Lucky Student Doesn’t Overlook 4-Leaf Clovers : NPR

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Heard on Morning Edition

August 5, 2010 – RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

In the midst of a recent interview for a Web series called “One Species at a Time,” reporter Ari Daniel Shapiro noticed something strange in the scientists lab: a giant four-leaf clover taped to a nearby lab instrument. It was the gift, he was told, from a former student of the scientist, a student with an unusual ability to find four-leaf clovers. Ari sought her out, and has this story.

ARI DANIEL SHAPIRO: About a month ago, I was sitting in Laurelhurst Park in Portland, Oregon with Summer Praetorius. Shes a PhD student at Oregon State University. Praetorius has red curly hair that bounces just below her shoulders. And shes got a pretty remarkable track record finding four-leaf clovers. It started when she was a child. But she sort of lost interest for a while, until something happened when she turned 20.

Ms. SUMMER PRAETORIUS (Student, Oregon State University): I had this dream where I looked down on the ground and I saw a four-leaf clover. And it was very big. In the dream, when I picked it up, it turned into this bouquet of four-leaf clovers. And it felt like a really good omen. And I think it was a day or two afterwards, I was visiting my fathers gravesite. He had died earlier that year. And I pulled up and I realized that I didnt bring anything with me. And so immediately my dream came into my head. And so I just went over to this little hill and there was one just sticking up, kind of like ready for me to pick. So I picked that and thats what I brought to the gravestone.

SHAPIRO: Praetorius has always been good at recognizing shapes and patterns. It really helps in grad school when shes sorting through countless tiny fossils to understand the climate on Earth thousands of years ago. But when it comes to four-leaf clovers, Praetorius has her own theory.

Ms. PRAETORIUS: I think most people dont look, thats the interesting thing. Because if you see somebody whos lucky or – in some way it seems like luck is just this random thing thats streaming through that some people intercept and, you know, other people just dont. But I guess I think its a little bit more like the people themselves are actually engaging or intercepting that luck.

SHAPIRO: For Praetorius, the four-leaf clovers of the world are like little mirrors, reflecting back to her a sense that shes on the right path, that shes making her own luck and creating opportunities. Just before we parted ways, she gave me a four-leaf clover as big as my nose.

These days she gives all her clovers away as gifts – to friends, to strangers, inside library books.

Ms. PRAETORIUS: Maybe if these people dont even ever go out and look, itll still give them the feeling like one fell into their lap, and thats a little bit of luck for them.

SHAPIRO: For NPR News, Im Ari Daniel Shapiro.

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