“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail…the snail kept my spirit from evaporating. Between the two of us, we were a society all our own, and that kept isolation at bay.” - Elisabeth Tova Bailey
When Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck with an illness of uncertain origin, her life dramatically changed, as she was left almost completely incapacitated, and all those daily motions that we take for granted, from rising in the morning to brushing one’s teeth, became, in all practicality, impossible. As a result, Ms. Bailey was forced to leave the familiar surroundings of her home for a studio apartment that was easily serviced by a professional care provider.
As one can imagine, this situation left Ms. Bailey significantly challenged and overwhelmingly distraught, but then one day, a friend of Ms. Bailey’s dropped by for a visit with a peculiar gift – a pot of violets taken from the local woods that included a wild snail, and it is from this deceptively simple present that Ms. Bailey experiences a sublime sense of renewal in her life as a convalescent.
Through close observation afforded by her confinement, Ms. Bailey comes to admire her new roommate and to realize that once one takes the time, whether by choice or force, to examine life from a different perspective, that of a snail’s in this case, modern life for the human being begins to seem entirely too fast in its pace, and that, just perhaps, it might be warranted to ponder why it is we all run about in such a frenzy.
And peppered throughout Ms. Bailey’s frank prose concerning a single year of her illness and the ruminations sparked by a single snail, were scientific sections about the snail as an animal, based on the extensive research that Ms. Bailey conducted, and I must admit that I had no real idea how truly amazing the snail is, regardless which of the roughly forty thousand types is being referenced. In the words of Ms. Bailey in a letter she wrote to her doctor:
“I could never have guessed what would get me through this past year – a woodland snail and its offspring; I honestly don’t think that I would have made it otherwise.”
With so many demands on our time and attention, it would be wise to remember the myriad details of life that are so easily missed, lest we forget the wonder that surrounds us always.
You can reserve a copy of her memoir, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by clicking here.
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