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What To Do With That 2020 Calendar

Paper calendars took a hit in 2020. Typically, the scribble of spontaneous social gatherings would be wedged between the surety of long-range plans. The printed layout would frame anticipated life, anchored seasonally by signature images-of-the-month.

Six months into 2020, calendars are underused and devalued, with canceled events not even meriting erasure or strike-through. It's a given the happenings are likely not happening.

Calendar distributed by Michiana Astronomical Society.

The second half of the year offers an opportunity to observe personal or global events with a new perspective on time. See the next chunk of 2020 as a whole, singular unit when the noontime sun descends from its summery peak to its bottoming out in late December.

To capture the passage of time, I propose you track the sometimes-fluid sometimes-stacatto rhythm of sunshine and clouds. A pinhole camera made with a 16-ounce can, a piece of black and white photographic paper, and duct tape will yield a solargraph unique to your location--six months in a single image. Here are some initial solargraph results from the first half of 2020.

Image: A solargraph depicts how the tumultuous first months of 2020 looked in a continuous exposure.

Solargraph from 2019 December solstice to 2020 June solstice; image by Chuck Bueter.

Come December you will open the pinhole camera and look back on the results. Along the trajectory are the waypoints of 2020, big and small, delineated by the sun "burning" (not literally) its path onto the paper. Intervening clouds will interrupt the uniform lines tracing the seasonal arc of the sun like a Morse code signal.

Pinning specific life events to a solargraph's timeline can be a fuzzy exercise, unlike the clarity offered by discrete, daily calendar boxes. In hindsight you may link blocks of weather with personal events. For example, a long wet spell or a drought-inducing stretch of sunshine will stick out as a solid dark or bright band, respectively, which you might associate with a memory.

Coming back to that unused calendar, consider recording the sunshine pattern on a daily basis, even drawing it in that day's box. By keeping track of the sun's Morse code message, at year's end you can stack the sequence you've illustrated to predict the outcome of your long-duration image.

It's a rewarding feeling to open a solargraph can after a six-month wait to reveal nature's spectacle inside. Then you get to let your mind drift...where on that timeline did what happen? If you really want to correlate the solar arc to world events, you've fortunately filled the 2020 calendar with some guiding illustrations and text. At least, that's the theory. Now to see how it works in practice.

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