Wednesday, January 16, 2019



If you find good things without looking for them, serendipity — unexpected good luck — has brought them to you.
Serendipity does not come from Latin or Greek, but rather was created by a British nobleman in the mid 1700s from an ancient Persian fairy tale. The meaning of the word, good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally, refers to the fairy tale characters who were always making discoveries through chance. You can thank serendipity if you find a pencil at an empty desk just as you walk into an exam and realize that you forgot yours.

I don't believe in fate. Nor do I believe in divine intervention. God doesn't care who wins the Superbowl, who beats their cancer and who doesn't, or even who can or can't "handle" the various miseries life throws their way.  
But I do believe in serendipity. I have a long, affectionate relationship with the word. In fifth grade, my "reading group" had maxed out the 1970s basal readers and anthologies provided by my school district, so our teacher found a new one. It was called "Serendipity," and when I asked what it meant, it was the first time in my life and adult couldn't answer that question. We looked it up together, and agreed that it was a wonderful word. Obviously, learning a word that GROWN-UPS DIDN'T EVEN KNOW made me feel like a genius, which might say more than I want it to about my school smugness at that age. But I freakin' OWNED that word. When my best friend and I found a secret hideaway near a drainage creek in the new housing development that had popped up between our neighborhoods, we, fresh from reading Bridge to Terabithia, decided it needed a name, and that was, of course, Serendipity. 
A few weeks ago, during winter break, my family was driving to the beach for the day. We'd heard it was prime whale watching season, and the weather was decent, so why not? As I drove, I imagined us stopping for lunch when we arrived at the Dory Cove and ordering clam chowder. Mmmm. But then, some 10 miles before then, I suddenly thought I'd like to stop at the Otis Café, which is not even quite to the coast yet. "Let's just see how crowded it is," I told the family when suggesting it.
File:Otis Cafe.jpg
Photo by Visitor7 from WikiMedia Commons
The parking lot wasn't as full as it can be, so we stopped. But when we went in, every place was full, and most people were clearly either just starting or still waiting for their order. It was going to be awhile, and there was no place indoors to wait. I was dithering, my husband was making his "Just decide already" face, and our daughter was going "What? What?" because she couldn't hear what we were saying. In the midst of all that, I saw someone seated at the counter smiling at me.
It was the husband of a woman I used to work with. We were good friends some ten years ago. She helped me with my hiking club, and when my husband and I spent a year abroad, we rented her and some friends our house for the price of just our mortgage. She met her husband that year, and we made a cake for their wedding reception potluck. But then she'd changed districts and moved across town, and then we adopted our kids and they had their kids, and it'd been years since we'd seen each other. They don't even live in Oregon any more, but were in Portland visiting his family over the holidays, then slipped away for an anniversary trip to the coast. 
We hugged and exclaimed and laughed and hugged some more, standing in the middle of the crowded café. We made sure we had current contact information and made tentative plans to get together again on purpose. We slid into their empty seats as they headed out on their way and had a terrific lunch, and I was left smiling with the joy of reconnecting with two of the most genuinely joyful and kind people I've ever known.  

Had I stuck with my original lunch plan. Had they eaten a little bit faster. Had my husband not seen an article about whale watching. Had they not been visiting family. So many little factors went into our chance meeting. 
Yesterday my sister sent me a picture of a red breasted sapsucker eating suet in her backyard. We've seen flickers and downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers all our lives, but this spectacular red head was really something. Today I was just turning a corner in my car when I saw the same species working over a tree in the traffic meridian. I gasped. 


Photo by Gillphoto on WikiMedia Commons

And now I have two discussion questions for you!
1) What are some words that you love?
2) What are some moments of serendipity you've enjoyed?


  1. Is it serendipity that I just finished cramming my About Me statement into the tiny space provided for my blog's very-poorly-performing Facebook page when I discovered your post?

    In case you don't have my About Me statement memorized: "I read. That's what I love to do. But I am also crazy about my guitar, drawing, writing, puppets, traveling, baking, gardens, and walking....and let's not forget serendipity and paradox....

  2. This made me smile. What a wonderful story! It's amazing how these little choices we make can lead to such special things.


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