The photos on my phone lately are of snails: small, brown, whorling armored bodies. All summer our yard has been infested with slugs. At one point the branches of the bolted kale and the wild parsnips were covered with them, hanging like Christmas tree ornaments. It was nearly impossible to walk in the yard without stepping on one. Diligence: but not out of concern for life, really. But to avoid intimacy with all of these open-gutted creatures that live here, despite the fat hedgehog that returned to the shelter of the holly bush. A fat man at the feast. Full.
The word is the same for snail and slug in Norwegian, which I find odd. Although, really, isn’t the only difference between the two the level of vulnerability? And that – maybe – most of us find vulnerability repugnant?
They say that all the creatures in our dreams are reflections of our own psyche. I wonder sometimes if this isn’t also true of our waking perceptions of the world. If we truly are annoyed most by people who reflect our own worst character traits – by our own measure – then it might follow that we are similarly repulsed by the elements of the natural world that reflect our worst fears.
I feel guilty killing a slug. But (or and?) do my best to avoid seeing them. I have spent too much of this summer and fall so far indoors. I feel as though the last two years have torn a hole in my skin, and the pale, soft mechanisms of my life are on display. I cling to the days and hope no one will notice. At least you tell yourself that. Sometimes you reach a point of self-loathing where you want to be conspicuous. You want to dare the world to pour salt on your wounds.
Now, though, there are fewer slugs. Maybe the hedgehogs (and there are many this year) are filling up for the winter sleep. Now the snails cling to the waxy leaves of the holly bush. Sometimes alone. Sometimes in clusters. Their shells are like fragile bones that are more show than function. Or maybe their function is show. A bit of theater. A pretense of strength and decorum that make us all more comfortable? Home is where the facade goes.
It’s time to pull on the snowsuit and walk Leonard in this rain. Dawn is an hour away. The gravel will crunch under my shoes. The sparrows will rustle in the bushes that line the path. And maybe I will feel safe enough, strong enough to begin writing again.