Saturday, September 4, 2010

Good Luck; It's a Beginning

I love the hint of fall in the air on the first night when it’s finally cool enough that I want to snuggle under a blanket. It’s not just that I’m finally freed from being so hot I sidle into the kitchen at every opportunity to stick my head in the freezer. Really it’s not.
The lure of that hint of fall is that when I feel the season shift, it’s a tangible promise of a whole new year beginning. Summer’s over; there’s energy to plan changes, to figure out what’s going to get my focus. Will this year be . . . lucky?

Lucky? Am I thinking beginnings are tied to luck? Maybe. Maybe not.

In theater we never say “Good luck” before a show. It might call out some bad luck. So we say “Break a leg” instead. That’s just too gruesome for dancers, though, so they tell each other “Merde.” All right! So it’s scatological!  But it’s in French, so that makes it acceptable in elegant company.

Recently someone said that storytellers say “Bite your tongue.” I thought that was pretty funny, even though I wondered how it was possible that I’d never heard the line before, in spite of being a storyteller.  Quick! I googled 'luck'.

Here’s what I found when I did:

I found no references whatsoever to saying “Bite your tongue” in connection with storytelling performances.

But I did find some really great quotes from some seriously smart people concerning luck.

Some favored the idea of luck, notably Jean Cocteau, who said, “I believe in luck. How else can you explain the good fortune of those you dislike?”

And Joseph Conrad, who said, “It is the mark of the inexperienced man not to believe in luck.”

And here’s Ovid, for goodness sake, “Luck affects everything. Let your hook always be cast. In the stream where you least expect it, there will be fish.”

Okay, okay, so Ovid presumed I’m going to be willing to accept some accountability for my own luck. I wonder how literal I need to be. Is it going to be a problem that I’m not a fisherman, so I don’t own a fishing pole with its own little hook?

At least Ovid wasn’t as ominous as Douglas Jerrold saying, “Some people are so fond of ill-luck that they run half-way to meet it.”

Or as admonitory as Thomas Jefferson’s, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Or then there was vivid R. E. Shay, “Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.”

All right, all right. I get it. I promise I won’t rely on luck alone. I promise that I will meet the promise in this new season at least half-way. I’ll bait my hooks (even though I’m going to have to do it metaphorically).

But I have to admit I’m really tantalized by the idea that old shoes used be considered good luck.

So I hope it’s okay that I’m going to join Ben Johnson in his request,

“Hurl after me a shoe. I’ll be merry whatever I’ll do.”


  1. I've heard this one attributed to an anonymous Bedouin: "Trust God. But tie your camel."

    Jefferson always comes across sounding smug to me in that particular quote. Did the slaves who actually burned the calories on that plantation get luckier the harder they worked? (I like TJ, really I do. Just sayin'.)

  2. Fun to find you (through the above and fabulous, Megan Hicks!) Looking forward to more.