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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Four-Leaf Clovers (Reprise)

The following story was begun a couple of years ago.  I have added, a la Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story.”

For the first 50 years of my life, I had never found a four-leaf clover.  I admit, I didn’t search very diligently for them, as I believed they were nearly impossible to find. 
One afternoon a couple of years ago, my neighbor’s niece was keeping me company while I did some yard work and hung my laundry.  She was a precocious little girl, about seven years old, and a child who questioned everything.  As you may imagine, after about 45 minutes, her questions began to get a little tedious.  However, she seemed happy enough just to hang out in my yard.
            I had left her to keep herself company and had nearly forgotten she was there, when she cried out, “Mary!  I found a four-leaf clover!”
            Skeptic that I was, I called back, “Oh, I don’t think so.”
            But she persisted, then cried out, “Hey, I found two!”
            Now I was hooked.  I called back,  "Oh, let me see that.”
            Sure enough, there in the grass, were two four-leaf clovers.  We each picked one, then began to search for more.  All told, our quest rewarded us with seven four-leaf clovers.  We left the additional ones in the ground.  When my neighbor, her uncle, came outside to collect her at last, we told him her story and gave him a four-leaf clover, too.
            Since I am a casually spiritual person, I thought to myself as they left that it took the eyes of a small child to show me what had been right under my nose all the time.  And that is where I left the lesson for a time.
            However, as life would have it, the lesson really wasn’t over.  I began to find four-leaf clovers everywhere:  in my own yard, in the grass outside of my office, in the dog park where I walk shelter dogs.  I found big four-leaf clovers, tiny four-leaf clovers, striped four-leaf clovers.  I have even found a five-leaf clover and a six-leaf clover!
            I began giving the clovers as gifts, especially to cancer patients or those with special circumstances.  Not so much as a portent of good luck, but as a reminder that sometimes God’s greatest gifts are right in front of us, but we have forgotten where to look. 

 And now:  “the rest of the story”…..

When my little dog, Pepper, developed cancer, I found myself frantically looking for a four-leaf clover for her.  It was a mild winter and there was plenty of clover, but four-leaf clovers eluded me.  Toward the end of her illness, as we walked through the park, I said aloud: “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.  Maybe there is a time for four-leaf clovers, too.”  As often happens, a few moments later Pepper sat down in the grass: and practically sat on two four-leaf clovers!  Although I already knew her time was drawing to a close, I picked them for her.
 When the day came to take her to Penn Vet for what would be her last visit, I was just a mess of emotions.  As Pepper took her last stroll in the grass outside the hospital, there, too, we found a four-leaf clover.  Though I knew I would have to let her go that day, I still picked the clover and gave it to the emergency room staff.  And as I left, with only her leash and harness, I thought to myself that I would probably lay off looking for clovers for a while.
 Which is what I have been doing.  Recently, though, I volunteered at Philadelphia’s Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT), at a vaccination clinic for dogs and cats.  Imagine my surprise and delight, as I set out some folding chairs, to see a four-leaf clover right under my feet.
 So, maybe I don’t have the heart to find four-leaf clovers at the moment.  Maybe, as I learned that day at ACCT, four-leaf clovers will have to find me.  And that brings me back to the original lesson of the four-leaf clover for me, summed up in a poem by Goethe I learned in high school, years ago:

Willst du immer weiter schweifen?
Seih, das Gute liegt so na.
Lerne nur das Gluck ergreifen,
Denn das Gluck ist immer da.
Or, in English:
Must you wander farther and farther?
See, goodness lies so near.
Learn only to grasp happiness,
Because happiness is always here.


  1. I had no idea that Goethe wrote something so nice. I always imagined he was hellfire and brimstone. Our granddog moved home today, his mother (our daughter) to move back in tomorrow. I will be thinking of you when I want to yell at the two dogs to stop barking.... that I don't want the day there is no barking to ever come.

  2. Mary, the image of four-leaf clover finding you reminds me there are no coincidences and what we need often comes to us if we are open enough to see it.
    one day at a time, one clover at a time ...

  3. Mary, I am so glad to hear the peace you express as you go thru your healing process. The dogs (and cats)at PACCT are very lucky to be benefiting from your love.