How to find a 4-leaf clover

Gary Corby (blog here, website about upcoming book here) asked me to blog this method of finding 4-leaf clovers, which works phenomenally well for Kiddo#1 (he found 80 of them the first summer he tried it) and marginally well for me, plus I’ve been able to teach others to do it too.

And in all fairness, this method was taught to me by someone from EtiquetteHell, but I’m forgetting whom. (Edited later: I think it was Geordicat.)

Since it’s re-created in Seven Archangels: Annihilation, I’m going to post t he excerpt. This is from Chapter One, where Gabriel is in human form, playing a hide-and-seek game with Remiel, who’s hiding as a four-leaf clover. The two boys are later revealed as demons. See if you can figure out which one turns out to be the cherub Mephistopheles (he’s not very good at remembering he’s in disguise, but Gabriel’s a little too focused to realize).

And then go find some good luck in chlorophyl-form. Enjoy!

Gabriel didn’t look up. “I’m searching for a four-leaf clover.”

“How do you do that?” said the smaller of the two, who appeared to be six.

“It’s actually not that hard.” Gabriel grinned. “You’ve got to figure that statistically speaking, there would be about one four-leaf clover in a patch this size.”

“I’d have estimated two.” The smaller boy’s eyes peered out curiously from under his curly hair. “I think it’s about one in three hundred, although there’s obviously some variance due to genetics.”

The bigger boy rolled his eyes.

“This species of clover tends to have fewer four-leaf variants,” Gabriel said, waving a hand out over the plants, “maybe one in five hundred, and given the square footage of this patch, I estimate we have about five hundred clovers here. Knowing that, you look at the patch and unfocus your eyes and concentrate on the shapes rather than the individual leaves themselves.”

“Oh!” The smaller boy seemed to get a bit taller. “You’re pattern-matching rather than actually looking.”

Gabriel grinned. “It’s as simple as picking out a square in a field of triangles.”

The boy looked breathless. “Do you find you can train the human eye to register only the squares?”

“Absolutely!” Gabriel turned his attention back to the plants at his feet. “Human vision is very easy to fool because the brain interprets visual patterns the way it expects to and rejects any data it doesn’t expect—”

“You don’t have to tell me,” said the boy. “I take advantage of that all the time.”

The bigger boy said, “You’d better quit it. Now.”

Immediately the younger boy fell silent.

Gabriel brightened. “Got it!”


  1. Gary Corby

    Thank you! I’m going to try that.

    Jane, you write very, very well.

    1. philangelus

      Thank you, Gary — and good luck finding your good luck charm! 🙂

  2. philangelus

    Hey, Dad — if you read this, check out the link to Gary’s blog and his upcoming book. I think it might be something you’d like.

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