Chance En­coun­ters

What’s the re­la­tion­ship be­tween for­tune and a four-leaf clover?

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Contents - BY TEVA HAR­RI­SON FROM THE WAL­RUS

What’s the link be­tween for­tune and a four-leaf clover? TEVA HAR­RI­SON FROM THE WAL­RUS

WHEN I WAS IN GRADE 3, we had a scav­enger hunt at school. We gath­ered up chalk, pen­cils, stones and poorly hid­den tchotchkes, rapidly fill­ing our check­lists. It was a very close race. I was out of breath when I reached the clover patch in search of the last, most hard-to-find item: a four-leaf clover.

I was pretty sure I was go­ing to win. I had a trump card. The thing is, I have al­ways been able to find four-leaf clovers, for as long as I can re­mem­ber. I just see them.

I spent my child­hood col­lect­ing and press­ing four-leaf clovers into books at my mother’s house. I started with big, cloth- and leather­bound books: Joyce’s Ulysses, the com­plete works of Shake­speare, my great-grand­mother’s copy of Les Misérables. I usu­ally hid only one or two clovers in each book—I wanted them to be a happy sur­prise, not an ex­pec­ta­tion. When I ran out of ro­man­ti­cally bound vol­umes, I be­gan to slip my trea­sures into any­thing I could find: well-thumbed spec­u­la­tive fic­tion pa­per­backs, cook­books. The same is true in my house to­day. Shake a book and a pa­pery trea­sure just might fall into your hand.

A few years ago, while trav­el­ling in Nova Sco­tia, my hus­band and I pulled off the road for a pic­nic. I looked down and the ground was thick with clover. With every glance, I saw an­other. Some shoots had four, five or even six leaves. I lined them up on the pic­nic ta­ble to ad­mire as my hus­band, hav­ing never yet found one four-leaf clover, looked on with awe. To me, it felt so sim­ple. The dif­fer­ences in their shape popped out, break­ing the pretty pat­tern of the con­ven­tional clovers, with their three per­fect leaves.

Last sum­mer, while wait­ing for an air­port shut­tle in Mu­nich, I found a tiny four-leaf clover in a traf­fic cir­cle and tucked it into my pass­port. On the way home, my hus­band and I were up­graded to busi­ness class. Friends at­trib­uted our good luck to the clover. I think we make our own luck. I love find­ing the clovers but I think it’s more likely that we were up­graded be­cause we suf­fered a flight can­cel­la­tion that left us stranded in two cities on as many con­ti­nents on sub­se­quent nights, and a kind cus­tomer ser­vice rep took pity on us.

There is wide­spread dis­agree­ment about whether the luck lies in the find­ing or in the pos­ses­sion of a clover. Some peo­ple be­lieve that the luck is lost if the four-leaf clover is even shown to some­body else, while oth­ers be­lieve the luck dou­bles if it is given away. I be­lieve that pos­i­tiv­ity is com­pounded by shar­ing. I feel lucky to find the clovers with such reg­u­lar­ity, but I don’t re­ally think they in­flu­ence my luck or my life in a tan­gi­ble way any more than it does to share any­thing a

There is magic

in everyday acts. I think it’s

lucky sim­ply to know what it is to seek out and trea­sure


lit­tle special—that mo­men­tary close­ness be­tween you and a friend or a stranger as you both lean in to won­der at a rare find.

What is luck, any­way? Does it mean you can’t take credit for the things that hap­pen to you? Should I have kept all the clovers I found in­stead of giv­ing them away?

I be­lieve there is ca­sual magic in everyday acts. I think it’s lucky sim­ply to know what it is to seek out and love a ge­net­i­cally de­formed clover—to know how to trea­sure dif­fer­ence.

If you want to find four-leaf clovers, slip into a sum­mer state of mind and ca­su­ally drift

your hand across a patch.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT clovers that fills us with so much won­der? It’s not just that they’re rare. I find them all the time, but I’m still com­pelled to look for them. Every time I see a patch of clover, I’m pulled to­ward it, the tug of pos­si­bil­ity. I feel a com­pul­sion to search that can­not be sat­is­fied un­til I hold a four-leaf clover in my hands. It’s a sort of ma­nia.

And how rare are they, any­way? I had al­ways thought that, be­ing a sim­ple ge­netic anom­aly, four-leaf clovers would be fairly com­mon. Think about how many mu­ta­tions are found in na­ture. I have since learned that one in 10,000 clovers has four leaves. It could be the re­sult of a re­ces­sive gene, a so­matic mu­ta­tion or the in­flu­ence of the en­vi­ron­ment. It could be any com­bi­na­tion of these in­flu­ences, but isn’t this where sci­ence meets magic?

And even though I find them all the time, I’m not ac­tu­ally ex­cep­tional in this skill. The Guin­ness Book of World Records holder, Ed­ward Martin Sr. from Cooper Land­ing, Alaska, had found 111,060 four-leaf clovers when he took the record in 2007.

It’s the find­ing I love, any­way, not the col­lect­ing. I’m hap­pi­est to find “lucky” clovers and give them away. I of­fer them to moth­ers in parks, who show them to their wide-eyed kids. I gave one to the man at my cor­ner store, where it’s still hang­ing above the reg­is­ter. I hand them to friends, who slip them be­tween the busi­ness cards in their wal­lets for safe­keep­ing.

Peo­ple ask how I do it. The an­swer is that I love clover: the sweet smell, the com­mon vari­ant with its cute trio of leaves, so I spend more time look­ing at them than most peo­ple do. I ex­pect that’s the first rea­son why I find so many. I have de­vel­oped a habit of gen­tly drag­ging my fingers or toes across a patch, mo­men­tar­ily sep­a­rat­ing the in­di­vid­u­als, which then brings ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties to the fore.

I think fo­cus is a part of find­ing them—not a hard­en­ing but a soft­en­ing of fo­cus. I al­low my eyes to re­lax and the un­like shapes pop out.

The other rea­son is art­ful. Do you re­mem­ber those posters in the 1980s that were made up of thick dots? If you looked too hard, all you’d see was the pat­tern. But if you hung them on your wall and let your eyes re­lax, scenes would ap­pear: di­nosaurs, land­scapes, but­ter­flies, frac­tals—a trick of the eye. So long as you didn’t try too hard to see, the so­lu­tion would be clear, but the in­stant you fo­cused your eyes, the im­age would van­ish. It was in­fu­ri­at­ing to those who couldn’t see and tri­umphant for those who could.

It’s the same with four-leaf clovers. If you try too hard, you will only ever see the patch. In­stead, slip into a lazy, sum­mer state of mind. Ca­su­ally drift your hand across a thick patch, let­ting the clover re­veal them­selves one by one. Ap­pre­ci­ate those that have only three leaves. Ad­mire their sym­me­try. Com­mon things are beau­ti­ful, too. And out of pa­tient ap­pre­ci­a­tion, a four-leaf clover may show it­self to you, just like that.

THAT DAY IN GRADE 3, I dove into the clover patch, skim­ming the sur­face with my hands to sep­a­rate the tan­gled leaves, soft­en­ing my eyes to look for ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. It only took mo­ments for a four-leaf clover to fall into my fingers, just like that. I don’t re­mem­ber the prize, but I re­mem­ber lift­ing that clover up in tri­umph and joy. I re­mem­ber the looks of won­der it in­spired in my class­mates.

What­ever lit­tle toy I won that day, my real prize was the gate­way that the sim­ple act of look­ing for clovers opened for me into a life­time of joy de­rived from look­ing closely, the magic of na­ture com­ing up as it pleases.

130 P.

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