The Gift of the Snail

We’ve spent the last six weeks or so in the U.S. visiting friends and family, including a trip to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts.  My kids go to a British school, so this trip was my attempt to offer them a dollop of U.S. history, which for some reason their school doesn’t offer.  Sore losers, if you ask me.

We stayed at a great cheap hotel right on the water and at low tide, the beach curved along the bay for what seemed like miles. You could see why the Pilgrims must have breathed a sigh of relief after their hell-trip across the Atlantic: the waters of the bay are calm, the beach is broad, the trees are green.  Pretty much the antithesis of the open ocean.

I walked on the pilgrim’s beach the morning we were there and saw that the sand was crisscrossed with small trails, separate from the wavy rivulets created by the tide.

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Snails. Tiny snails, not much bigger than my thumb, going from the rocks at the beach’s edge to…well, I’m not sure where they were going. The open ocean? Some imagined rock in the distance? Or were they just out for their morning constitutional, like I was?

Maybe these snails were the pilgrims of the tide-pools, millimetering their way forward against immense hardship? Probably not in pursuit of creating a religious colony with a large profit margin, but then again, who knows what governs the soul of snails?

I looked at the snails for a bit and kept walking, and then a few hundred meters on I found a snail shell, empty, unbroken, and whisper-smooth.

The next morning, walking on a different beach, I found another snail shell.  And the next day another.

We were at a variety of beaches during our time in the States, and I found an unbroken snail shell almost every other day.

It’s as if Someone is trying to tell me Something.

I’ve been frustrated this summer—one writing project abandoned, another stalled in its earliest stages, another percolating in my brain but refusing to coalesce; I’ve spent way to many hours flipping through half-finished manuscripts without finding much worthy of development.  And while our trip to the States, was wonderful in almost every way (except for my spectacular wipe-out on an NYC sidewalk), it was not particularly conducive to getting any work done.

So. Snails.

Snails are all about patience and perseverance, right? Not to mention that they carry their houses on their backs and thus are comfortable wherever they find themselves—not a bad lesson for someone embarking on her third year as an expat.

Plus, you know, I’m ticking down the months to the big five-oh, so I could do worse than to adopt a snail as my totemic animal: their shells get better, smoother and shinier, as they get older.  True, I’d always fancied myself more of a cheetah gal, but let’s face it: I am never gonna be built for speed.

Okay, true, snails often become seagull escargot, and I suppose snails never know the pleasures of good champagne, but I’m going for the Big Metaphor here, so please don’t disabuse me if you know other, less than positive snail facts.

That’s the gift of the snail: I’m going take metaphors where I can find them; I’m going to see the beauty in the slow-and-steady; I’m going keep moving, avoiding crabs and gulls, until I find open water and a niche of my own.

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*We’re going to be traveling next week – a last hurrah of the summer before we all put our school shoes back on – so in the week that I’m away, I’m going to be dazzling you all with some posts-from-the-past. Enjoy – and enjoy your last weeks of August, too. Probably, you know, to keep you company in these last days of summer, you should have a good book to read. What’s that you say? You don’t have a good book? Why LET ME SUGGEST THE BOOK I’M IN! Click on over right here and buy yourself a copy or ten.

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12 Responses to The Gift of the Snail

  1. Jamie@SouthMainMuse August 17, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    As I compete in my first triathlon in 5 years this weekend — I’m going to be thinking of your snail metaphor. Slow and steady finishes the race. The longer I live, and the longer I observe people, not quitting pretty much trumps brains, looks and brawn for getting things done. Eventually.
    Jamie@SouthMainMuse recently posted..Just keep swimming. But first I have to jump in.My Profile

    • Deborah Quinn August 17, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

      Love that! Yes, not quitting pretty much trumps almost everything. It’s like Woody Allen said in some movie – that a large portion of life is just showing up. Well, showing up and keep moving. Good luck on your TRIATHALON? Holy crap. That trumps everything!! Go team Jamie!

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