I’ve just finished this sweet little book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. It’s the memoir of a woman who gets sick and waits out her illness watching a little snail that a friend delivered to her in a flowerpot. She learns from the snail about slowness, although the snail moves faster than she does while she’s bedridden. Her understanding of the snail’s stillness over the course of 12 months mirrors her acceptance of her illness “standstillness”.
“The velocity of the ill, however, is like that of the snail,” Emily Dickinson.
If you’ve ever been sick or held back from everything that’s defined you for some reason, I reckon you’ll get this sweet journey. Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck down with a particularly virulent strain of flu while travelling and it developed into a much more serious illness – something akin to CFS – which left her debilitated for almost twenty years. It was in the worst period that a friend gave her the little woodland snail as a (pretty weird!) gift.
The book opened me up. And it was beautiful to appreciate that some things have an inevitable pace. Meaning can be found in not moving, in being quiet. And that nature can find us and teach us what we need to know.
Happily, I was able to contact Elisabeth, who shared with me some thoughts on her illness.