Friday, August 13, 2010

On Strange Coincidences

Are coincidences anything but strange?

Intuitively, yes. Even Lord Byron in Don Juan said so. But according to statistical analysis, the answer to that question is “no.”

To illustrate, the birthday paradox refers to the 50% probability that 2 people in a randomly assembled group of 23 people share the same birthday; that probability jumps to 99% in a group of 57 people. Interesting on one level to be sure, but leave it to the quantitatively inclined to rob life of its intuitive attractions and seeming mysteries. Kill joys. Sorry, dear colleagues.  

In my world, I experienced three pleasant coincidences this week (I now hesitate to call them “strange” as did Lord Byron). On Tuesday, my wallet was stolen. After replacing several of the IDs, I mused to Viet that it would be wonderful if someone contacted me to tell me s/he found it. “Wishful thinking” was his response. Well, after waiting in line for hours at DMV and running around (albeit in the same building) to secure a new University of Delaware ID and pay the insulting replacement fee (150% more than DMV!), we returned home to learn that, lo and behold, someone did indeed find the wallet, intact and all items present!

On Thursday, my friend D wrote on her Facebook page that she found a 1929 Buffalo Nickel amongst her pocket change. This is an incident worthy of publicizing in an of itself, but was made all the more incredible by the coincidental find of a 1929 Wheat Penny in the backseat of my car--a backseat that no one had sat in for well over 6 weeks.

Finding the penny and learning soon thereafter about D's numismatic discovery was actually the 3rd coincidence of the week, and was a result of the 2nd, I am convinced. On Wednesday I wrote of the need and desire to renovate my east side shade bed, and identified 3 architectural plants that could tolerate dry shade and provide year-round interest. But, alas, my local garden centers did not carry those plants.

Yesterday, I visited my preferred Wilmington garden center, Old Country Gardens, to treat myself to “a little happy” as Viet is out of town for the next week and a half. And there I came upon pleasant coincidence #2: Sawtooth Aucuba japonica Serratifolia (Serrated Japanese Laurel). Granted, it is not Aucuba japonica crassifolia, the very plant I mentioned, but it is close enough! (For the record, I also purchased a Solange peony cultivar, which is a Chinese double type white, for the front sun bed.) Perhaps the penny was stuck to the bottom of the Sawtooth Aucuba.

I knew exactly where to put my perfect new find: right in the center of the bed. But now I prevaricate. My friend Melinda commented that the bed needs something vertical—why, with New York constantly on my mind, did I not think of verticality as the spatial solution? (Hypothesis: because I was thinking aesthetically, not spatially.)

So dear readers, have you any ideas for a vertical dry shade loving plant that can, once it reaches a certain height, tolerate approximately 2 hours of non-consecutive sunlight in the springtime before the trees leaf out? I do not want evergreens, as the neighbor’s towering evergreen hedgerow provides the shade for the bed, and it just seems so…well…boring. I could plant Oak Leaf Hydrangea or Nandina, thus replicating themes in the back yard garden spaces and hence unifying them, but I’d like to do something different. I could move my beloved Kerria japonica Golden Guinea from its current location, which it does not seem to like and which apparently served as a smorgasbord while I was away to a few million insects (the plant is so pathetic looking I shall not even photograph it). That would offer verticality in addition to year round color thanks to its chartreuse stems, and import lovely springtime yellow flowers to the space—that is, if it survives.

The possibilities are endless.

And so too are the probabilities of endless possibilities.

At least that’s what statistics tell me.

1 comment:

  1. How about a hydrangea standard? Your garden could take the formality of something like that.