Short Read: A Snail’s Search, Part I

Gaston

Gaston was resolute: he was leaving the White, going through the Green, and hoping to find the Red. Sophie and Remy did their best to convince him of the dangers lurking in the Green – never mind the terrors of the Red. Gaston never wavered in his conviction that, somehow, some way, his path led to the Red.

Sophie and Remy were comfortable in the White. They had been there for a while now – quiet, like small, unmoving pebbles. Gaston knew that Remy wouldn’t be excited about an adventure – he simply wasn’t the adventurous sort. Remy would be happy in the White, where it could be cool and damp in the shadows of early morning. But it wasn’t safe – Gaston had seen the shiny dark eyes of the robins looking for tiny morsels…like the three of them.

Remy could be contrary, too. His shell, whorling like a whelk’s, was different from Gaston’s or Sophie’s, and he could be sensitive about it. Once, Gaston had joked that Remy looked like he belonged in the Blue, rather than the White, and Remy had been in a sulk for days afterward, barely poking his head out of his shell. Gaston hadn’t joked with him since then.

Remy the grouch

Sophie was more happy-go-lucky than Remy, but she was comfortable where she was. The Green wasn’t far, and delicious edibles thrived there. Why not stay in the White, traveling to the Green when needed, and forget about other mysterious unknown places? Sophie was content.

Sunny Sophie

Gaston finally decided to just go. He didn’t even tell Sophie and Remy when he left, slowly and deliberately climbing the Great Stone Wall, blending in with the variegated colors.

From the top, he looked back, sadly, at his friends in the White – asleep – and knew that he might never see them again. But he could not deny his restless spirit, and he followed the route that seemed to materialize his mind as he went. How did he know where to go? He didn’t know, himself.

What was the Red that beckoned? Gaston had heard about it from other snails who had come to the White, passing through. Some told tales of hungry birds attacking, giant feet nearly stepping on them, stretches of hot dry land that nearly caused them to shrivel up. But even while the storytellers were regaling their audience with these frightening tales, he felt strangely energized by the idea of encountering creatures and having experiences, even scary ones, that were new. Gaston wanted to know what was out there, even if it meant his life would end in his pursuit of adventure.

To the sounds of Dvořák’s New World Symphony – in his head, of course – Gaston left the stone wall and headed into the Green.

Did you enjoy the first installment of Gaston the Gastropod’s tale? Stay tuned for more.

Haiku: Gliding Gastropod

Slugs seem to get no love. I’ve considered why I’m enamored of snails, with their wonderfully whorled shells, but not slugs…and realized that it’s unfair. A slug is basically a snail, without that magnificent shell upon its back. Did it choose to live its life without a shell? Of course not. So, I’m consciously making an effort to appreciate the beauty of the slug, like the subtle but striking raised pattern on its skin – resembling a fingerprintor how it seems to effortlessly and soundlessly glide along the ground. See the beauty of the slug today.

Poem: The Stoic Snail

I spied a snail, a whorl on its back,

Moving through the grass.

I moved closer to see what business it had

And noticed the crack: jagged, pale.

Something had smashed its shell.

Ah, poor snail.

Your wondrous Fibonnaci spiral –

Fractured,

By an unaware or uncaring shoe, or

Perhaps by an unfeeling lawnmower’s blade?

I saw the snail again, some time later,

Concerned with something in the wet grass,

Gracefully gliding along.

Still alive!

And that shell, so broken –

Bifurcated –

Had repaired itself,

A ragged white scar remaining.

And the snail continued on its way,

Going on with the business of living.

Why this subject matter? I find snails fascinating, and while looking through my (numerous) photos of them, realized that many of the creatures had suffered damage to their shells – those beautiful expressions of the Fibonnaci sequence!

The particular snail that inspired this piece was one that I had seen on several occasions, first with an intact shell, then, later, with a crushed shell. I thought for certain that the snail was a goner, that a bird or other animal would seize the opportunity to pry the mollusk out of the remnants of its house. When I didn’t see it again for several weeks, I assumed it had died…so I was very pleasantly surprised to see it appear in the same area again, with a large white spot on its shell from the repair (calcium deposits). Snails are tough little gastropods…doubtless, they have to be to survive in this world.

  • Good news: some veterinarians even repair broken snail shells, like in this story from The Dodo.

Snails remind me to slow down, take a breath, and marvel at Nature’s stunning display. It is – rightfully – humbling.