The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is in full swing, and one of the events there is called Mutton Bustin’. An announcer gives the name of a kid between the ages of 5 and 6 and tells the audience what that kid wants to be when she or he grows up. We heard about cowboys and fire fighters and, interestingly, Secretary of the Treasury. Then a gate is opened, and that same kid tries to hold on tight to a sheep that bolts to the other end of the arena. It only lasts for a few seconds, but — wow — what a ride!
I would image that Mutton Bustin’ is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. There are all kinds of wild rides — race cars, roller coasters, a ship rolling with the waves, driving 30 miles per hour on an endlessly curvy road in the mountains, riding in a helicopter across the edge of the Grand Canyon as the ground below suddenly drops away from view, etc. Write a haiku about your experience with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line.
Saw bucking broncos
at the Houston Rodeo.
That’s not for me, y’all!
The astute reader who is also a fan of science fiction movies will recognize at least a few details in this picture that come from Star Wars. An Imperial Star Destroyer is in the upper left corner, and two Imperial TIE Fighters can clearly be seen below it.
My oldest son, eight years old, drew this recently. My favorite part is the quote: “Stop this party right now!” Although I’m not really sure about the origins, it might be a paraphrase of a quote from Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones. However, what I am sure about is the fact that a lot of people I know would like to shout those words throughout the galaxy because of the deterioration of our national political discourse in a presidential election year. As one comedian famously tweeted about a month ago, imagining that what we see on our screens is actually a television series:
So let’s write haiku about all of the political craziness that seems to be increasing daily. Craft one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. I turned to writers from across the pond:
Downton Abbey twist
could be: “Make America
Great Britain Again.”
It’s Go Texan Day in the City of Houston, which means that the Willard boys got to wear cowboy hats and boots to school today. And the youngest one sang this song over and over and over again in the car this morning on the way there:
Today’s edition of the Houston Chronicle includes an essay entitled “Going Texan: My life with boots.” It’s worth taking a few minutes to read in its entirety. As my wife Carrie said, “This sums up so much about what I love about Texas, and Houston, and the high holy day that is Go Texan Day.” Here’s the conclusion of that essay:
Over time . . . it’s dawned on me: Go Texan Day isn’t about being Texan. It’s about becoming Texan.
Here in Houston, most of us weren’t born here. And even the natives rarely grew up roping and riding. Most days of the year, we don’t look the way that Texans are supposed to look.
But once a year, just before Rodeo, we do. We dress up in what, for most of us, are costumes.
We turn ourselves into Texans. No matter where we started out — no matter which state, which country — we are here now. We swagger and play-act and refuse to be dull. Outsiders don’t realize how new most of us are to the role.
And that, you realize, is how Texans have always become Texans. We don’t just settle in this state; we enact it. Like I did.
The boots make us Texans. And Texans make Texas.
Let’s write haiku about Go Texan Day or whatever else it is that gives you roots in the place that is home to you now. All you need is a single verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
These two Willard boys
were born in Minnesota,
but now they’re Texans.
Today the world is mourning the death of famed author Harper Lee at the age of 89. She wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which was first published in 1960 and made into a film in 1962. This story of racial injustice, set during the Great Depression, is told through the eyes of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Scout’s father, Atticus, is a small town lawyer in rural Alabama who is appointed to defend a black man against an accusation of rape. While Atticus is unable to prevent an unjust guilty verdict, the truth shines through his words in the courtroom.
Not surprisingly, my image of Atticus comes from the film version. Gregory Peck won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Atticus. From the movie, I always remember the words of an African American pastor to Scout, which I quote in my haiku below, as Atticus walks beneath the balcony from which the pastor and Scout and numerous African Americans in the town have been watching the trial.
Maybe there’s a scene in your mind that highlights a hero from a book or a film — someone who has been an inspiration to you and to others. Those heroes are the theme for today’s haiku. Say a few words about them in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
Atticus lost . . . yet
the man says to Scout, “Stand up,
your father’s passing.”
