- an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
- good fortune; luck
Coined by Horace Walpole (1717-92), from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” (Dictionary.com)
Late last week, I received word from Jennifer Pastiloff that “Grace Notes” was accepted for publication at The Manifest-Station, the hugely popular online journal that published my holiday piece, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy.” I promised Jennifer that I’d find and send her an illustration, even though I knew already that nothing in my own photo collection matched the story. Leap, and then look. Not always, but that’s usually how I roll.
Mockingbirds figure prominently in the story, so that’s where I focused my quest. A couple of Google images looked promising, so I reached out to the website owners on which they were featured: May I use your picture, in exchange for attribution and a wider reach for your beautiful work? One blogger said yes, but when I realized she’d “borrowed” the copyrighted photo without authorization, I bowed out quickly.* But wait! I found something even shinier, and more befitting!
Pat Hemlepp calls himself a “photo hobbyist,” but his image gallery is as professional as can be. A total stranger, mind you, but what’s to lose by asking if I can use this gorgeous shot? Quite understandably, he said he needed time to Google search this crazy woman consider my request. “No pressure,” I said, “I’d want you to feel 100% sure it’s the right thing to do—that it aligns with your interests & honors your beautiful work.”
It was in that waiting period—where Hope and Awareness pool their resources, and then set out on a quest of their own – that I “just so happened” to land on my artistic friend Veronica Roth’s Facebook post. As synchronicity would have it, she’d “just so happened” to be painting one of her signature pieces (exquisite watercolor images, overlaid on ephemora). “My friend Diana suggested I paint a mockingbird next,” she wrote. “Working on it. Almost done.” And there it was: a sweet little songbird, pretty as could be…bird feathers and musical notes, harmonizing together on a church voluntary called “Improvisation.”
I got goosebumps–same reaction as when I landed on the Harlem Gospel Choir’s Facebook page a couple of months ago. Same as I always do, when I stumble upon the shivery magic that old Horace described as “accidental good fortune.”
It’s not like I was born under a lucky star. I most assuredly wasn’t. Why, then, do I always seem to fall into happy circumstances? It’s a mystery, even for this Nancy Drew wanna-be. Miracles can happen. Of that, I feel certain. But I’m not entirely comfortable with the concept of preordained circumstances; don’t know that I’d put all my faith in the Secret; and find challenging the belief that you can bring to fruition certain things in your life by sitting on a meditation cushion, chanting mantras as your fingers slide from bead to bead on a rosewood mala. I don’t dismiss these ideas outright, but I don’t buy them absolutely.
Could be that when you’re traveling the right road, you meet up with the right people. Researchers seem to think there’s a sure-fire formula for serendipity, beyond the simple rules of cause-effect. What I know for sure is that Serendipity is more likely to show up on our doorsteps when we open our hearts, minds and eyes to Possibility—when we’re willing to look beyond the messy inconvenience of scattered breadcrumbs and to venture down uncharted paths, to see where they might lead.
Not long after I saw Veronica’s watercolor image, Pat graciously granted me permission to use his lovely photograph for my story. That deadline had come and gone, so he allowed me to use “Mockingbird in the Sun” for this blog entry. I’m grateful. And I’m glad for the serendipitous chain of events that brought me to his website in the first place. I’ve bookmarked his page, for the sheer joy of discovering the latest additions to his galleries. Same with Veronica’s online studio, which I visit on a regular basis.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say how fortunate I feel, to have my story published on Manifest-Station. If you’ve got time to read “Grace Notes,” I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*In return for these artists’ generosity, I’d like to share with my fellow bloggers the rules for using someone else’s creative property. As with many of you, I’m more aware of the rules now than I was when I first started blogging, so I’m in the process of removing copyrighted graphics from old posts. As Maya Angelou once said, “When we know better, we do better.”