25 May 2012
Late last Fall, just as the year was winding down, my (phenomenal) grammie sent me a package in the mail. "I picked up this little book and thought you might enjoy it...." the note started. Behind the note was a small, thin hardback book-- The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.
It's a simple story detailing what one is able to observe, and find joy in, when life's circumstances force you to stop. The narrative details the life of a nature loving woman who falls ill and is forced to stay in bed. She mourns her current state, when a friend brings her a bit of nature in the form of a small houseplant. Left alone with the plant, the woman observes a snail in the potting soil and begins to care for it, simultaneously observing a small amount of nature that she had previously not taken the time to appreciate.
Last summer, our Georgian garden was covered in snails. They clung to the tree trunks, the edge of our pond, the base of our outdoor table, the security bars that guard our city windows. I had never seen so many snails in one space. My daughter loved putting on big rubber gloves and pulling them off of everything in sight. She'd collect buckets of them, with her younger brother standing by her side watching in part horror and in part awe.
As our Georgian garden drew to a close and prepared to rest for winter, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating was a reminder of what to expect when the snow melted. My mind raced back to summer when my daughter dawned those big yellow gloves. But, this year, when I saw that first snail of the season, I remembered the description of what it sounds like to hear a snail quietly making dinner of one of our leaves.
And, now, once again, our yard is covered in green. The rains have pummeled the fruiting trees this month and the grass has become mud. And, with the change of the season (and the mud and the rain), comes a yard full of snails. This season, both of my kids-- sister and brother-- wake excited to hear that it rained overnight because, naturally, it meant the perfect early morning opportunity to snail hunt. So, out of bed they go and into the wilds of our back garden. There are no big rubber gloves this year-- simply bare hands and a bucket to collect the little creatures that fascinate them so. "I wonder what their house looks like inside there?" says my daughter. "I bet this one has super hero posters hung up in that shell!" responds my son. And, on they go, chatting about snails and knocking drops of rain water off of branches and onto each other. I watch from our floor to ceiling kitchen windows, drinking coffee, and wondering how many snails are quietly eating their breakfast as my kids pluck them from the grasses.