On Palm Sunday, the adult choir at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church sang as an introit “Hosianna” by Moravian composer and bishop Christian Gregor (1723-1801). It’s a tradition here, which warms the heart of this former North Carolina Moravian.
These outdoor photographs were taken by Palmer’s own George Sayre, who insisted that the Senior Associate Rector and the Rector (i.e., me) show him our palms before walking into the church. It was a great day and an amazing beginning to Holy Week.
Last weekend my wife Carrie and I had the opportunity to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. That’s a spy/action/comedy film. So it naturally involves rescuing humanity from an evil plot. In the meantime, while we were gone, the boys and the babysitter built this awesome fort — around three sides of the couch — and saved the world.
It was so much fun to come home and see this. I thought about the blanket forts that I made during childhood and about the many different ways that my imagination came to life with Legos and in the creeks and woods behind our house. So let’s write haiku about those things from childhood, our own memories or the magic we see in the play of the children around us. You just need five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.
Blankets, pillows, chairs —
for a homemade fort.
The USS Texas (BB-35), which participated in both World War I and World War II, was launched in 1912 and today is the last dreadnought in the world. That means it’s the last surviving battleship that was patterned after HMS Dreadnought, which was launched in 1906. You can visit the USS Texas at San Jacinto State Park near Houston. So earlier this month, during spring break, my two boys and I made a pilgrimage there. It was great fun and brought back a lot of memories of my own daddy taking me as a boy to see the USS North Carolina (BB-55) in Wilmington.
This week my family and I experienced the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for the first time. Like the Minnesota State Fair, which we attended in recent years, there were lots of farm animals to see. As usual, that was a big hit with our boys.
It seems appropriate today to feature Texas Longhorn cattle with a photograph of this beauty. These cattle, amazingly, are the direct descendants of the first cattle brought to the New World from Spain. Their horns can grow to seven feet in width.
That’s impressive, as I’m sure this week’s haiku about farm animals will be. From the lowly barn cat to more exotic species, these critters, large and small, capture our hearts and our imaginations. So write something about that in a short poem with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine:
Adorned not only
with horns but also a ring,
this Longhorn is proud.
My family and I recently made a pilgrimage to the Cupcake Cowgirls on Galveston Island. In 2012, the owner of this franchise and her baking partner were crowned Cupcake Wars Champions on an episode of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. That’s a show our oldest son used to watch, so he was especially excited about our visit to this hallowed ground.
Naturally, we decided that there had to be a taste test. The three cupcakes selected for this test were the “Vanilla Birthday” cupcake with green icing, presumably in honor of St. Patrick’s Day; the “When Country Wasn’t Cool” cupcake with Coca-Cola in the chocolate batter and with chocolate icing; and the “S’mores” cupcake, which was chocolate with a bit of graham cracker and more than a bit of marshmallow topping in place of icing.
And the winner was . . . the “S’mores” cupcake! Three out of four of us agreed. The youngest one in our midst refused to taste that particular flavor. He had no idea what he was missing. But it did leave a few more bites for the rest of us to share. Yum!
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to stay at the Hay-Adams Hotel, “where nothing is overlooked but the White House,” for one night in Washington, D.C. It was pretty fancy and directly across the street from St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, which is nicknamed the “Church of the Presidents” because every sitting President since James Madison has worshiped there at least once. Pew 54 is reserved for the President’s use whenever in attendance.
But let’s move on to something that’s more important than historical facts, which is breakfast. That was pretty fancy, too, and included not only delicious food but also a real newspaper that I held in my hands. Although it seemed rather old fashioned in the internet age, my favorite part of the meal was feasting on those printed words.
So this week’s haiku theme is about morning rituals. How do you actually start your morning? How do you wish a new day could begin? Do all of those things change when you’re on vacation or a business trip? Pick something like that to write a verse about, using five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s what came to mind for me:
The Washington Post
made the morning and my prayers
more thoughtful. Amen.
Recently I was invited to meet some folks by walking through this unmarked door that leads to “a little hobbit hole of a bar, underneath the steps of Keck Hall” on the campus of Rice University. It’s the fabled but very real and mysterious entrance to the graduate student pub known as Valhalla. There you can not only enjoy a pint of beer but also, if you carelessly wear a tie into that establishment, have your tie cut off with scissors and displayed on the wall like an exotic hunting trophy.
So this day I salute Valhalla with part of an anonymous 10th-century Scandinavian poem, Eiríksmál, which is quoted in another work of poetry called Skáldskaparmál:
What dream is that? quoth Odin,
I thought to rise ere day-break
To make Valhall ready
For troops of slain;
I roused the champions,
Bade them rise swiftly
Benches to strew,
To wash beer-flagons;
The Valkyrs to pour wine,
As a Prince were coming.
Much to the regret of multitudes of people in certain regions of the country, it’s still wintertime. Even in Houston, the temperatures have been cold enough for my family, including Birdie-the-puppy, to enjoy a fire in the fireplace now and then.
That’s one of the simple pleasures of this time of the year. There are lots of others, too, such as a warm mug of hot chocolate, heated car seats, and wool socks. Those things that make us smile in the bleak midwinter will be our haiku theme this week. So write a verse about one of those things with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine:
First embers aglow
in the Rectory’s fireplace —
Birdie likes the warmth.
This scene near St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and School was repeated throughout Houston on “Go Texan Day” last Friday as covered wagons and trail riders streamed into the city for Saturday’s Rodeo Houston parade. Those rituals are a prelude to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which this year runs from March 3 through March 22 and includes much more than the name implies.