When an illness keeps her bedridden, Elizabeth Tova Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence in a violet on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that an often unnoticed and unappreciated creature like this can bring. In the process she discovers a greater understanding of her own confined place in the world and an appreciation of what it means to be alive.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a delightful book that intrigued me from the moment it was recommended by my friend Betty Sue Brewster. A snail eating makes a sound? It had never even occurred to me, like so much of the wisdom in this book. I gained an abundance of time Elizabeth comments at one point, It was perplexing how in losing health I had gained something so coveted but to so little purpose. (38).
Yes I thought – we covet our time yet waste so much of it in useless or unimportant activities. In an effort to gain time, a totally impossible effort I might add because we cannot make the clock stand still, we multitask and actually waste more time. Research suggests that multitasking not only makes us less productive, it makes us dumber.
Elizabeth is possibly the first person to record observations of a snail tending its eggs, another remarkable feat that came from her ordeal. That illness could provide any kind of “first” in the scientific world seemed remarkable at first, but when I though about my own observations of what I miss because I am going too fast or getting too distracted, I was not surprised any more. Its the little things of life that happen at a snail’s pace (pardon the pun) that often hide the most monumental discoveries.
Interspersed with excerpts about snails from studies, essays, and poetry, and plumped up with tales of snail fascination dating back to the Romans, Elizabeth’s book is as richly layered as the soil she lays down in the snail’s terrarium: loamy, potent, and regenerative.
This is a story of courage and resilience in the facing of an extremely difficult ordeal. More than that it is a heartwarming story of observation and reflection that shows the wonder of learning about life in all circumstances.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is not just a book for those of us that love the natural world. It is a book for all who struggle to find meaning in life and who need the patience to endure when life is challenging.
I love this book trailer – complete with, you guessed it, the sound of a wild snail eating. It is a meditative reflection in itself. Enjoy!