When you’re filling out your OK Cupid profile, you are supposed to complete the sentence, “I am really good at _____.” It’s kind of a tough question, because you don’t want to BRAG or anything, but there is so little in life that a person can be objectively GOOD at. Ideally, you’d be able to cite something where data backs you up: “I am really good at being tall;” or “I am really good at getting fan letters to Michael Bolton published on his fan page.” Lucky for me, I have exactly one skill like this. I am really good at finding four-leaf clovers.
Four-leaf clovers are a mutation of the three-leafed white clover plant. They’re extremely rare: there are 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover. They’re so rare that plenty of people don’t believe four-leaf clovers actually exist. (I say this because the last time I found a four-leaf clover, I showed it to a woman who said, “Those aren’t real. They’re like leprechauns.”)
The first four-leaf clover of the season (yes, there’s a season) came yesterday. I saw it while I was on a run and smashed it into my sports bra to keep it fresh. Then I came home and put it in a little glass brown bottle we keep on the windowsill over our sink specifically for four-leaf clovers. (My roommate Hannah is also very good at finding four-leaf clovers, so this sort of vase is a necessity of preservation.)
In case you’ve been living in a cave for your entire life, I should mention that four-leaf clovers are supposed to be lucky. In the Irish tradition, each leaf on a clover plant represents some important, nebulous tenet: the first is for faith, the second is for hope, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck. So if you find a clover with only three leaves, ALL YOU GET is faith, hope, and love. Apparently that’s a shitty deal. What you REALLY want is that magical fourth leaf.
Here is why I am good at finding four-leaf clovers.
I was so hopelessly and completely uncool in elementary school that I dreaded recess with every fiber of my being. I started hating sunlight and human interaction at about the age of seven, right when all my peers were really into games like, “Let’s Pretend We’re Horses Running In The Sun.” I played that once and was SO BORED. The horses had NO CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! No back stories! They were MERELY HORSES! Like, I pretended my horse was secretly in another horse government, and was sending secret horse satellites into space to spy (I was really into Sputnik at the time); and all my peers said, “NEIGH” and galloped away from me. BORING.
I preferred reading to all this running around that the other girls did, so I usually brought a book out on the playground and sat near the teacher. But then one day the teacher told me I wasn’t supposed to be reading during recess, and that I wasn’t allowed to bring my book outside anymore. She probably thought I wasn’t socializing correctly, which was true, and a good call on her part.
The first day I wasn’t allowed to read, I just walked out to the edge of the soccer field and looked for bugs. I didn’t find any bugs, but I was looking so closely at the ground that I DID find a four-leaf clover. Needless to say, this was completely thrilling. I got that dizzy feeling you get when you get hired for a job or accepted into a graduate program: I could tell that my life was going to change. I put the clover in my pocket just as the bell was ringing for lunch. I wondered how long it would take for the luck to seep in. Maybe tomorrow the girls would want to stop pretending to be horses and discuss Sharon Creech’s “Walk Two Moons” with me during recess instead!
Because of the nature of superstitions (and how they’re fictional), nothing about my life changed at all. Except that I had fallen in love with the feeling I got when I found the four-leaf clover, and I wanted to find another one. That’s why I spent the duration of every recess in second, third, fourth, and fifth grade crouched at the edges of the soccer field, looking for four-leaf clovers.
I found tons of them. The more I looked, the more I knew what to look for: it’s the center of the clover that matters; that’s the trick. The leaves will try to fool you, layering and tangling with one another like the remnants bin of a fabric store. But if you can find the center of the clover, you can see immediately how many leaves the clover has. It’s about knowing what to look for.
These days, I naturally scan the ground wherever I go. I don’t think about looking for four-leaf clovers anymore, they just pop out at me. I am so good at finding them that boys who are falling in love with me tell me they think I am magical, and boys who are falling out of love with me tell me they think I am witchy.
As an adult, I am perhaps more aware than other adults how nice it is to love and be loved. I felt so completely alone as a kid; I really believed that I would never really have any friends, and I would die with many cats. (I probably WILL die with many cats, but it will be by choice, and there will also be humans around.) The four-leaf clovers gave me something to hold on to; there was this idea inside them that maybe all I needed was a little magic, and something would turn around.
I find so many four-leaf clovers now that I mostly just give them away. I have enough luck; it feels like a useful thing to pay forward. Four years ago, for example, I was visiting Portland and found a four-leaf clover while I was walking the dog. I passed my parents’ neighbor Joan, who was gardening, and passed the clover along without really thinking about it. About a month later, my mom sent me this letter she’d gotten in the mail from Joan:
“Sophia stopped to talk with me last month. She asked if I ‘needed’ a four-leaf clover she’d found, and I meant it … “yes.” (There is a lot going on with my family right now. It has been a hard time.) Later that day my daughter and her two kids and other were at my house for a BBQ. While there… Brent, my 12-year-old grandson, did something impulsive physically… and was embarrassed. I got the clover and asked if he needed it. He was calmed by this. He wanted to keep it in the tiny lavender vase it was in. Days later he said it was still intact! We talked about it. It was meaningful and helpful. I’m not sure how. But it was."
I think we are never as alone as we think we are. You can call that magic if you want. I do.