I don’t know what it is about pennies, but this past month they’ve made some unusual appearances.
On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I discovered a bright shiny 2015 penny lying near the sink in a public restroom. It struck me as odd as I never see coins in such places, much less brand-new ones. At the time, I had not noticed seeing a 2015 penny before. It was April 8 and the year barely a quarter spent.
The next day at breakfast at a bakery, I spotted an empty seat near the window and made my way over to the table. And there, right where I was going to sit was another bright shiny 2015 penny. It glowed back at me on the tabletop as if to say, “I dare you to notice me.”
I would have dismissed the twin appearances as happenstance until the following day when I was purchasing an item and received my change– a penny. It wasn’t brand-spanking new this time, but semi-shiny all the same.
Three pennies in a row.
The day after I returned home, I stopped by the grocery store in the rain, opened the car door and spotted a shiny disc on the wet pavement. Apparently this penny had been bright and shiny before was run over.
Some would say the pennies were a figment of the imagination, a mere coincidence, silly good luck.
During the time I was seeing all those pennies, I had just drafted a memoir sequence involving a pet burro I had when I was a young child. Her name was Penny, but I don’t think a long-gone animal caused the shiny coins to appear.
A writer friend, author Debra Marquart, wrote an essay about a similar phenomenon in the back of her marvelous memoir, The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere. The book won the PEN/USA Creative Nonfiction award and for good reason. Debra, one of North Dakota’s gifts to the book world, is a fabulous writer.
In the memoir Debra shared her thoughts on her father’s death and how shortly after he passed, dimes began to appear. First they were found around his easy chair, then in unexpected, unrelated places including the seat in front of her on double-decker bus in London, England. She saw these as gifts from her father, visitations if you will.
Spiritual people call such phenomena “godwinks.” They believe that such coincidences are nudges from heaven, “attagirls” and “attaboys” from God Himself. This idea was the focus of When God Winks by Squire Rushnell, an ABC-TV executive who published the book in 2002.
I don’t know what my pennies mean. The writer in me says their appearance was more than chance. The collector in me said to save them, and so they sit at my computer desk as reminders that I am in a connected world that begs me to ponder everyday things I can’t explain, such as the song I heard Sunday morning when I turned on the radio.
Billie Holiday’s “Pennies from Heaven.”
I cannot make this stuff up.