Slow but steady: Snails win the race

With my former pet snail, Biscuit.

My first encounter with snails must have been when I was but little, maybe 6 or so. I was in the countryside and snails came out in scores after the refreshing summer rain. I quickly became fascinated with their beautiful shells, their considered pace, and the sensation of their cold, moist flesh across the skin of my palms.

That summer and over many summers after it, I ended up doing everything that children like to do with snails: I went on fevered searches for these creatures after a rainy spot, I kept half a dozen of them in a large shoebox into whose lid my father had punched holes so they could breathe, I gave them lettuce and cabbage leaves, and I made them run in snail races (which were never won by anybody because the snails would always stray away from our improvised racecourse and into the more inviting garden).

My childhood is dotted with snail-related landmarks, and my first ever pets were snails since, growing up on the top floor of a tall block of flats in a busy city meant that my options when it came to pets were limited. (Add to this my mother’s fear of almost all kinds of animals, especially the furry ones, and you’ll understand why snails were an obvious go-to for me.)

Many years passed and, in my mid 20s, I found myself pining for a pet. But it was tricky: I was still a student, I had little money to spare, no place of my own, and I travelled between different countries often. Under these circumstances most animals, once more, were not an option for me. Until the idea struck — why don’t I get… a snail? You can find them pretty much everywhere, and they don’t require any sizeable investment of time and money, I told myself.

Biscuit, a grove snail (Cepaea nemoralis), on the day I found it.

One day (once more in summer), as I was going through a rough patch emotionally and professionally, I happened to find a small grove snail on my university campus. This in itself was quite surprising, as I had never seen snails on the campus grounds (I expect they do a good job of poisoning “pests”).

So I decided to pick it up and adopt it. I called it “Biscuit”.

As it turns out, I did well to take it in — Biscuit appeared to have lost part of one of its upper tentacles, and since snails use their four tentacles to navigate their environment, Biscuit was now somewhat disoriented.

This was my the beginning of a very serious love affair with land snails, and they are still a huge part of my life, as I expect them to continue to be. So I’ve finally decided to start writing about these amazing little creatures that don’t tend to get much love. They are beautiful and fascinating, and they can make the best of pets.

In fact, I highly recommend land snails as pets, since they are quite hardy creatures, they can be easily found wherever you live, they don’t require much of an upkeep, and they’re not smelly or noisy. Below, I outline some snail facts that you may have not known about, and explain who may find them a good option as pets, and how best to look after them.



An Apology of Hoarding

First, a disclaimer: I am not going to talk about hoarding as a clinical condition, since I’m not qualified to tackle medical issues. What I mean when I say “hoarding” is the opposite of “minimalist living”, which has become so popular of late and is often cited as a kind of mantra. Either implicitly or explicitly packaged as “an intentional search for happiness” by its proponents, “minimalist living”  is essentially a guilt trip for hoarders. It tells us that if we don’t relinquish most of our material possessions in search for a kind of miraculous 21st-century urban Buddhism, then we we are entirely to blame for our unhappiness, failures, and general ills. “Minimalist living” is also often put forth as the cure for the capitalist evil of consumerism, suggesting that people who buy and collect things that they don’t strictly need are bowing down to the global market. A taste for acquiring bric-a-brac is condemned as unhealthy, materialistic, and leading to disorganisation and inefficiency. (more…)

A Dialogue Postcard

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The Pyromaniac and the Salamander

You burn me. They say
if you die in flames,
your shadow burns
with you and so
you may not
enter heaven.
I am heaven.
I burn you because
I am incandescent,
in me you have
your greatest wishes
fulfilled. Desire scorches
but it does not
crease the soul.
You are the blinding,
punishing light,
one may not love you
without danger.
You feed on homes
and ships alike.
I taste but to learn,
I consume but to
restore. My tongues
are tongues of wisdom,
and their venom
is hope.

Riddle on a Postcard

Had lots of fun coming up with a riddle for day thirteen of NaPoWriMo! I won’t give out the answer straight away though! So read it and leave me your guesses in the comments! ;(



Riddle Me This

Hunt me, chop me,
boil me, fry me,
to summon good fortune
you must kill my rush.
In spring I am folly,
you wear me in winter,
and although in tunnels
I set up my household,
some say that I live
on the moon.