Sunday, April 4, 2021

Mosaic Monday #125: At a snail's pace

Occasionally, a book comes along that moves me.  It stirs my emotions.  It provokes new thinking.  It re-frames some of my personal experiences.  "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" is one of those books.  It was on loan to Dear Neighbor Friend from one of our mutual friends, and DNF passed it on to me.  I am so grateful - she knows me well!

Set over the course of one year in a studio apartment in Massachusetts, Elisabeth Tova Bailey recounts her miserable time bedridden by a mysterious illness she contracted during a trip to Europe.  Depressed, infirmed and without a reason for living, everything changes when a friend brings a pot of wild violets to cheer her; a snail has hitched a ride on the plant.

***All content in italics is from the book

There is a certain depth of illness that is piercing in its isolation; the only rule is uncertainty, and the only movement is the passage of time.  One cannot bear to live through another loss of function, and sometimes friends and family cannot bear to watch.  An unspoken, unbridgeable divide may widen.  Even if you are still who you were, you cannot actually fully be who you are.  Illness isolates, the isolated become invisible, the invisible become forgotten.  But the snail ... the snail kept my spirits from evaporating.  Between the two of us, we were a society all our own, and that kept isolation at bay.

Within the first few pages, I wondered when the book was written, because I was struck by the parallels to the impact of the pandemic on the human race.  As Bailey notes in the Epilogue, her snail observations were from a single year of her two decades of illness.  "The research for the book and the gradual process of its writing matched the pace of its protagonist and were just as nocturnal."  The book was published in 2010, a full decade before the pandemic began.

Many of us have written blog posts about lessons learned during the pandemic, or silver linings to the metaphorical storm clouds.  This book made me consider anew those that have been isolated by the pandemic.  I paused, deep in thought about family members and friends who have faced (or are currently facing) life-threatening illnesses.  I renewed my intention to be there for those who may be suffering.  

I also resolved to continue to celebrate moments big and small.  This will get easier as more of us are vaccinated! 

I could never have guessed what would get me through this past year - a woodland snail and its offspring; I honestly don't think I would have made it otherwise.  Watching another creature go about its life ... somehow gave me, the watcher, purpose too.  If life mattered to the snail and the snail mattered to me, it meant something in my life mattered, so I kept on ...  Snails may seem like tiny, even insignificant things compared to the wars going on around the world, or a million other human problems, but they may well outlive our own species.

It's human nature to think our problems are gigantic compared to others'.  This slim little volume helps to stamp that out with a healthy dose of perspective.  On again, off again snow during late March, and a windstorm that knocked out our power - hah!  Mere trifles!!!

(On March 28, #1 Son was on the way home from work on Big Mountain, and two miles short of the house, this tree was across the road.  If you look closely, you can see the powerlines caught up in the branches.  No wonder we were out of power!  Fortunately, there is another direction to access the house - he had to backtrack a bit and go around the long way.  Power was restored after about 5 hours - we are always so impressed with the service, given that they are normally dealing with multiple outages.) 

"Humanity is exalted not because we are far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life."  Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia, 1984

I don't need much reminding about the importance of protecting wildlife, but this book re-opened my mind to the vastness of the species that surround us, whether we notice them or not.  I am not going to take the space to write about it in this post, but I currently have a bee in my bonnet about proposals to allow new methods of killing wolves ...

My trail cam has given up the ghost, and my new one will not arrive until sometime in early May.  Sigh.  So my trail cam photos are few this month.  But no less special!

I am in the perfect habitat for me.  It goes beyond the physical characteristics of the woods that surround me, and the roof over my head -- it's about the simple activities of my days, and the people who populate my world.  

DNF surprised me with some "bunny" Peeps, and Head Chef concocted a recipe for a "Himalayan Martini".  We first encountered this palate-pleaser at the Village Martini and Wine Bar in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  

In one of my crafty moments, I made these "flowers" from glittery wired ribbon to augment my Easter decorations.

I am particularly proud to have finished this cross-stitch this month.  It was given to me by my dear sister-in-law.  I had it professionally framed at Michael's and now it proudly hangs on our gallery wall.

"The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" has been called a nature-memoir, and it was not lost on me that this is exactly the kind of book I would like to write, someday.  (Not the illness part, but the nature and the memoir parts.)  

"Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."  Rainer Maria Wilke, 1903, from Letters to a Young Poet, 1927

I am indebted to DNF and our mutual acquaintance, for bringing this eloquent, bewitching, tear-inducing, galvanizing book to my doorstep.  

Late one winter night, I wrote in my journal:  A last look at the stars and then to sleep.  Lots to do at whatever pace I can go.  I must remember the snail.  Always remember the snail.

Happy Easter to all of you who are celebrating our risen Lord!

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
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  1. ...what a roadblock! I love the snail on the mushroom. Happy Easter Angie.

  2. Angie, what a lovely post. That books sounds like it moved you a lot, I could read it in your words. Challenges are a part of my life currently, some that I feel I cannot overcome...more than just my pets, but the sun will rise whether or not I decide to let these challenges beat me or not. Life goes on, and I want to be a part of it. Really, lovely post, thank you! xx

  3. From what you share it seem to be a very good book!
    Your trail camera really took some great shots. Hope you get a new one soon.
    You wrote a beautiful post.

