Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post John Kelly’s front yard? No, Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md., last spring. Tulips are starting to push up all over, a reminder to enter John’s annual Springtime in Washington haiku contest.

Taking in the trash cans the other day, I noticed the first green shoots of a tulip peeking from the cold earth in front of my house. It was the advance guard of dozens of tulips I hope to see in the coming weeks: the spring vanguard.

My Lovely Wife ordered the tulips last fall. The mesh bags of bulbs had been sitting in our kitchen for a week, giving off their earthy odor. I felt they were taunting the onions in our pantry, for what is a tulip but an onion with a fancy outfit?

As the days got shorter and a freeze warning seemed more likely, it was time to plant. The front of our lawn slopes down to the street. A few years ago, we replaced the grass there with “plantings” — juniper, ajuga, phlox — so I wouldn’t have to risk death and dismemberment from mowing the steep landscape. And now we had tulips to add to the mix.

Dig, dig, dig.

Plant, plant, plant.

And, finally, wait, wait, wait.

We’ve been waiting for the tulips, and they’ve been waiting for the timeless signs — longer days, warmer temperatures — that tell them it’s time to emerge and put on a show. They’re chorus girls adjusting garters and feathered headdresses.

Spring shows itself in different ways around Washington. Tulips pop up, and so do hundreds of signs in the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District downtown. Each sign has a haiku on it, selected from entries in the BID’s Golden Haiku contest.

This year’s contest — the sixth annual — attracted nearly 2,000 entries from 50 countries.

The winning entry was from Paul Chambers of Newport, Wales:

night bus …

a handprint fills

with moonlight

Placing second was Malintha Perera of Colombo, Sri Lanka:

spring rain

a tire swing

full of tadpoles

And the third place winner was Jonathan Lewis of Washington, D.C.:

reaching the top

of the metro escalator —

a warm breeze

You’ll have noticed the Golden Triangle’s contest doesn’t require the 5-7-5 syllable rule many of us learned in school. Haiku snobs say adhering to that is like putting a straitjacket on a butterfly.

Well, the three-line poems in my annual Springtime in Washington Haiku Contest must follow the 5-7-5 construction. And they should have a Washington theme. You may interpret that however you like.

Send your entries — with “D.C. Haiku” in the subject line — to me at john.kelly@washpost.com. I’ll print my favorites and pick a winner. The deadline is March 29.

And while we’re talking about haiku, if you’re a kid, why not enter the KidsPost Squirrel Haiku Contest? It’s open to kids ages 5 to 14 who live in the United States. While my haiku entries have to be about spring, KidsPost’s entries have to be about squirrels. (In case you’re wondering, the KidsPost judges will accept the word “squirrel” as one syllable or two.)

For information on how to enter, visit washingtonpost.com/kidspost. The deadline is April 1.

Picturing squirrels

And while we’re talking about squirrels and contests, don’t forget that with Squirrel Week rapidly approaching, now’s the time to enter my annual Squirrel Week photography contest. Train your camera lens on a squirrel near you and submit your best work.

For complete rules and instructions on how to enter, visit wapo.st/squirrelcontestrules, but in a nutshell, each image should be no larger than 5MB and sent as a jpeg attachment to squirrelphotos@washpost.com. Please provide whatever caption information you like, as well as your name, email address and phone number.

Don’t submit images that have been heavily manipulated with software. Anyone may enter, but only legal U.S. residents over 18 are eligible to win a prize.

That prize is a $100 gift card and publication in my column. The deadline is April 8.


Finally, one last haiku:

These area schools

will be reuniting soon.

Were you a student?

James Madison High (Vienna, Va.) Class of 1969 — Aug. 17. Contact jmhs69reunion@gmail.com.

Oxon Hill High Class of 1964 — Oct. 19. Visit OHHS64.com.

Springbrook High Class of 1969 — Oct. 12. Contact Pam Middleton at


Western High (D.C.) Class of 1969 — May 24-27. Contact westernhigh69@comcast.net or dcquander@gmail.com.

Wheaton Senior High Class of 1964 — July 12-14. Contact Rick Greenfield at 240-535-8771 or rick_kathy@live.com.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.