grace in all moments

Elisabeth Tova Bailey has written a thoughtful and delightful book in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.  Bailey was felled with an auto-immune disease (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and while confined to her bed for a year, observed a small snail residing in a pot of flowers.

In an interview with Caroline Leavitt, Bailey said

Writing directly about illness depresses me, but I do know it helps some people, so I think that’s a very individual situation. For me, it was the one subject I never wanted to write about. It is impossible to put into words the infinite losses and challenges with which one lives. There would have been no structure and no plot and it would have been a quagmire. However, I could write about the snail. But without the illness there would have been no snail-watching, so I couldn’t ignore the illness completely. But I found that I could write about my illness as the backdrop for the snail’s appearance. This also gave the reader a way to enter into the story, just as I had, and so the reader can become engaged in the unusual interspecies relationship that developed.

From the book:

Every few days I watered the violets from my drinking glass, and the excess water seeped into the dish beneath.  This always woke the snail.  it would glide to the rim of the pot and look over, slowly waving its tentacles in apparent delight, before making its way down to the dish for a drink.  Sometimes it started back up, only to stop at a halfway point and go to sleep.  Waking periodically, and without moving from its position, it would stretch its neck all the way down to the water and take a long drink.

A little more dirt was needed around the roots of the violets, which my caregiver procured from the vegetable garden and added to the flowerpot.  The snail was not pleased.  For the next few days it carefully crept up the side of the pot and directly onto a violet leaf, never touching the garden soil, settling in for the day’s snooze perched high in the crown of the plant.  Rather abashed, I asked for more help,k and the sandy garden soil was exchanged for humus from the snail’s own woods.  Soon the snail was sleeping beneath the violet leaves again in a soft new hollow.


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