Robin in redbud

Every year for the past decade, I’ve given friends and family a photo calendar with thirteen of my favorite images from the previous year: twelve months plus a cover.


Every December, choosing pictures for my calendar gives me an excuse to revisit my photo archives: a way to literally re-view the previous year.


They say that when you die, your entire life flashes before your eyes.

Spring leaves

Since I’ve never died, I don’t know whether that is true, but I can say this: it’s interesting to revisit your life once a year.


Every December when I finally take time to scroll through my photo archives, I worry I won’t find thirteen photos worthy of sharing, and every December, those worries are unfounded.

Baltimore oriole

Throughout the year, I don’t try to take calendar-worthy photos: most of the photos I take are snapped at offhand moments when I see something that interests my eye.

As above, so below

I guess you could say I’m a collector of images: when I see something interesting, I capture the moment by snapping a photo.

Carter Pond erratic

I see this year-round scavenging of images as akin to my almost-daily journal-keeping: if I want to know what I was doing this time last year or the year before, I can check my blog, journal, or photo archives.


This morning I watched a slideshow of images from each of the past ten years’ calendars: a decade’s worth of images.

Cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens)

For each of these pictures, I remembered the circumstances surrounding the shot: I remembered which photos were shot while walking the dog, which were shot in the backyard, which were shot in a parking lot on my way to teach, and which were shot on my way to or from the grocery store.


Where anyone else sees a collection of pretty pictures, I see ten years’ worth of otherwise mundane moments.


Anyone else sees what it is the photo, but I remember what was happening outside the frame.


The photos illustrating today’s post come from this year’s photo calendar. You can see past calendar sets here. Enjoy!

Christmas tree and Custom House clock-tower

Apparently I love this photo of the Quincy Market Christmas tree so much, I included it as the December image for both my 2015 and 2016 calendar. Every December, I pick 13 images from the previous year–12 months plus a cover–for a wall calendar I give to friends and family for Christmas, and this year I was so short of festive December images, I inadvertently recycled this one, which I shot on Black Friday, 2014.

Lit trees

As the days of December wane, I’ve been scrambling to cross things off my to-do list. December is the busiest time of the semester: I spent the first two weeks of the month commenting on essay drafts so my students could revise and submit their final portfolios, and now I’m in a mad dash to finish grading those portfolios before Christmas. Forget about my two front teeth: all I want for Christmas this year is to be done with grading so the real relaxation and recovery of winter break can begin.

Quincy Market Christmas tree

But before that, there have been other obligations: vet visits, routine car maintenance, and the holy trinity of Christmas shopping, Christmas wrapping, and Christmas cards. Family and friends know our so-called Christmas cards usually arrive around New Year’s, and those aforementioned wall calendars typically arrive sometime in January. As the days of December wane, my personal philosophy leans heavily toward “Better late than never.”

Snow on oak trees

Last night I (finally) ordered the 2015 photo calendars I give to friends and family for Christmas. Although I typically don’t get around to mailing out calendars until after Christmas, I enjoy putting them together each year, as it gives me an excuse to review the photos I’ve taken over the previous twelve months.


This year, I chose my calendar photos by scrolling through my Flickr photostream while watching TV, bookmarking my favorite photos and then going back and choosing the thirteen I liked best: one photo for each month, plus a cover. Some years I go with a theme–in 2013, for instance, all my calendar photos came from a single visit to Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens–but most years I try to include a variety of seasonal images: snow in winter, changing leaves in fall, and plenty of flowers in spring and summer.

Sunny idyll

The past few years, I’ve struggled to find eye-popping snow shots for December, January, and February: this year, we’ve barely had any snow in December, and when we did get snow this past January and February, I didn’t take many calendar-worthy photos, just the requisite cellphone shots of our buried backyard. But I did ultimately choose a shot of snowy oak trees for January, a snow-frosted blue spruce for February, and the Quincy Market Christmas tree for December: a three-month nod to winter that makes you feel like you’ve earned the riot of spring color I chose for the cover:

Multicolored tulips

Click here to see the full set of photos from my 2015 calendar, or click any of the following links to see calendar sets from previous years: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Enjoy!

