Time keepers. Time travelers. Time wasters. Time beaters.

Calendars represent a way of wishing, an escape route for thoughts, a chance to play another role, a mirror into mystery, a socially accepted container for private fantasies, no matter how strange or faraway.

For 365 days of 1985, some people -- not necessarily virgins who, according to legend, are the only ones able to capture unicorns -- will officially begin their day by thinking about unicorns. Others, who long for a different kind of thrill, will tingle at a calendar of roller coasters and carousels.

Other daily preoccupations:

* Animals -- domestic, wild and mythical

Michael Hague's illustrations of "Unicorns," designed by Marc Cheshire, appear on a wall calendar published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Another "Unicorn" calendar, a desk version, comes from Pomegranate Artbooks.

Dragons, a preoccupation of youthful dungeon dwellers, rear up in the Mayfair Group wall calendar, "Dragonriders of Pern," illustrated by Tom Hildebrand with quotations from the Pern novels of Anna McCaffrey.

Choose your pet from te Neues Publishing Company's menagerie: animals in watercolors, cat, dog and horse calendars. Purina Cat Chow Celebrity Cats shows 14 stars with their pets, including George Burns, Mike Farrell, Burgess Meredith and Lindsay Wagner. Animals undomesticated but real are captured on the Sierra Club's Wildlife Calendar.

* Men and women -- students, actors, dancers and singers

"Red Shoes," both a book and a calendar, represents a resurfacing of a favorite fetish. Ken Duncan has photographed well-known feet in red shoes, accompanied by the rest of the equipment dressed in white. Among them: Liv Ullman, Eartha Kitt, Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Men threaten to replace women as calendar subjects in this world turned upside down. Far more decorous than the tasteless "A Woman Looks at Men's Buns," by Christie Jenkins, are "Some Men of Lexington, Va.," 12 Washington and Lee University students in characteristic poses, and "Black Men of Washington Calendar," by James N. Better, J.B. Productions.

The continuing popularity of "M*A*S*H," in a perpetual state of rerun, is celebrated in a co-educational wall calendar by Suzy Kalter from Abrams, "The Complete Book of M*A*S*H." Christie Brinkley is a more conventional calendar subject in a Simon & Schuster wall calendar.

* Collected objects, big to little

Dolls are one of the two most collected objects in this country. This year, they're celebrated in an antique doll calendar by Jean Bach, and, guess who -- the Cabbage Patch Kids calendar, by, you might guess, the Original Appalachian Art Works folks, photographed by John E. Barrett, published by Harry N. Abrams. You can't cuddle it, but you could try and palm it off as a raincheck to some irate child who didn't get the doll.

"Quilts/85" by Phyllis Haders, a Main Street Press wall calendar, is an arresting collection of geometric art.

The Library of Congress' splendid engagement calendar is a compendium of some of the amazing things kept in order by Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin and his busy crew: photographs of bicycle messengers of 1887, John Philip Sousa, pews from Blue Ridge churches, the Chalfonte Hotel of Cape May, N.J., and Lost Horse, a Sioux warrior, among others.

* Causes, lost and found

Not as many of these as usual. But among the handsomer:

The National Committee, Arts with the Handicapped calendar has charming drawings by people who certainly are not handicapped artistically. Amnesty International's calendar is composed of drawings by Juan Carlos Rodriguez, made for his son Patricio from paints compounded of bits of food while he was a political prisoner in Argentina.


The Official Redskin Calendar is put out by Taylor Publishing Company. The Sports Fan Calendar is by Ed Samuel and Es Kenazi.

* Art -- painting and photography

The largest number of calendars come in the art category. A number are by women artists. Among them are the local favorites, the Original Print Calendar with 24 prints, divided into two assortments of 12 per calendar, by artists from the Washington Women's Art Center. Local Color 1985 Calendar offers 12 original silkscreen prints by six women printmakers of Local 1734 Art Collective. From California comes "Contemporary Women Artists" with a cover by Dale Appleman. Hallmark shows the links between art and education with its "Educators in Fine Arts" calendar including work by Christenberry, Voulkos and De Kooning.

"Monet," the exquisite art book by Abrams, appears now as a calendar. n Abrams companion calendar is devoted to Renoir. Christopher Forbes' photographs of the Abrams poster book of Forbes magazine's collection of Faberge' eggs, is hatched again in a scrumptious calendar.

* Places -- near and far

"The Capital" -- photographs by Lelia Gibson Hendren from the Capitol to pandas -- appears in both a wall and a desk calendar by Starwood. They have been designated the official inaugural calendars. The Washington Post's engagement calendar shows events and scenes in the news together with comments by Post photographers and writers.

Washington Post photographer James M. Thresher photographed Ireland for a calendar with notes by Kerry Dougherty, published by Cahill & Co.

The University of Virginia, considered by many to be the greatest architectural achievement in the United States, is pictured with notes by Nancy Nicholas Andrews, a U-Va. third year student. "America, America," a Main Street Press calendar, shows gloriously big photographs of historic architecture recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

"The Sea," as portrayed in paintings, jewelry and textiles, inspired the Smithsonian Engagement Calendar this year.

"The Columbia Calendar" includes a map of the Maryland town and important service phone numbers, by Ted Jones and Andy Kowl of Corridor Communications.

* For Hard to Classify Tastes

Foreign Policy magazine's calendar by the same name is diplomatic history as seen in drawings by Vint Lawrence with text by the staff.

Margaret Shepherd's Calligraphy Calendar shows 12 different ways to write thoughts, by Perigee Books, Putnam Publishing Group.

"Thrills" was photographed at coast-to-coast amusement parks by Eric Liebowitz and published by Twister Productions. The wall calendar includes the addresses of the American Coaster Enthusiasts and the National Carousel Association.

Come to think of it, a calendar devoted to that sinking feeling of going down the chute-the-chute may be the most appropriate to 1985.