PANAMA CITY — Friday the 13th loomed in my thoughts this week for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I needed to have a column written for that day’s edition of PanamaCity.com.
I’m not superstitious, and the number 13 doesn’t frighten me — neither do deadlines — but both have given me cause to reflect this week (not that I need much motivation there; it’s sort of second nature by now).
So luck in all its forms was on my brain Monday when I took a turn down into St. Andrews. The morning fog had lifted, and the glowing gray-white sky had turned a gentle pastel blue. Men stood with fishing poles on the marina as the sun warmed the earth and the sea.
A haze remained over the bay, but fluffy cumulous clouds were building to the northeast, far beyond the tops of oak trees with their dangling moss beards and sleeves of resurrection ferns. I stopped in at Chez Amavida for a coffee and to see what Crystal had drawn on the brown paper roll behind the counter: Alice’s Mad Hatter was offering a Sumatra blend rather than tea.
All the best people are mad, or so Alice told the hatter. Good to know I’m in the best of company.
A beautiful day, I thought as I heard Bob Dylan singing, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” and my mind tried to connect that song, about a man leaving a woman, to the concept of luck. Don’t question it, I thought. Don’t think twice. It’s a beautiful day, and you’re only passing through; it needn’t be more meaningful than that.
There are times when the obstacles life throws at us recall, for me, a song from the old “Hee Haw” TV show I remember watching many a Saturday evening at my Grandma Simmons’ home: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all; gloom, despair and agony on me …”
The night before this, I carefully extracted the parts of an old foil Christmas tree from the original cardboard box; each metallic limb was inside a paper tube, and each fit into tiny angled holes along the wooden trunk of the tree. I constructed the thing atop my desk and hung ornaments on it that my children had made in preschool, along with a few Happy Meal toys they had picked up along the years.
I pointed a light with a rotating colored disc at the tree and listened to the soft scraping of the disc’s edge against the inside of the light cover, wondering when it would finally refuse to turn. It’s an old thing, this tree and its light. It belonged to Grandma Simmons and passed to me after her death. I felt lucky to get it, and feel lucky now that the light still runs.
Other things happened over the weekend to which I could point and proclaim my gloom, despair and agony. My luck runs true, but it tends more toward a slow progression; rather than two steps back for every one forward, I just take one small stumbling half-step back these days. Still, that would be enough to make most people curse their luck.
And then there are the moments of clarity, when the sun is bright and the sky is clear, when strangers smile and good music plays on the radio. There are moments of purity, as colored lights swirl and twinkle on a tiny metal tree, or breezes make hanging moss sway under oak limbs.
We must take the bad luck, if such a thing exists, with the good. We just have to choose which one deserves more of our attention — because, one way or another, this is a lucky day.