Sound of a Wild Snail Eating   Leave a comment

I just finished reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, recommended by a reader of my blog, a superb book, a gem of a book, and it couldn’t have been more up my alley. The writer, Elisabeth Tova Bailey, is ill with a mysterious illness that confines her to her bed, although her mind is clear as ever. Isolated by her illness, she strikes up an intimate relationship with a wild snail that enters her life aboard some woodland violets a friend digs up, pots, and brings in. The lack of other distractions, her ability to focus, and her grasp of the similarity between herself and the snail, each dislocated from their accustomed lives, alerts her to the opportunity presented by the snail’s appearance in her life and she seizes it, spending a full year of loving relationship with the little creature, in the course of which she learns and shares with us the fundamental similarities between us, two living creatures, of different species, equipped with different arrays of skills and tools to meet similar challenges: how to find food and water and shelter from conditions that threaten our bodily integrity, how to find a mate and a good habitat in which to procreate, safe from predators, etc. As she explores these life tasks in the company of someone she genuinely experiences as a companion, she does something that, to me, is one of the very best things a person can do, that is, break down the walls between us and other creatures, especially those as distant from us evolutionarily as a snail. The snail’s lack of offensive weaponry as well as extremely slow pace of life enable her to keep up with the snail: It might take her hours or days to notice it had done something worthy of notice and then more hours or days to secure books through interlibrary loan that enable her to investigate the meaning of said activity. Hard to imagine her doing something like this with a faster-moving or stinging subject of study. But the implication is present that if we were able to accompany any other creature as closely as she accompanies the snail, we would find it equally true that that other creature has the same basic life tasks as we and is as well equipped as we to do so, in its marvelously unique fashion. Hooray!

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Posted March 1, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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