Magic and Four-Leaf Clovers
I have a good track record in finding four-leaf clovers
On any given day, if I am determined to find a four-leaf clover, or rather three, because I also want one for both of my children, I have always been able to find three, or six or ten.
I don’t go hunting them every day. That would break the magic. Once a month is usually enough. I reserve four-leaf clover days for when I am feeling exceptionally worried about something and need some assurance of luck to carry me through. And I don’t spend the entire day looking.
Last week I decided it was four-leaf clover day. The kids were mountain biking down a somewhat technical trail that takes about an hour to complete. I was following on foot because my youngest still needs some coaching on difficult sections of trail. As I ran, I would glance at patches of clovers, but we were often moving too fast for me to really look. Half way down we stopped for a break for two minutes and I examined the patch of clover next to me. Sure enough, there were two four-leaf clovers there. I was sad because there were only two. We carried on and did not make any additional stops before the end of the trail. As I stepped out onto the roadway, I looked down. There at my feet was a patch containing five four-leaf clovers. It is always that way it seems.
My kids marvel at this. “Mom, how come you are so good at finding four leaf clovers?” they ask on a regular basis. Apparently there is one four-leaf clover for every 10,000 three-leaf clovers. Who studies this anyway? I would like to go into four-leaf clover research. I have also found several five-leaf clovers (which are 1 in 100,000) and one six-leaf clover. Maybe everyone can find four-leaf clovers. Maybe they are everywhere.
Does the universe have my back?
However common they are or aren’t, they do feel like messages for me. Whenever I decide I am particularly in need, they just somehow magically appear reassuring me, just a little bit, that the universe might have my back.
I spent the day yesterday talking to a group of amazing male youth mentors as part of an evaluation project I am working on. Their project focused on teaching young boys different ways to appreciate and interact with nature. One of the themes that frequently came up on the focus group discussion was the importance of magic in the natural world. We spend so much time teaching science in schools in a clinical reductionist manner that we don’t teach kids to back up and see the whole and feel the wonder and the magic of it.
These men believed that story-telling about experiences in nature allows boys to access the magic in a way that facts can’t. In the focus group, we were encouraged to tell a story about our work with youth that relayed our personal experience, not just facts. Permission to share stories and having those stories heard and honoured was one of the best ways to spend an afternoon that I have experienced in a long time. If I had been told that is what we would be doing in advance, part of me would have probably rejected it as self-indulgent bafflegak. Yet it was a truly powerful and moving experience with most of the participants choking up at one time or another. The simple words, “just share your stories”, was enough to reduce me to tears.
Why We All Need Four-Leaf Clovers
As an environmental consultant, I spend much of my work life writing pieces where the facts are sacrosanct. Getting it “right” is essential and my credibility is related to the number of facts I can bring to bear. This is stressful because in a world where we are awash in information and most issues are very complex, the facts can be challenging to identify. This is why I have always loved the retreat into the relief of fiction, where stories, experience and magic are permitted. To spend the day with a group of men who not only allowed, but argued passionately for, magic and stories as an entry point for learning was a revelation for me.
I realized that so much of my connection with nature lies in stories about my own experiences, moments where I could feel the magic, the cool damp of a forest after a rainstorm, the glass of a lake at dawn, the shocking rage of a waterfall. I also realized that I cannot allow my writing to lose its magical edge... that you need to embrace the magic to write the magic.
Just like a magical piece of music, or the magic of nature, there is magic in a wonderfully wrought story, poem or novel. It is always that magic that I am aspiring to when I write, and four-leaf clovers help me believe that it might be within my reach.
My dictionary is full of pressed four-leaf clovers. I will still look for them when I need them, but I will no longer pick them. It is time to let other people start finding them. After all, we all need a little magic.
Postscript: Okay, perhaps I will pick a few more. I keep them pressed in my book of birthdays, and there are a couple of people in my family who still need a four-leafer on their page.
Top Photo Credit: Wyoming_Jackrabbit via Compfight http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/