling me it's the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Whoever dreamed that up ought to be forced to live in a house with nothing but calendars on the walls.

Next I called the St. Jude's Ranch in Nevada, which recycles Christmas cards, and asked if they would do the same with calendars, but they said no. So I guess I'm stuck.

There was one saving grace this year. Some friends gave me a "Tree-Free Calendar" printed on paper made from nonwood fibers, such as bamboo, kenaf and hemp. In addition to using no trees, the manufacturer (Ronnie Sellers Productions, 1-800-625-3386) donates a percentage of the proceeds to the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The only trouble is, the calendar has 12 gorgeous paintings of trees, which ought to be framed next January. Which leads me right back where I started. Maybe for the year 2000 Ronnie Sellers Productions could use photos of pigs wearing tutus.


Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write to him at P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring Md. 21722 or call 301-842-3863.
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