This Great Society - Arts

 

Illustration: Linnea Elynn McNally

Sheena Devota: Seek, Find, Keep
Illustration: Linnea Elynn McNally

 
 

They’re out there. They exist.

I am a living witness. Some say all it takes is a certain amount of patience, open-mindedness, and perseverance. Others credit such discoveries as the result of a pure stroke of luck.

My story of fortune starts seven years ago…

It’s a sunny, blue-sky day in early 2004. That’s me, gliding around on a pair of beat-up rollerblades in a quiet Richmond neighbourhood, daydreaming about a boy. The sun’s warming my skin, the fresh Pacific breeze is whipping through my hair, and my cell phone is ringing. My cell phone is ringing! The boy! I screech to a halt at the edge of an elementary school field and stomp my way through the grass, my lumbering rollerblades-on-grass ballet a minor interruption to the peaceful panorama of brown-roofed white townhomes and tall blue apartment buildings beyond me. I take a deep breath and answer the phone.

In the midst of talking about his cat, I realize that this is the most spectacular moment of my life. My shy plucking away at grass becomes an energetic tearing. Then, I see it: a four-leafed clover, as unassuming and as real as its three-leafed companions! Still in disbelief ten minutes later, I take it home with me, pinching it between my fingers before pressing it into the pages of a book, careful to preserve each leaf and vein.

 

That was the first. Fields with clover patches became lands of opportunity awaiting exploration. I found two more before summer’s end, and gave both away: the boy on the phone received the first, and my brother got the second, which we proudly displayed on the refrigerator in its tiny, four-leafed glory. For the rest of the summer, friends and family continued to stop before that assortment of magnets and sticky notes, each visit a pilgrimage to marvel at my miraculous find.

-

Luck is a funny thing. Take the number four. Among the Irish and those who follow suit, finding a clover with four leaves instead of the usual three is considered a rare find and an emblem of good fortune. On the other hand, because of similar phonemes in Chinese, the number four reminds some people of death, and it is thus associated with bad fortune.

By autumn that year, I had begun to question how I might interpret my own stroke of luck. Were my discoveries a sign that my life would grow rich, like the reddening of the leaves on the trees? I secretly began to hope, expect even, that something spectacular was ready to happen. Well, I suppose it did, on the seventh of October…

In one of my university courses, we are investigating the production-to-consumer linkage in various agroecosystems, starting with the provincial dairy industry as a case study. Clad in rubber boots, my classmates and I board a school bus to a dairy farm just south of Vancouver.

There we stand, taking in the aroma of marshy grass and manure, doing our best to attend to a lecture on effective nitrogen management. Though I’m enduring Ladner’s unglamorous and wet climes, the lecture somehow retains my interest long enough for me to learn just how much more there is to the surrounding green fields than meets the eye.

Retains my interest, that is, until I start thinking about what I already know is lying just beyond the naked eye. We are, after all, wading about in patches of clover.

When our instructor lets us take a stretch break, my well-trained eyes quickly mine through the surrounding area, scanning for number four, and that’s when I see it:

The impossible.

A five-leafed clover.

Five leaves of near-perfect proportion.

I pinch the stem close to the grass, and hold it close to my face. I count and re-count in disbelief: one, two, three, four, and five. My quiet examination gains a few observers and soon I draw a small crowd. They join me in my shock and my delight. My fourth has five!

 
 

Keeping the unearned prize in my wallet, I spent the rest of that fall recounting the unbelievable tale with others. My clover quickly became the pride and joy of countless conversations, from detailed epic to brief anecdote. Even while crossing paths with my manager, between the kitchen and dining area of the pasta restaurant where I’d worked for four years, I found a moment to bring out the fragile, flattened find…

“That’s nothing,” Benny says, setting down his tray next to the minestrone. He reaches into his wallet, and out comes an authentic, laminated seven-leafed clover. My jaw drops. I listen intently as he narrates a drunken night with a friend, both spending hours discovering numerous multi-leafed miracles. I am amazed, and humbled. Perhaps my treasures weren’t so extraordinary after all.

 
 

After the night with Benny, my search for leafy wonders began to waver, though I found two more before my twentieth birthday—enough to make anyone else ecstatic. Life just seemed too unremarkable. Time passed, bringing predictable changes as it should during one’s transition into adulthood. Without any evidence of fortune in my own life, the excitement and significance of the so-called lucky finds faded. The boy had become someone else’s lucky charm, and with having to move away from home for the first time and then with taking on my first full-time job, I was left with little time for poking around in the grass. Before long, I was busy buying cars, attending weddings and a funeral, jumping out of planes, finishing my degree. Milestones of their own among the clover patches of my life, but no matter how monumental, each appeared as commonplace as any leaf or blade. Part of me, I can’t deny, began to feel somewhat shammed by my shamrocks . . .

-

Just a short while ago, on a Thursday afternoon, a girlfriend from university and I met up in White Rock to exchange stories of our summer adventures on opposite ends of the world – of me in the Philippines, and her in Europe and Africa. Sitting across from a row of restaurants along the beach, she tells me about Ramadan in Morocco. I tell her about watching the Big Dipper for the entire duration of my trans-Pacific flight—the same sparkling ocean I’m looking out at as we talk.

She’s telling me about camping in Greece as my eyes travel habitually across the soft, clipped grass, and I catch myself adrift, remembering an afternoon seven years ago on a wide green field, a shy conversation with a boy, and the clover I gave to him. I imagine its leaves, dried up and crumbling into dust.

But as my friend continues her tales, something occurs to me: luck never came from those shamrocks thriving in the fields. Instead, pressed between the chapters of my life, they had acted as bookmarks of far more irreplaceable treasures: unique exchanges and moments I’m only now starting to remember to cherish, like the one I’ve found myself in, sitting with my travelling friend in White Rock. Though the boy and his clover had disappeared, the memory of his kindness had continued over the years, and had kept my heart open to finding kindness in others. Maybe I’d learned something from Benny and his seven-leafed clover, after all: leaves wither away if not carefully kept. So do other things. And sometimes, when we don’t stop to see what’s already there, we might miss out on a glorious treasure.

Before my friend and I leave our knoll, I detect a familiar shape in the grass. Believe it or not, at that very moment, I was in the midst of finding my seventh four-leafed clover. I let out a bit of a joyful yelp and present the little green gift to my friend. Though she refuses, I assure her that it’s hers, to keep, and she lets me press the fragile treasure into April, where her planner had flipped open in the wind. How fitting, I think: the fourth month.

-

Luck is a funny thing, for the same thing can mean different things to different folks. Take the clover. A multi-leafed clover is the result of a genetic mutation, perhaps a misplaced or missing allele. It grows out of the ground and returns to the ground, often living an undiscovered life in grassy patches in farms and cities all over the world. For some it is a sign of good luck. For many, it is a myth.

But I assure you, they’re out there.

Keep your eyes open, and your heart hoping.

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