Are you bummed it’s winter? Not too excited about the year ahead? Feeling blah? Sounds like a little seasonal pick-me-up is in order. Try reading A Child’s Calendar by John Updike.
This anthology of 12 short poems – one for each month – beautifully evokes seasonal changes as we move through the year. As per the Library of Congress catalog, the poems describe “the activities in a child’s life and the changes in weather as the year moves from January to December.”
At start of every month, I grab this book and read that month’s poem. It’s kind of a little ritual that gets me excited about seasonal nuances to come, even during my least favorite times of year (that’s you, February and early March).
Sometimes, I read all 12 poems at once. There’s something comforting about the turning of the seasons, as expressed tenderly by Updike. A familiar rhythm. Life goes on. We always have something to look forward to, be it big moments like Fourth of July fireworks or small ones that only register in our subconscious, like popsicles melting on hot August pavement.
We have the child’s perspective to thank, I guess, for such a joyous, intimate peek at the turning months. A calendar marked by sights, sounds, smells and feelings, rather than appointments to keep. While I enjoy reading this book with my kids, I think adults can really benefit from its rendering of nature, of time, and of life; a much-needed reminder to slow down and appreciate smaller moments.
I really wish I could transcribe the poems below for your immediate enjoyment (those pesky copyright laws!). Instead, I’ve pulled out a few of my favorite lines. I think these little snippets are evocative even on their own:
“The radiator/ Purrs all day.” (January)
“The timid earth/ Decides to thaw.” (March)
“The trees are bored/ With being green” (August)
“The beauty of/ The bone” (November)
Originally published in 1965, the most recent edition of A Child’s Calendar (1999) received a Caldecott Honor and includes lovely watercolor illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman. The edition from my local library also includes a CD-ROM with a reading of the book by Updike himself. (By the way, Updike was a major American literary figure, in case you’re not familiar with his work. I was only vaguely aware of him before reading this book).
So, patronize your own library (or find it on Amazon) to be inspired by this expressive and loving vision of the seasons.