  4. Such a nice post and that book sounds really nice. Our Mom and Dad have been fully vaccinated for a few weeks now so they had their first outting in a while, they took Easter Dinner to a friend who isn't feeling her best. Happy Easter from all of us!

  5. This sounds like a fascinating read and so relevant to our times. I might need to order it from our local library. Thankyou for highlighting it in your post today. You are right, we really do have to cherish times together and the lessons we have learnt this pandemic year and beyond. Take care. Enjoy your week and thank you for the link up again this week. Happy Easter.

  6. Books are best friends, we always saying here. To read a fascinating book, to see a good film is a way, to help us in this time. And of course walk in the nature.

    Happy Easter. Thank you for hosting too.

  7. Hello Angie,
    Great post and book review. I feel blessed that my family and I have survived this past year with no major complications. Your wildlife cam images are cool, love the Eagles. The cross stitch is beautiful, a lovely gift. Pretty capture of the snail on the mushroom. Take care, have a great day and a happy new week!

  8. Happy Easter everyone.

    much love

  9. Happy Easter, Angie. What a good book this sounds to be. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll put it on my "to read" list!
    Lovely photos as always.

  10. PS: Thank you for hosting, Angie, stay safe!

  11. I'll look for this book, it sounds very interesting. I had a sick day this past week after having the second shot of vaccine and I was surprised at how discouraged I felt just that one day. It made me think about all the people that have health issues and have treatments that make them sick. I didn't know how I was going to get anything done...ever! But of course I woke up feeling good the next day. And it's SO worth it to get the vaccine of course! Happy MM!

  12. I love the title. I will have to check the book out on Goodreads. I used to have violets. So pretty.

  13. I love the name of the book - one would have to listen very closely in order to hear that, I'm sure. The author's situation reminds me of the position we have all been in this past year. Sounds really insightful.

  14. I always enjoy reading about your days and adventures and will always treasure the beautiful hand made birthday card :-)

  15. Happy Easter! Look at those eagles!! My son just returned from a trip to Freezeout Lake where migrating snow geese and swans rest up on their journey north. He sent me videos that were amazing. The weather has turned cool again but yesterday was lovely. I actually got to work outside. Take care. Kit

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  17. I love the little drawings and the book sounds entirely relatable currently and always because it covers human emotion at its deepest level. I suspect the sense of isolation is more common than we think and that the life a snail more fascinating than we ever imagined.

  18. That was some roadblock wasn't it!
    Many thanks for sharing details of this book.

    Belated Easter Wishes to you and yours.

    All the best Jan

  19. It sounds like a beautiful book and Perfect for these times, I too would have been surprised to find it was published before the pandemic. I am putting it on my to be read list.

  20. The book sounds like it hits you deep. Love that photo the camera got of that eagle setting off. So cool. Just read those drink ingredients to my personal bartender. We are only missing 2 of the ingredients, the expensive ingredients. :) Great cross stitch!

  21. You cover a lot in this post. The trail cam caught a magnificent photo of the eagle!

  22. Dear Angie - I’m attracted by the book title as well as the contents. The hitchhiked wild snail looks like a god in disguise to inspire her live up to potentials from the bottom of despair no matter in what state. Tragedy can happen to anyone. I feel humbled and am thankful for everything at this time when many people are suffering in each situation. Thank you for the food for thought.


  23. Nice and beautiful pictures Angie, I love the birds and the snail.

  24. Sounds like a fascinating book!

  25. What a great title!
    What an adventure daily life is, too! That eagle is amazing.

  26. i really enjoyed this post. and although i am not a reader, and i wish i were, i enjoyed the snippets about the book!!

    i too am always impressed at how quickly the power and tree companies work together to clear downed trees and power lines and restore the power to homes!!

    your needle work is so pretty and i really love your gallery wall!!

  27. ooooh and that bald eagle, wow!!! how could i have forgotten to mention that!!

  28. The book sounds fascinating, Angie. It is good for all of us to take the time to reflect on nature, and on how hard times can shape us and give us strength. What a great eagle shot!

  29. This seems like a book I should read, Angie. As for new ways to kill wolves, I cannot feign surprise. Humans seem to be eternally consumed with blood lust, and will never accept the science that a healthy predator/prey relationship is vital for the smooth functioning of an ecosystem. We have always had an obsession about destroying large predators and I fear it will never change. And we do it in the most inhumane ways imaginable - always have, always will. And it is truly disgusting. And by the way, thanks for citing E.O. Wilson, one of my greatest heroes of all time.

  30. The tree was huge that blocked the road. Glad everything was sorted in only a few hours. The cam gave up some lasting beauties for its final shots. Love the eagle taking flight, it absolutely beautiful. The book sounds like a great read, I'll have to look for it. Have a great weekend, Angie!

  31. This sounds like a great book; one of those treasures one finds every once in a while. Perspective is always welcome. It reminded me of my brother who went from being a marathon runner to bed bound for over a year starting in November 2019. He is up and walking a bit on a walker now and in assisted living. He has never complained about his plight and is working hard on his recovery.

  32. The book sounds great, thanks for sharing! I would give it a try for the title alone.


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