It’s no secret that at about 11:30 a.m., Jan. 18, I lost the reporting job I had held for 34 years on a big city newspaper. The city is still big, but the newspaper? Not so much, thus mine and others’ departures.
As I cleaned out my old office on Community Road, I found decades of wall calendars in a file cabinet drawer. Most people liked desktop blotter calendars that they could refer to at a glance. Mine seldom got past February, was usually two years old and was covered with phone numbers — usually with no names attached — blocky doodles of boats and cars and questions for myself such as, “Why don’t you tell this guy on the phone the building is on fire and you have to hang up?”
Now, calendars are on computer desktops.
Being a photographer, I always bought calendars with great photos by the National Geographic and from the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and others, and I liked seeing pictures from places we had been that I wished I had taken. The light was never as good for me, at least that’s my story.
I flipped through them again recently and remembered some great times often a long way from home.
The Sierra Club’s 1996 had places we had been, Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, Gunnison National Forest in Colorado, the Adirondacks in New York and Vermillion Cliffs, a perfectly named place we had seen from a distance driving from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim to its North Rim.
I bought lighthouse calendars three years in a row. The 1998 lighthouse calendar had the harbor light at Holland Michigan, which they call “Big Red,” and the 1999 version showed others we had visited, the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth, Pemaquid Point, Tybee and Presque Isle in Erie, Pa. But it also had a picture of Hatteras with the ocean just a few feet away. We climbed it after it had been moved safely away.
The 2000 calendar had the West Quoddy light in Lubec, Maine.
Through the years, there were other places we had been but there are some things you won’t find in photos. Why would you waste film on people with their eyes red from smoke shifting their chairs around dozens of campfires? Or that night I hard-headedly built the last campfire of a trip in the rain on the side of Mt. Rogers in Virginia where we sat and stared at it underneath umbrellas?
Or the time when our daughter Jessica, probably still in grammar school, had expertly scaled ladders to reach cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, or of us hiking to the observation towers on Mount Mitchell and Clingman’s Dome in the fog — again.
One calendar had photos of someone’s footprints at a place we had left our own, at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
We didn’t didn’t get any photos as we trudged seven miles up the road to Maroon Bells before it was opened to vehicles. A local had assured us at the closed gate it was about a mile, a mile and half tops. When we got to the lake exhausted and parched, we ignored the advisories and drank from an icy stream of snow melt. We slept soundly that night.
One calendar view of the Grand Tetons was about the same as we saw from our campground. I wish someone had taken a photo of whoever stole the kindling from that campsite while we were off cutting firewood from a national forest. The Israelis camped next door said kids had been in our campsite while we were away.
Most calendars have great pictures from Yellowstone where we visited for at least the third time in July, 1999, the year after the big fires. There were no calendar photos of stands of charred trees and the explosion of wildflowers on the burned-over land. At least it was pretty as we ate our 22nd anniversary meal that Vonette had cooked on a Coleman stove.
On a previous trip, we had seen our first bald eagle in flight over the Yellowstone River. Now we see them frequently sitting on poles on the Jekyll and St. Simons causeways.
No calendar caught an image of the guy who plowed into me as I stood looking at a map in the visitor center at Acadia National Park in Maine. When he said, “Oh. Excuse me,’’ I recognized voice of my brother-in-law Kyle Radford from Asheville, N.C.
Without even looking up, I said, “That’s OK,’’ and ambled off. Jessica and Vonette were in the parking lot talking to her sister, Donna, and my nephews, Kory, Ryan and Tyler. They were supposed to in Nova Scotia and what were odds of bumping into them at Acadia at just that moment among thousands of visitors? We had a great day with them swimming at their hotel and eating lobster that night at a restaurant on a dock with a view of pretty houses and boats across an inlet. A gourmet guide said it was the best lobster in Maine, and it convinced me I was right in my long held belief that lobster is not fit to eat.
The 2000 calendar with West Quoddy didn’t show Campobello Island, FDR’s family retreat, just across the border in Canada. At low tide, we hiked from the eastern tip of Campobello across the rocky ocean floor, climbed ladders to cross rock islands and slipped and slid along exposed seaweed to Canada’s Head Point Light Station. It was so foggy, we couldn’t see anything much but the lighthouse, but we heard the whales blowing, and, on the way back, we dug for sea glass among the beach pebbles.
The 2017 calendar, the last one that hung in my office a full year, had scenes from other places we had been, the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons, Bryce Canyon, the Hudson valley in New York and the Genesee Gorge along with places we have yet to see.
As for the 2018 calendar, it came down nearly 11 1/2 months early. I’ve got to find it to see what we’ve missed.
The calendar reminds us that, as Scarlett O’Hara said, tomorrow is another day. The pictures remind us we can spend tomorrow in a another place.
Terry Dickson has been a journalist in South Carolina and the Golden Isles for more than 40 years. He is a Glynn County resident. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.