I am walking down the street, in a hurry going back to work, rushing to make the light. Foiled, I wait on the edge of rushing traffic, exhaust fumes, honking. I am irritated because they are getting where they’re going faster than I. Glancing around nervously, watching the cars, the opposite lights—yellow, yellow, yellow, c’mon. Impatiently I look at the ground for what? Wings? A jet-pack? Answers?
Ah, answers. Be careful what you ask. The answer that finds you may not be the one you want but the one you need. I gazed downward not at wings but at clover and I was instantly transported not across the street but to my childhood.
How much time had I spent as a child looking for four leaf clovers? The coveted, treasured, lucky leaves so abundant and yet so elusive. I had spent hours sitting in the clover searching until I tired of the quest. The true Zen of clover time though, is that when you tire you can roll over on the cool clover and let your imagination search the clouds, which offer a nice study in contrasts.
How long has it been since I looked for these green jewels, so similar to all the others but so unique that I devoted whole afternoons to them? Were my afternoons wasted? I had so many then, an endless supply, or at least through summer.
My afternoons are taken now with the bustle of commerce and the concerns of business—except for one. I am fortunate enough to have someone in my life who has lots of afternoons and shares one a week with me. She is four and doesn’t know that I am not. It’s our special time. She gets to taste all that I have to give and I get to see the world through a child’s eyes.
I didn’t even know that I had forgotten how to play until she showed me the magic that existed in my backyard. I suppose it was there all along but my forty-seven-year-old eyes had forgotten where to look or how to see it.
I enter the domain of my garden with an agenda. There are weeds to be pulled, bushes to be pruned, plants to be mulched. I am in total ecstasy but with a purpose. After all, I have a limited number of free afternoons and so much to accomplish.
On Sunday afternoons the garden is transformed into a wondrous place by my four-year-old guide. There are colonies of bugs living in the bug houses I know as Mountain Laurel seed pods. There are sometimes small snakes hidden under the woodpile that’s usually left uninterrupted by my pruning activities. The yard is full of grass whistles if I didn’t mow this week. I have a spaghetti plant (basil) and a pickle plant (dill). There are monsters behind the hedge and vampires under the deck. The aliens are currently parked behind the shed.
We pile into the hammock and soar through space. Funny, it was pretty earthbound when I was reading in it yesterday. We hide, invisible from the monster coming in the back gate. It may look like dad but it’s a scary monster growling, snarling and tickling—the worst kind. We giggle wildly. Was that me giggling wildly?
“What happens if we dig a really deep hole?” she asks. “What’s under there?” I suspend all knowledge of dirt, topsoil, the earth’s molten core. If I can leave my assumptions and open my mind to the possibility that things might not be as I see them, I may find something unexpected. I may find a new way of seeing, a way that may show me something I would have otherwise missed. Wait, were we discussing business or dirt?
We dig a hole. There are rocks, bugs, worms, roots, more dirt and…fairies. They fly out as we dig deeper. They soar to the sky, to the clouds, to the sun.
Our afternoon is over. My granddaughter leaves in her spaceship-car, driven by the tickling monster. I prepare for Monday. Playtime is over.
Or is it? I am here. The clover is here. I’m sure there is a four-leafer in there somewhere. But the light changes, the cars stop so I can cross to where the work waits for me. I must alter my agenda—put clover time on the list of things I will never get to because I’m too busy to do anything that isn’t absolutely crucial and I have a business to run and I must lead the team forward and accomplish all goals and complete all tasks and conquer the world—until Sunday afternoon.
If you don’t have a child somewhere in your life, let one in and follow their eyes through this place you thought you knew.
Originally published in The Good Life magazine