Opening tip

On New Year’s Eve, J and I went to an afternoon Celtics game, where I took my final photo of 2013: an image of the opening tip I shot on my phone. I intentionally didn’t bring a camera to the game since I knew I had to take only one more shot to meet last year’s 365-day photo challenge, and a cellphone shot would suffice. So with this one shot, my 2013 challenge was done, and I took no photos on New Year’s Day: the first day in a year I didn’t snap a picture of something.

Two squirrels, one mourning dove - Jan 5 / Day 5

I’m grateful to have completed last year’s photo challenge, which I can revisit any time by scrolling through my “365 in 2013” photo-set. Now, though, I’m looking forward to being free of that particular challenge. Shooting a photo a day was easy in the spring and summer when the earth was green and new flowers emerged at every turn. In the barren days of November and December, however, finding something new to shoot became more of a challenge: there’s only so many times, I learned, you can take closeup photos of sleeping cats.

Standing - Feb 15 / Day 46

Since I took so many photos during 2013, however, I had little problem coming up with 13 images for the photo calendars I make each year for family and friends: 12 photos for 12 months, plus a cover image. Selecting images for this year’s calendar was one of the first things I did after I submitted final grades last week, and it was fun (as always) to review twelve months’ worth of photos in advance of the new year.

Snowdrops in snow - March 27 / Day 86

Now that I’ve crossed those two photo commitments off my to-do list, now my only remaining creative challenge (for the time being, at least) is January’s Mindful Writing Challenge, in which I’m committing to write a “small stone” every day during the month of January. I’ll be posting January’s stones on Twitter, tagging them #smallstone. I participated in the Mindful Writing Challenge last year, and I’m looking forward to a month-long challenge that focuses on wordsmithing than photo-snapping: a chance to flex a different set of creative muscles.

Three of the four photos illustrating today’s post appear in my 2014 calendar; click here to see the complete photo-set, or click any of the following links for previous years’ sets: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Enjoy, and happy New Year!

Close-up:  bathroom window frost-feathers

Every year, I go through the previous year’s photos to compile a calendar to give my family and close friends for Christmas. It’s a fun way to revisit a year’s worth of photos, and it makes for a personalized gift that shares a bit of my life with far-flung friends and relatives.

Sunning meerkats

Because the main audience for my annual calendar is my family in Ohio, I typically limit myself to scenes in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, using my calendar as a way to share images from my two New England homes with my family in the Midwest. This year, however, I included two pictures from this year’s travels. July’s image is from a walk in the park J and I took while visiting my family in Columbus this past summer, and August’s image of two sunning meerkats (above) is from our wedding at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Both are photos I particularly like, and both have sentimental value, so qualify as exceptions to my usual “only in New England” rule. One fun part of making your own calendar is the freedom to pick whatever memories you’d like to re-visit over the course of the coming year.

Click here to see the complete set of 2011 calendar images: twelve months plus a cover. For previous years’ images, click here and here and here and here. Enjoy!

Snow-link fence

No, it didn’t snow in Newton over Thanksgiving: to the contrary, it was clear and cold. I revisited the above photo, which I took this past January, while reviewing my 2008 photos in order to choose the twelve I’ll include in next year’s photo calendar.


This is the third year I’ve made a photo calendar for family and selected friends at Christmas time. It’s an easy way for me to give a little something to family members with whom I don’t normally exchange Christmas gifts, and it also gives me a way to share a month-by-month glimpse of my life here in New England to family members who have never been here. I also enjoy the process of going back and reviewing the photos I’ve taken over the preceding twelve months and choosing the most “calendar-worthy” among them. The whole calendar-creation process is basically a good excuse to revisit photos I’ve blogged but haven’t otherwise looked at in months.

Waban wonderland

In revisiting this past year’s photos, I realize that my criteria for “blog-worthy” differs from my criteria for “calendar-worthy.” In 2008, I blogged (or at least posted to Flickr) a lot of photos I wouldn’t include in my calendar. First, I eliminate from consideration any photos shot in portrait rather than landscape orientation, and then I mentally cross off the list any photos that are just too odd or quirky. I have a lot of sports photos, for instance, that I know only my dad would appreciate, and as much as I like the various photos I’ve taken of the graffiti-covered walls of Cambridge’s Modica Way, I know my mom just wouldn’t “get” why I’d include graffiti in my annual calendar.

