I read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey in the spring of 2011 and wrote about it then on my previous blog. I was so moved then and remain so if not more as time passes. The book is now in my top ones that I recommend. I recently referred people to it at the Narrative Medicine Workshop this past April as it is wonderful account of illness and what happens during and after:
"Elisabeth Tova Bailey tells the inspiring and intimate story of her year-long encounter with a Neohelix albolabris—a common forest snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches as the snail takes up residence on her nightstand. Intrigued by its molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making ability, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence."
Since reading the book, my interest in snails has been growing. And as I do more illustrative work in my surface pattern design, I drew my first characters for my magical and adventure filled garden - which were snails. I doubt that I would have had thought of them or at least in the same way and felt the connection to these amazing creatures in nature and Elizabeth's story if it had not been for reading the book. I was left with vivid images and my own musings and versions of the snail's life some of which I is becoming my new collection of illustrated animal adventures. I am finding my way as a city person into the world of Things and animals through unexpected and beautiful stories and that world is circling its way back interpreted by my hand into my drawings. Drawing is healing for me and drawing beings that exist in nature binds me to them in a personal relatedness - they are now part of my world that I share with everyone else.
Below is my original post:
It is a simple and small book – very comforting but with an immense amount of wonder and beauty to convey. It is one that you dive into and revel and once you stop you cannot wait to go back in. To me, it feels like being “in the moment”. Those moments when there is no more time and you can feel the depth all around.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is to me about the power of taking our gaze outside of ourselves and really seeing the life of another. Especially one we do not think much of or often about – like a snail. How doing so reveals incredibly beauty – about the other and yourself , a sense of pure connectedness, and another layer of perspective of our own lives.
"Everything in the world of Things and animals is still filled with happening, which you can take part in." – Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)
In the book Elisabeth Tova Bailey writes how the snail had been a true mentor: “Lots to do at whatever pace I go.” While bedridden with an undefined illness a friend brings her a snail and there begins this story. One of my favorite sections was on the love affairs of the snail. But the whole is truly beautiful and inspiring. I’ve had many times where my body has forced me to live differently, at a different pace and I found that it was not a state of less than but just different. And that made all the difference in how much more was able to come into my life and how I was able to put out in the world. There is so much in front of us waiting to be observed, to be a part of that it is almost heartbreakingly beautiful. I hope you read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating…I am sure you will enjoy greatly. There was so much beauty on each page that I cannot really choose so I’ll end this post with one more randomly chosen quote:
“Inches from my bed and from each other stood the terrarium and a clock. While life in the terrarium flourished, time ticked away by seconds. But the relationship between time and the snail confused me. The snail would make its way through the terrarium while the hands of the clock hardly moved-so I often thought the snail watching, I’d find that time had flown by, unnoticed. And what about the unfurling of a fern frond? Its pace was undetectable, yet day by day it, too, reached toward its goal.”
You can read an excerpt and and interview with her here.
(One tidbit I loved reading about was the snail’s shell is a “…a tiny, brilliant accomplishment of architecture”. The shell spiral is known as the marvelous spiral (how lovely!) – the same shape is what causes the sound of the sea we hear when an empty shell is put to the ear.)