Nature, noticing, and my favorite thing on the internet
My kid is into snails, and, now, so am I. We have these brown and green garden snails that take over our neighborhood in the spring and summer. They congregate in the sidewalk gardens and in the narrow strip of weeds between our building and the next. They climb up iron gates and cling to walls and windowsills. They love wet leaves.
It started as a way to get the kid to school on days he didn’t want to go. How many snails do you think we can count between here and school? A “good snail day” is anything over twenty. Some days it’s easy to reach twenty or thirty without even trying, but if it’s dry or too hot or too cold, we have to hunt. We crouch down before tree wells and flower beds — we’ve learned their favorites — and peek inside plants.
It makes for a slow walk to school, but it’s a walk full of delighting in nature and practicing the art of noticing. Just one block away is the five-way intersection of two of the busiest streets in Brooklyn, but here are snails.
I have learned a lot about this type of land snail, because the kid asks questions. Snails do not leave their shells to move to larger ones as they grow, like crabs; their shells grow with them. Snails are both sexes and can mate with other snails or self-fertilize. When snails get too cold, they hibernate, and when they get too hot, they estivate. They can sleep for up to three years.
I think we saw our last snail of the year last Monday. It was tucked inside the heart of a large fern. The next day brought a cold snap, and no snails.
My kid misses the wintering snails, and so do I. He asked if he could get a pet snail, and my research led me to the wonderful r/snails and perhaps the best thing I have ever seen on the internet, which is this moderator post asking people who post images of injured snails to use the NSFW tag. “People come to this sub because they love snails.” (But to be clear: “Images of mating don't require the NSFW tag.”) Earnest, joyful places still exist online.
This week in writing
I am taking a short break from the pond novel while Anna reads the first 260 pages. Once I have her notes, I’m going to wrap it up! In the meantime, I have been working on my application for a NYFA fellowship and writing a book review of Marie-Helene Bertino’s Beautyland, which will come out in mid-January. It’s been nice to take a little breather and work on something that uses a different part of the brain.
This week in reading
Other than r/snails, I’m still reading Family Lexicon and listening to Hot Springs Drive. I also read this profile of Sigrid Nunez that was published in October, for inspiration for my NYFA artist statement. I find that when I’m trying to figure out what the heck I’m trying to do and how to talk about it, it helps to read about the artists I admire. A reminder of the why. Sigrid’s new book is out and it’s next on my list.
I hope you encounter something like snails in your life today. 🐌