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