I'm obsessed with haiku. It's an unusual passion. Most people don't spend their free time counting syllables and arranging words into neat, little, three-line packages. Before the start of this year, I didn't either.

It's Alison's fault. Alison is a dear friend of mine who lives on the East Coast. For many years we had a standing Friday-night date with each other, the phone and a bottle of wine. In recent years, though, life has gotten in the way. Job promotions, marriages, new addresses and a baby all imposed on our bonding time.

But last fall we made a promise to one another. In an effort to reestablish our friendship, we decided to start a joint haiku blog. We started the blog on January 1 as a New Year's resolution. Our plan was to alternate turns posting one new haiku every day for the entire year. By doing so, we would gain a tiny glimpse into the daily life of the other, thus, rekindling our connection.

When we came up with the idea, neither one of us knew anything about haiku other than what we'd been taught in grade school, which was this: Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry. A haiku is three lines long and comprised of 17 syllables. The first line is 5 syllables long, the second line is 7 syllables and the third is 5. Traditionally, a haiku is supposed to be about nature. Because of this, every haiku should contain a word that references a season.

Our initial attraction to haiku had nothing to do with nature, poetry or Japanese culture. We were drawn to its brevity. If we were each going to have to post something every other day for an entire year, then we figured it better be short. We saw the strict syllable guideline as freeing. Because our goal was to rediscover one another, we threw out the nature rule and decided to write about whatever was on our minds.

The plan has worked fabulously. We've not yet missed a posting and with each day, I feel more in tune with Alison. Plus, something else has happened. For both of us, haiku has become more than a passing fancy. We've been researching haiku and sharing what we've learned. For example, one of the very first things we learned is that the plural form of haiku is "haiku." We are also both amazed by how much can be conveyed in so few words.

Despite the fact that Alison and I originally threw out the conventional nature theme, I often find myself writing about my life outside. For example:

totally random
wild turkey strutting down road-
the burbs aren't all bad

And then, of course, there are my haiku that have nothing to do with nature and everything to do with my contemporary life:

the pee stick says I'm
ripe with possibility-
I don't feel like it.


Kelly Westhoff is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer accustomed to writing wordy articles, so she was surprised to discover a flair for the itty-bitty haiku. Follow Kelly and Alison's year-long haiku pledge at www.HaikuByTwo.com.