Last month I officiated at a beautiful Saturday evening wedding at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. Friends and family of the bride and groom, of course, gathered there for a joyous occasion in their life together. As a priest, I had the privilege of witnessing that moment and, in the name of God, blessing it. This is a photograph from another wedding, one of a former staff member at Palmer, about a year ago, in which I was assisted by a pastor in the Church of Norway (Lutheran):
There are all kinds of weddings. Some of them even include a blessing and readings in Norwegian. Write a haiku about that or other details from these ceremonies that mark the beginning of a marriage. Your one verse, like this, only needs five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line:
The bride and groom say
their vows. Then, as they walk out,
I think, “Mind the steps.”
Today is our oldest son Rowan’s birthday! Eight is great, and Benny’s Spaceship from the Lego Movie includes awesome Lego pieces that I remember from childhood. As Benny-the-1980-Something-Space-Guy says, “Spaceship! Spaceship! SPACESHIP!!!”
Birthdays are this week’s haiku theme. So write a short poem about presents, cakes, candles, and celebrations large or small, wonderful or not-so-wonderful. Just put it all into a verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Here’s mine about the best birthday gift that I can remember as a child — not wrapped, because it was an experience with my Daddy:
Tenth birthday. First flight.
Piedmont Airlines took Daddy
and me to D.C.
The East Coast is preparing for a dangerous winter storm that has caused blizzard warnings to be issued from northern Virginia to southern Connecticut. It brings back memories for me of the “Storm of the Century” in mid-March of 1993 during my first year at Yale Divinity School. Of course, I dealt with plenty of snow during the seven years that my family lived in Minnesota before we moved to Texas. Below is a photograph of the walkway to the front door of our first house there in St. Louis Park. It was no small task to clear that path and the sidewalk and the driveway.
It seems only right, therefore, to invite you to write haiku about snow. That could range from contemplating a single, unique snowflake to making a snowman as a child or describing your preparations for a snowpocalypse in the Great Blizzard of ’16. Since my family and I now live in Houston, we’re completely dependent on your imagination to remind us of what snow is like. So write your one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Then share that bit of creativity here. Here’s mine:
In the North Star State,
I became a kid again
with the first snowfall.
I spent part of this afternoon with these two daughters of Benji, as I sometimes like to call them. They are loyal and loving friends named Birdie and Tippet.
Let’s write haiku this week about friends, whether canines or college roommates. Say something about them in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line, like this:
We love you always,
constantly wagging our tails.
Wait . . . we’re at the vet?!?!
I think this week’s haiku theme is self-explanatory. Write about your grievances in one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. It could be anything from the silly to the serious:
As it is written:
Potholes and humidity
are not a blessing.
It’s New Year’s Day, marking the arrival of 2016! Lots of folks whom I admire make New Year’s resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But, personally, given what I know about human nature, I’m not a big fan of them. However, I did like a tweet by Christian theologian Miroslav Volf, who teaches at Yale Divinity School:
In my own family, we made a decision to do wishes for the New Year. These were not wishes for ourselves but wishes for others in our household. Will that become our new tradition? We shall see. It was certainly fun to do and a great way to focus on the wellbeing and flourishing of those we love — an invitation to speak from the heart.
The New Year is a great theme for haiku. You could write about your resolutions, your wishes for those you love, your hopes for the world of tomorrow, your prayers for all sorts and conditions of humanity, etc. Whatever it is, put it into a verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Mine is a prayer about the suffering we’ve endured and also caused:
On this New Year’s Day,
forgive us, abide with us,
God of the suff’ring.
It’s Christmas Day! This is a magical time of the year, especially for children. That’s certainly true for the Willards. Here’s a photo of us at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve. Joy and wonder seemed to fill the air on that holy night.
Inside the church, of course, we are reminded that love came down at Christmas in the birth of Jesus. I witnessed that on Christmas Eve as men, women, and children came forward to receive communion and in the Rector’s study with my family as we enjoyed a picnic there between services. It’s truly a special evening filled with awe.
Today it seems appropriate to reflect on Christmas in haiku. All you need is one verse with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the third line. Mine refers to the late church service on Christmas Eve:
Christmas at Palmer —
Sing “O come, all ye faithful”
and watch incense rise.