Putting Away the Santas

Here’s s a New Year’s resolution: 45 will not take away our kindness.

Putting Away the Santas

I’ve found one for her every summer,
some in Christmas stores that keep things
in a desperate sparkle all year long, some
in antique shops, some at garage sales.
I set them along the windowsills here
in the house we bought and thought
would be the first in a line leading to
the perfect home. Now we can’t leave
the creek that bends its way through
the woods out back. The morning light
slides through the jagged space
between these handmade bedraggles
in divinity. Their beards flow or scraggle
down across their chests, unfurling
from their rust-red cheeks. Some raise
their arms in unabashed glee. Others
are weary, their eyes soft, their hands
barely holding on to a bear or wreath.
A few are tiny, a few are tall. One is
straight as the back of a Swedish chair,
a couple are full of gnarled Appalachian
cuts and curves. One plays the accordion;
one holds back seven dogs. Some look
as if their sacks are full of sorrow.
Our daughter made one from a
toilet paper roll. I put them out the day
after Thanksgiving, welcome each one
back, ask how their sleep among
the ornaments had gone, even thank
them for lasting one more year. Now
I wrap them one by one in a paper towel,
lay each back in its box. Come mid-July
I’ll start the search again, hoping I can
find another jolly lugger of unaccustomed joy.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Controlled Burn.

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press) co-recipient of the 2013 IndieFab/ForeWord Reviews Award for the Best Collection of Poetry published by a small or university press

People are still asking, so we will tell you, you can find the conversation between Jack and Pastor Sal Sapienza, Poetry and the Spirit, over here.

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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

8 thoughts on “Putting Away the Santas

  1. Thanks, Jack. Yesterday my daughter helped me store our Christmas decorations until next year. There’s something solemn and backward-looking about the process, even as I want to be optimistic about the start of a new year.


  2. Delightful! Mine are music boxes from our son, Scott, dating back to about 1975, when he had saved his allowance, and “bought ‘it’ for Mom” at a school rummage sale for kids, “because she loves music boxes.”

    Every year since a new (to us, anyway) music box appears. It has been fun to bring them out yearly, look at the date written on the bottom , wind them up and listen, thinking of Scott as I find new places to put the lovely gifts and precious memories.

    Happy New Year, Jack, teacher professor, and mentor to Scott Watson, Hope College 198?, (Confetti At 50).

    Jane Sent from my iPhone


    • First of all, oh do I love and respect that Scott guy. He’s remarkable.

      I love imagining from your gracious story each music box. There is something incredibly
      magical, a whole world in them. What a strange “invention” that brings so much delight!
      Happy New Year to you, too, Jane!

  3. Jack,

    I am a friend of Mary McKSchmidt and Ruth Zwald. I am not surprised that two of my most favorite friends have YOU in common! I absolutely love reading their poems and posts. Mary knew I would enjoy yours as well so she sent me all your links. I have thoroughly been enjoying them. Snippets stay with me. Back in the Fall it was “the trees are going skeletal.” I’m tellin’ ya Jack, my soul just ate that up.

    Today, it was “straight as the back of a Swedish chair.” Being a Swede, this reference brought a chuckle. And then “their hands barely holding on to a bear or wreath.” *Barely holding. *Two words and suddenly my life became exponentially richer. I have a elf that can barely hold onto his walking stick!

    I am so blessed. And delighted.

    Though I may not reply following one of your future posts, if you tune in, you will hear my heart dancing. I will be reading each and every one!

    Thank you for sharing yourself in such a touching manner.

    Karen DeSmet (Spring Lake)

    • Karen,
      What a joy your message is. It dances right off the screen. Your taking the time
      to affirm particulars and how they touched you lifts my heart, is the kind of
      thing that sustains just when I thin that “I ain’t got nothin’ left!”

      And it’s hilarious connecting culturally with such a pragmatic image, that chair back!
      I love that.

      Don’t feel any obligation to comment. My knowing you are out there is the joy’
      Thank you so much. And your being friends with Mary and Ruth says so much
      about the richness of your soul.

  4. “…these handmade bedraggles / in divinity.” I’m going to be whispering this to myself as people arrive tonight for our annual Epiphany celebration! Thank you again, Jack, for the gift of vision.

    • OOhhhhh you should feel the joy I am feeling from your lovely and loving response, Gayle.
      Thanks soooo much for telling me!
      Epiphany hugs!

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