Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Snail trail

On still summer nights, when the sun drenched day had left a haze of heat rising skyward, and windows were thrown wide to beckon in the briefest of breezes; my mother would lie awake listening to the slurping of hedgehogs in the vegetable garden. With snuffling delight, they feasted upon those slugs and snails that had silently crept from under hose-dampened leaves to dance beneath the moon.

As a small child, I would investigate the 'slug traps' put down to entice both slugs and snails away from the growing greenery. These consisted of old jars, half filled with beer into which they would slide, until sodden with alcohol and unable to crawl back out, they would drown.

Slugs never fascinated me, they were fat, rubbery and grotesque, with nothing endearing to redeem them; but snails! ...with tentacles that stretched and shrank as they slid along the patio, past abandoned pots, and on into flowerbed beyond; These were the creatures that caught my imagination.

Snails, their whorled and patterned shells shiny with rain, hiding under terracotta pots where, in the damp darkness, babies as thin as a fingernail slowly inched up through the cracks and crevasses and out into daylight; their pale shells almost translucent in the sunshine.

On rain swept days, they would creep from beneath the dampened lavender to slowly form a swirling rangoli of shimmering slime on the pathway; and I , fascinated, would watch their intricate manoeuvres as they weaved in and out and around each other, their tentacles quivering and stretching in time to their courtly dance. I could not bear to see one crushed underfoot, so would gently peel them from the path, and deposit them in the long grass beside the fence; safe from unknowing feet and hungry thrushes; awaiting their chance to dance in the velvety blackness of the coming night.

Indeed, when the rain had seeped into another day, and the morning sun warmed the garden once more; the still shimmering steps of waltzing snails could be seen, long after their midnight music had faded into silence.

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