"The snail has been a true mentor. Its tiny existence has sustained me." Elisabeth Tova Bailey
If I were rich, I would buy a copy of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey for each of my friends. I'm not sure that every one of them would appreciate it, but I think it has a wonderfully profound story. Bailey was literally laid flat by an unknown disease twenty years ago. She did not have the energy to sit up. To relieve the boredom of her convelescence a friend brought her a terra-cotta pot of field violets with a snail. Asked why the snail, the friend replied, "I don't know. I thought you would enjoy it." She was not really sure the snail was alive. It proved to be very alive.
For much of the next year, Bailey watched the snail venture forth from the flower pot. She learned how the snail could suspend itself upside down, glide across moss, and cut square holes in paper. Later, when she had a friend set up a terrerium for the snail, she watched it explore and choose sleeping spots. In the near silence of her life, Bailey could even hear the snail eating. Bailey noticed that the snail did everything with a slow determination - an apt example for a woman with autoimmune dysautonomia and chronic fatigue syndrome brought on by mitochondrial disease.
It has taken Bailey twenty years to write her memoir filled with personal observation and a healthy serving of gastropod science. For the reader, it was worth the wait.
Bailey, Elisabeth Tova. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010. ISBN 9781565126060.