The Beauty of Beginner’s Luck
I believe in beginner’s luck. When I played blackjack with two card sharks, my new husband and his father, I asked all manner of naïve questions about kings and cloverleaves. Two hours later my pockets were stuffed with all their coins and dollar bills. “Beginner’s Luck!” they shouted. They weren’t exactly sore losers but I wasn’t exactly an esteemed winner, being a beginner and all. One autumn I splurged on a bounty of small brown bags, each filled with bulbs—hyacinth, French tulips, jonquils. Haphazard, uneducated purchasing and planting filled me with glee. Come spring the rock garden could have looked goofy–where too tall flowers inadvertently tower in front of shorter varieties, where a chirper yellow is ghastly next to a chaste pink–but it didn’t. It was stunning. My startled neighbor, horticulturalist for our city, asked to photograph what he called daring color combinations, like a demure red next to a fiery orange. “Sure, take all the photos you want,” I said, marveling at the mystery of beginner’s luck. In my early months of mindfulness meditation, I had a precious moment of lucidity: I am nothing more than a series of motion. All these many years later, it still tops my personal list of insights.
Worth more to me than these three incidents added together is my witnessing of one. A pro baseball player, having been fired after two years of pitching for a major league team on the west coast, sat in my classroom. A big farm boy who had made it, then failed, then returned to cornfield country. Too big for the classroom chair, he often looked sad. He didn’t truly want to be in a college English class. When I invited students to write a haiku, he alone was unfamiliar with the three-line poem. I explained; he listened. The students went outside into the dusk for it was a night class. Fifteen minutes later they returned, each holding a small slip of paper. You guessed it. The stark raving amateur wrote the best haiku by far. In fact, it was cosmic. I didn’t memorize it precisely, but it went something like this: Into the dark night, how far did the fly ball go. I can picture him on the pitcher’s mound, his eyes following another homerun as it disappeared into a void.
What is beginner’s luck? I believe it is a deep knowing within us and like a tulip bulb moved by a squirrel in October, this knowing can shoot up a beautiful burst of color in the least expected place.
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