Thursday, April 5, 2012

One-eyed Jack

So. About fifteen years ago in a town not too far away, I found a playing card face-down on the pavement. I'd  once found a piece of jigsaw puzzle in that vicinity (a piece of the puzzle!) which I carried in my wallet for a long time. It had an abstract design I couldn't make heads or tails of, but it seemed significant.

The card I found had an ordinary pattern on the back. I picked it up. It was a jack of spades, a one-eyed jack in his usual finery. Well, cool. I put that in my wallet too and left it there. At some point I ditched the puzzle piece, but I liked the card. I carried it.

A year or two went by. I was in the parking lot of my small town's grocery store when I saw a playing card (face down) on the blacktop. 

Well. It had a hole punched in the middle and said "Casino Niagara." I scooped it up. There it was. A jack of spades.

Whoa. Not least because I'd recently visited Niagara Falls, and, as an evolving humanist who'd rejected gods in favor of natural wonders, found it very inspirational. All this and the jack of spades, too.

I set the first card in a safe place and began carrying the second. 

I believed there would be a third. So I waited.

Years went by.

I wondered.

I don't believe in patterns built into the universe on purpose by a benevolent Designer. I did back when I was a Christian Scientist; not recently. I've read about chaos theory. I've seen the whorls of frost on how many window panes. I've taken the time to marvel at individual snowflakes on my sleeve on a winter day, each the same and yet different. I remember  reading the mathematical equation that estimated potential differences in crystals thus proving how our planet's total number of uniquely patterned flakes from snowstorms, glaciers and blizzards can't possibly have come anywhere close to exhausting the possible variations.

I also know that we humans by nature seek to find patterns and threads in our  universe. So when I look at Jack Frost's artwork on my winter window, I see flowers and leaves of bitter- cold flora. My jack-of-spades bug was something similar. I believed it had to do with paying attention more than a message.

So I waited. Years went by.

I never consciously gave up. I just found myself not expecting the third card. I thought, Maybe I'm the third card...maybe the search is what's important to me...Maybe et cetera. I was OK with this. Still...

More years went by.

Four years ago, I stood in the wood-fired kitchen of a friend's log cabin gourmet restaurant here in upstate New York when I saw the card (face down) on her window sill. Pattern similar to the first I'd found. Normal playing card.

Yeah, I thought. There is no way. It's not a jack of spades. But I have to turn it over. I don't want to see the pattern fail, but I'm OK with it. It's amazing enough that there's a third card in my path, the only feral, wayward playing cards I've ever come across.

And yet I knew as I flipped it over: hello, jack. His one eye almost winked at me.

I didn't carry that one in my wallet very long. (The woman gave me the card when I told her; how  could she not?) Instead I put the three together in a frame. An homage to the numbers.

The odds are infinite enough to form a pattern. A single clear eye is all it takes to notice. It's just a matter of watching.


  1. Wonderful story, thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Sue! Thanks for reading (& commenting!)