Snail Wisdom Beyond the Cliche

Letting My Inner Artist Have the Courage to Play

Is there more to a snail than the obvious slowing-down message?

The snail is my messenger this spring and summer, showing me what it looks like to slow down, to leave a trail, but I want to know more than a cliche.

Almost every morning, if I’m out early enough and walking into the sun, I can spot the snail trails in the hospice garden-walkway nearby (as mentioned in recent Instagram posts).  On summer solstice morning, the longest (slowest?) day of our Northern hemisphere year, I was hoping to see an actual snail, caught in the act so to speak.

I put out a request to the Universe, “May I please see a snail?”

The first snail trail I saw was two snail-trails, a first. Like the good rare luck of a double-rainbow . That would be enough of a gift in itself. Lots to ponder with that metaphor.

Two snail trails, overlapping.
One snail or two? Togetherness? Companions?
Or one, looping back,
divine do-over?

Past hospice and into the neighborhood, I saw my first snail, a big one, smack dab in the center of the extra wide sidewalk. I stopped and stooped down to see it up close, snap a snapshot. The glare of the sun didn’t help. Then I felt self-consciously silly as another morning walker approached. I stood up and kept walking. But shortly went back for a better shot, thinking “Who cares if it’s silly…I asked for a snail, take a good picture.” So I did and the snail looked stalled on its shadow, bubbles like spit in a puddle, like an out-of-gas engine sputtered to a stop. Still counts as a snail sighting.

After the rest of my walk, grateful for the snail sighting and a cool morning, I reached my patio. Surprise and delight! There was a snail trail glistening on the concrete!  And a snail on the wall! A snail all of my own. Request answered! At home! 

My inner artist wanted to play, to get down on the ground, up close to this snail to learn more of its secrets. And this is what happened…this series of pics.

After weeks of only seeing snail trails sans snails on my walks, this morning this snail showed up on my patio.

If you put your ear up close to the snail shell, can you hear the ocean, the garden, the Snail’s breath? Your own?

If you put your ear up too close to the Snail, you might knock it right off the wall. Is it okay?

This Snail came out of its shell and started its slow climb upward, but why upward onto the wall? I wonder?

If I lean back, give it space and just listen
and watch,
this Snail might show me its secrets.

My inner critic tried to spoil the fun, to discourage me from sharing that delightful encounter. This morning, the snail hasn’t moved, and I don’t know if it will. 

But this poem by Antonio Machado gave me stanzas to affirm the power of the snail and the power of playfulness — another good message to set the tone for my summer.


Every instant is Still.


What I find surprises me:
leaves of the garden balm
smell of lemonwood.


Form your letters slowly and well:
making things well
is more important than making them.


All the same…
Ah yes! All the same,
moving the legs fast is important,
as the snail said to the greyhound.


But art?
It is pure and intense play,
so it is like pure and intense life,
so it is like pure and intense fire.
You’ll see the coal burning.

From “Proverbs and Songs” from Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly (enjoy the whole poem at Words for the Year blog).

#REFLECT: How are you communing with Nature — or your creativity — these days? What helps you allow yourself time for “pure and intense play”?

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