Many years ago, one of my colleagues went to Ireland and came back with a sticker, which he gave to me. It’s green, white and orange, like the Irish flag, and it says IRELAND across the bottom. I stuck it on the cover of my day planner. At the end of the year, I didn’t want to throw it away, so I peeled it off and stuck it onto the cover of the next year’s planner.

I’ve been doing this now for 12 years. A few weeks ago, I peeled it off the cover of my 2016 desk calendar and stuck it onto the planner for 2017. It still sticks, after all this time, though not as well as it once did.

This is just one of my end-of-the-year rituals, and not the only one that involves a calendar. Every year, late in December, I open the new calendar and mark significant events, and then I page through the calendar of the waning year to relive the past 12 months.

Work calendars are not as fun to page through as home calendars, of course. As I flip through my work planner, I mostly see entries like “2 p.m. meeting Minnetonka Room” and “2:30 Variety meeting” and “do NBCC roundup” and “9 a.m. dentist.”

But there are other notes, as well: “Kao Kalia Yang, Swede Hollow Cafe, 10:30 a.m.” Ah, that was a great interview, lasted for hours, chatting over steamed vanilla milk on a nippy February morning.

“Kate DiCamillo, Dunn Brothers, 3 p.m.”

“Emilie Buchwald, 3 p.m., Peace Coffee.”

Do I spend all of my time in coffee shops?

Ah, no, I don’t; here’s one: “The Loft, Helen Macdonald, 7 p.m.” And “Louise Erdrich, Birchbark Books, 4 p.m.” And “Call Ann Patchett 10 a.m.” I have a pretty good job, don’t I?

Here’s a mysterious entry: “8:30 a.m. JTF.” I wonder what that was. I wonder if I went. I wonder if it was in a coffee shop.

The old calendar is smudged and marked. The pages are wrinkled from spills, and June has a big coffee stain across the squares for the 27th and 28th. (I need a bigger desk, or a less sloshy coffee mug.)

It’s almost ready to discard.

But the 2017 calendar — that is a pristine record of white boxes. Empty white boxes, each one representing a day yet to be lived in my life, a day of my busy and interesting job.

All those blank squares. What will they hold?

(P.S. I just figured out JTF. It’s the drain tile people, who came to make an adjustment to the sump pump in the basement of my house. Not fun. Not in a coffee shop. Not even work-related.)


Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: