New Year’s Wish: Snail Love Darts

The gift of some extra down time this post-holiday week has had wrapped in it another, quite exquisite gift: time to read and really absorb The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.

With the colder days I have retreated a bit into my own shell, and reading the adventures of another sometime hibernator has warmed me. The book is also such an encouraging peek into the life of the mind, as the author wrote it while coping with a long-term postviral illness. Perhaps a small silver lining is the forced slowing down which allowed her to fully appreciate and record in delectable detail the glacial pace of her nearby terrarium friend.

I love the idea that I’ve probably walked past tons of snails back in the Cockaponset, many of them too small and/or well camouflaged to see. Another reminder to LOOK MORE CLOSELY at all around me. A great joy of loving nature is that you can never see it all or know it all. I received several gifts this Christmas, but the world unfolds endlessly, surpassing any manmade gift.

Snail trail from Flickr

The trail of a very circuitous snail, from Thomas Guest on Flickr

I’m particularly taken with the idea of the snail love dart. I learned that about a third of snail species shoot actual darts at their intended mates; the projectiles are thought to contain special pheromones that might improve safe sperm storage. Bailey describes them as “tiny, beautifully made arrows of calcium carbonate, and they look as if they’ve been crafted by the very finest of artisans. They are formed inside the body of the snail over the course of a week.” She goes on to describe how some darts are reused, others can be carried in pouches by the snail. How I’d love to own one of these tiny wonders (although I wouldn’t want to rob any snail of its reproductive possibilities!).

Love dart of the land snail Monachoides vicinus, from Wikipedia.

Love dart of the land snail Monachoides vicinus, from Wikipedia.

My own book in progress starts with reflections on a slug (which, by the way, evolved after the snail, with the new advantage of being able to squeeze into more places). How nice it has been to read dispatches from Bailey, another appreciator of slow but persistent creatures. If we could all somehow slow down enough to regularly contemplate these wonders, how much hope there would be for a calmer and more thoughtfully deliberate world!

PS: Staying on the “sluggish” track, also enjoyed A Sloth Named Velcro on Netflix this week.

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6 thoughts on “New Year’s Wish: Snail Love Darts

    • Thanks, Jean. I so appreciate your reading the blog. I had better get cracking at completing that book! Sometimes I feel very much like a snail, in terms of the pace of progress. ~@~ (I notice Sounds of a Wild Snail Eating’s author used these symbols after her signature–I am pretty sure it is a sort of snail “emoticon”!)

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