Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Finding serendipity on a Saturday afternoon walk in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park

Look, there's a gull on top of the fountain ... /
A hap
py accident or a pleasant surprise? 

Life is full of surprises and we all like a pleasant surprise every once in a while, right?

There is such a word to describe a pleasant surprise. That word is serendipity, which means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, serendipity is the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.

The word "serendipity" was first coined by Horace Walpole, the fourth Earl of Orford, in a January 28, 1754 letter to British diplomat Horace Mann. In this letter, Walpole said he formed the word serendipity from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip in which the heroes "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of."

I had a brush of serendipity recently. It occurred during a recent Saturday afternoon visit I made to the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco's expansive Golden Gate Park to see an exhibit on the life of the extraordinary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, "A Life in Dance."

Just before entering the museum, I stopped for a moment at the central fountain that straddles the de Young, the California Academy of Sciences and the Music Concourse to take a photograph of the fountain as I have done many times before. Located in an open-air plaza with many heavily pollarded trees (London plane and Scotch elm), it's a lovely fountain surrounded by beautiful park scenery that looks handsome in both daylight and at nighttime, too.

While my photograph was intended to be of the central fountain, much to my surprise, there was a gull sitting on top of the fountain at the time I took my photograph. The gull became my focus as much as the fountain. Indeed, it was a pleasant surprise, a happy accident. That's serendipity and I'm grateful because the gull made my photograph more interesting and colorful.

May we all find a little bit of serendipity in our lives.

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