For whatever reasons I have been more tranquil this week. I think it is because I have either a) decided not to think about world events (the fact that states are working to cut worker rights and salaries when we're fighting two pointless and expensive wars--or maybe three--who the fuck knows what the Pentagon is planning for Libya) and culture (books are dead and everybody clearly loves gadgets more than I do, if they can stomach the thought of buying Kindles and iPads and smart phones, oh my), or b) I have just been finding good nonfiction that is helping me keep my mind off all of the above. It might also be because the weather's a bit warmer. Hard telling what goes into the daily soup that is one's state of mind.
One of the books helping to keep me tranquil was Elisabeth Tova Bailey's The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. When I read the review of it at MadREADS, I was intrigued, so I checked it out, although I am not normally one for nature books of any kind. (I make an exception for Rachel Carson. I love her.) The story of this tiny little book is simple: Bailey has been suffering from a neurological malady for many years, and once, when she is completely debilitated and bedridden by her disease, a friend visits her and brings along a snail she found on a walk, thinking simply that Bailey might like it. They fill a pot with violets and dirt and set the snail in it, and soon Bailey is watching the snail navigate its slow and steady way around her home.
Bailey does not share many details about her illness, but it of course colors every page: "Each morning there was a moment, before I had fully awakened, when my mind still groped its clumsy way back to consciousness, my body not yet remembered, reality not yet acknowledged. That moment was always full of pure, sweet, uncontrollable hope. I did not ask for this hope to come; I did not even want it, for it trailed disappointment in its wake. Yet there it was, hovering within me--hope that my illness had vanished with the night and my health had returned magically with daybreak." (p. 21.)
I find her writing both simple and very beautiful, and she brings that sensibility to her descriptions of her snail, as well as to the information she shares about snails that she learns from wide and historical reading. As she moves the snail from her violet pot to a terrarrium and eventually back out into the wild, you get the sense she just felt privileged to interact so closely with another little life. It's not really a happy book, but it's a very hopeful little one. I enjoyed it quite a bit.