Santa Claus lay face down on the lawn, flattened, as if he had fallen from a great height. He was eversomuch reminiscent of Coyote who, foiled again by the Road Runner, has fallen an impossible distance to the canyon floor (splat!). Christmas is over and the winter doldrums have arrived. January looms, dark, cold and damp; a state not to be relieved until the coming of spring. Santa’s owner had pulled the plug and Santa’s posture reflected the end of the holiday season. I say it is over even though there are a few hardy souls who will keep their decorations going for a while, sometimes even into February. Such a show is usually ignored by the general population, much as they ignore the one who farts in a crowded elevator.

The period between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice passes quickly as people prepare for and celebrate various holidays. The fact that the days are growing colder and shorter gets lost in the bustle. There is nothing after New Year’s to divert our minds from winter’s unrelenting sameness, nothing to relieve the boredom. Well, that is not quite true. Opening the gas and electric bill does take one’s breath away. While this causes the reflex of closing off unused rooms and pushing the thermostat down a degree or two, the resultant chattering of teeth only makes us wish more keenly for the end of winter. No one sings winter’s praises after Christmas.

Winter tends to be a lonely time. People normally are not outside. Those that are crouch against the cold as they hurry on their way. Growing up in the Midwest, we often stayed out longer than prudent and finally were driven inside by hands that were so cold that they ached. In the pre-electronic age, we were satisfied with simpler amusements, ice skating when the ice was clear of snow, otherwise chase games like fox and geese, played on a large circle which we stamped out in the snow. The lake would boom at us as we played on it as the freezing ice shifted and occasionally a crack would appear near where we were playing. Water would flow from the crack, but freeze quickly, sealing the crack, much the same way a cut heals. But February would come and the ice would become treacherous, as a young boy discovered one gray February afternoon. He rests on a hill within sight of the place where he drowned.

Santa Claus still lies deflated on the lawn, the owner not bothering to retrieve it. I see it as I drive by. Perhaps it will rise up on Ground Hog’s day, mocking us as it measures out the six weeks of winter that yet remain.