The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

08 May 2014

In which I become foolish about a snail.

I just know I'm going to feel foolish telling you this story, but tell it I will.

I met a snail today.

He was an ordinary garden variety snail.  Only the other day I saw one just like him climbing his way up the door frame of the lunchroom door at work. But my new friend was near the wilderness I like to walk to during my break. Not in the grass, though, like you'd expect, nor even in the gravelly bits at the side of the road. He was actually on the road, intrepidly inching his way to the other side (perhaps he once heard a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and decided to see what the other side is all about.)

When I happened upon him, he was maybe a foot from the departing edge of the road. I don't know how long he'd been at it, or where he started from. Just in that spot is a wee thicket, including what I think is going to turn out to be a glorious lilac bush, with a slight boggy quality to it.  That seems to be a happy sort of place for a snail to live, don't you think?  In the direction he was heading are warehouses and corporate offices... and a go-cart track  (come to think of it, that might be where he was headed. He might have decided to see what life is like in the fast lane) (but that is very far away... probably a solid eight month journey in snail time)

I was so struck by the adventuring spirit of this little snail.  Oh, I know I was anthropomorphizing like crazy. Is it possible for snails to be brave?  Can they deliberately set out on adventures?  The stories I read as a child were full of such tales. I loved them, but my grownup self knows those things don't happen.  Still and all, there I was on my morning break from cataloguing watching this little snail ... I was going to say 'inch' but it was more like 'millimeter' ... his way forward.  That happens to be a fairly quiet road, only travelled by people who work on that dead-end street, and eager go-carters.  But there are also big delivery trucks, and most drivers go quickly. Certainly they aren't watching for random snails in the road.

I was worried for him, my new friend, but also cheering him on. It was like England in the World Cup: you know there's no chance they'll make it, but you can't help rooting for them anyway.  When one car careened around the corner I was so tempted to step into the road with my hand up, authoritatively, to flag them down so I could explain the situation, and suggest they keep to the other lane.

Yes, that last paragraph is the one with the foolish in it.

I deliberated as to whether I should pick him up and carry him to the other side, or if, like in Star Trek, I should stick to a Prime Directive of non-interference, leaving my little be-shelled friend to his own destiny. I stood there for some time, wavering back and forth.

I know.  Über foolish.

In the end I carried on with my walk.  I was heartily glad to see he was still there on my way back, but deliberately did not go back to that spot for the rest of the day.  Even if he made it across, two large Canada Geese had taken up residence in the big field near to where he was heading, so it didn't look good for him whether he crossed the road or not.

Poor little snail.


  1. Someone would have to be a really good writer to make me care about a snail. Not that I don't like them; it's just that they're pretty much off my radar.

    And here I am caring deeply, intensely, HUGELY about a snail.


  2. Aw, Nancy. Let's imagine he made it across the road, avoided the foraging beaks of the geese, and went for the ride of his life on a speedy go-cart. He had a tremendous adventure... all while carrying his house on his back!
    Ah, the life of a snail.

  3. Hmmmm I wonder Tess. Can a Catholic follow the Prime Directive of non-interference or does "Go and teach all nations" nullify that? It's too bad you didn't have a galactic translator to speak to the little fella. I know they have them. I've seen those on Star Trek too.

  4. Perhaps I should have taught him to looks both ways before crossing?

    Have you ever read Hinds feet on high places?