There’s a visual cliché that you’ve likely seen in film, where a calendar is pictured with its pages peeling off one by one. The calendar in motion is an effective way to show time flying, right before our eyes. During the past year, quarantined months notwithstanding, time has rushed past like those pages curling into the wind.

At the time of this writing, I’ve been alive for 640 months. Something inside me has risen up, a new longing to make those fleeting months accountable. What happens to small moments if not captured in a poem, a photo, or quick sketch? I know what happens. The moments fade and the calendar pages fly away.

Creating a visual calendar changes the way I think about time. Due to the stay-at-home orders in my state, I have more unstructured time to navigate than I can remember. The memorable moments surface daily, though, same as before. So with five minutes each evening, I pick up my stylus and think about the day behind me. What happened that was important, surprising, or interesting? Maybe it’s none of those, but an ordinary moment instead.

In each empty calendar square, something is remembered. A simple symbol, accompanied by a word or phrase, preserves a fleeting memory, giving it permanence on the page. A visual calendar clutches the everyday, one tiny square at a time.

In our community of readers and writers, time is noticed and named in a variety of ways, through journals and poems, photographs and videos, audio recordings, sketches, and social media posts. A visual calendar is yet another way to create a thought-filled curio cabinet, a place to stow away the moments and take them out again from time to time.

Note: Last December, Tanny’s sketchnoted thinking was featured on Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote Army blog. Take a look at this visual calendar, created in more typical times: Sketchnote Army Blog

Tanny McGregor has been teaching and learning for 31 years in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since 2007, she has been writing and presenting for teachers near and far. Tanny’s books include Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading (Heinemann, 2007), Comprehension Going Forward: Where We Are & What’s Next (Heinemann, 2011), Genre Connections: Lessons to Launch Literary & Nonfiction Texts (Heinemann, 2013), and her most recent publication, Ink & Ideas: Sketchnotes for Engagement, Comprehension, and Thinking (Heinemann, 2019). Find her on Twitter @TannyMcG.

I love this idea from Tanny McGregor — a sketchnoter and author of Ink & Ideas: Sketchnotes for Engagement, Comprehension, & Thinking —around capturing your experiences with a visual calendar:

Tanny writes:

‘Tis the season! For many people around the world, the upcoming weeks are filled with special celebrations, family gatherings, and time spent with friends…so many moments to savor. The busyness of these months can make time fly by, and before we know it we’re left with memories.

We want to hang on to those small moments, to decelerate and be present. We unplug, try to laugh and listen more, and treasure time before its gone. If you’re with me in feeling this way, you might want to pick up a pen. Consider creating a visual calendar.

Last July, I tried out a little sketchnoting experiment. I’m a teacher and have been for 31 years. I knew July promised family visits, a little vacation time, and some work days, too. I also knew the month would come and go in a flash. I wondered: If I create a quick visual representation of each and every day, would my memories be stronger? Would I be able to look back in the

months that follow and still recall the events and feel the moments all over again?

So I created a visual calendar. Five minutes at the end of each day. That’s it. From the magnificent (setting foot on the Appalachian Trail) to the mundane (holding office hours), I captured it all with simple icons and labels.

And now, in December, I’m realizing how this calendar has transformed the way I think about last summer. Wow, I spent a lot of time enjoying life! And wow, I did a lot of meaningful work! No kidding, I can remember each and every day when I look back at this sketchnoted calendar, each daily frame seeped in meaning.

As the winter months approach, with upcoming special times on the horizon, consider sketchnoting the small moments in your life and see how it changes the way you remember.

The paper and pen (or screen and stylus) help us treasure the past.

Thanks so much Tanny! — Mike Rohde