The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

 “When I woke during the night, I would listen intently.  Sometimes the silence was complete, but at other times I could hear the comforting sounds of the snail’s minuscule munching” (17).


Every teacher knows that the beginning of the school year fills the minutes with hectic movement within the small world of a classroom, quickening footsteps, rushing up and down hallways, and fragmented conversations. By the day’s end, it is all one can do to return home, turn the key in the lock, and shut it all out for a few brief hours – if one is so fortunate to be my age, children independent, with a supportive husband cooking dinner.

Gravitating to my library upstairs, it is no accident that I choose – finally – to read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. With first glance, the artwork calms – soft blue paper, elegant typeface, and the precious, scientific illustration of said snail.  Beauty wrapped into a  book – a size fitting delicately into the hands. The reader knows this is something wonderful from the touch alone.

And, it is. Transported to the very limited environment of the invalid, lying horizontal, finds solace and inspiration through her observations of the seemingly insignificant wild snail.  Taken away from the horrors in the headlines, and high anxieties about students’ successes or lack of, I am reminded that the present – here and now – is the “still point” as T. S. Eiot* tell us. So begins a metaphorical journey back to the self. Every night. At my bedside I am quieted in body and spirit through the life of this snail and one woman’s profound care of it. The beginning of the school year, yes; the beginning of the cycle of renewal – this too is possible with a good book.

Bailey, Elisabeth Tova. The Sound of a wild snail eating. NC:Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010. Print.


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