Solomon's seal

My mom, in other words, is the main audience I have in mind when I choose my calendar pictures, so I automatically discard any photos I think she wouldn’t like. Graffiti is out, as are images that are just plain weird. No pictures of shadows, reflections, or mannequins: they’re too “odd” and “arty.” Even picturesque New England scenes that wouldn’t make sense in Ohio are out. Among the photos from my first calendar, for instance, was an image of two sugar maple trees tapped to collect springtime sap. Because my mom in Ohio had never seen sugar maples tapped with tubes leading to plastic barrels to collect sap for syrup, she had no idea what the picture depicted and imagined the blue barrel and tubing were marking off some sort of construction zone. “Why would you show a picture of that?” she asked.


Because I give these calendars to family and friends, in other words, I get feedback as to which images were good and which were so-so. In my 2008 calendar, for instance, the crowd favorites featured animals: my dad particularly enjoyed my April turkey and March draft horses, and everyone oohed and ahhed over August’s frog. This year, all I have to offer in the animal department are a couple of butterflies…but there are plenty of flowers to please (I hope!) my mom.

The prime criteria for calendar-worthy photos seems to be “pretty,” so I had to do a little bit of cheating to find a full twelve months’ worth of photos. Because I created the calendar now in November, the December image comes from last year, and because I had two October images I particularly liked, I used one for November. I’m content to chalk both of these tweaks up to “artistic license” and move on. While I wait for my 2009 calendars to arrive in the mail, I’ll continue to snap photos that are odd, artsy, and occasionally pretty, trusting that next November, I’ll have another twelve to share.

Click here to see the twelve photos I chose for my 2009 photo calendar, and click here if you’re interested in buying a copy of your own. Enjoy!


It’s not easy being a Christmas tree. The day after Christmas, I saw the first of several cast-off evergreens set out as trash as I walked Reggie around the block; this morning, I saw one tree tossed on a local lawn, as if taking one’s erstwhile Tannenbaum to the trash was too tiring a trip. At the Trader Joe’s in West Newton this afternoon, they set out a bin of free Christmas greenery, the leftover wreaths, boughs, and evergreen garland that didn’t sell. As is true in the aftermath of Keene’s annual Pumpkin Festival, Christmas evergreens quickly go from cherished to trashed. I’m glad the lifespan of a Festive Holiday Tree is longer than that of a Christmas tree, with the one here in Waban staying illuminated well into February last year. As soon as you look beyond Christmas, you can find all sorts of festive winter reasons to keep your evergreens around, illuminated, and out of the trash.

Maybe I’m in no hurry to see folks cast off their Christmas greenery because I arrived so late to the season. Typically, I don’t have time for Christmas prep until my fall semester is nearly or entirely done…which means I finished the last of my Christmas shopping yesterday. Luckily, my family is used to gifts from “Last Minute Lori” arriving late…and since I’ll be going to Ohio to see my family in a couple weekends, I bought some time (without fooling anyone) by saying I’d “hand deliver” several items.

Cast off

My own procrastinative tendencies notwithstanding, though, I’ve always preferred to keep Christmas decorations up longer than most, mostly because it always was a tradition in my family to keep our Christmas tree until my birthday, January 6, the traditional date of the Epiphany. In the old days, Christmas didn’t last one day; it lasted twelve, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” being the time it took for the Three Kings to arrive in Bethlehem to visit the newborn Jesus. Even today, holiday travel is a bitch, so it’s no wonder that men arriving on camels and relying on a star for navigation would have taken longer than the average lifespan of a Christmas tree to reach their destination.

I mention all of this by way of raising two logistical points. First, one of the items I’ll be hand-delivering to relatives in Ohio in a couple weeks is my 2008 calendar, which you can view here and buy here. Second, I’ve been remiss in announcing the upcoming Festival of the Trees which I’ll be hosting here on January 1st. You can send your tree-related links to me at zenmama (at) gmail (dot) com with “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line, or you can use this automated submission form. The official deadline for submissions is Sunday, December 30, but we all know “Last Minute Lori” isn’t fooling anyone with her fine talk of deadlines. I’ll be posting the Festival at some point on New Year’s Day, so please submit your links soon!