What’s your first reaction when you see a snail in the garden? If you’re like most people, you think, “Ugh! A slimy, nasty, mucus-generating creature that eats my plants.” And your impulse is to step on it. Crunch, crunch!
But when you’re planning a mindfulness meditation or contemplation session outside, the world of snails is rich with opportunities.
On a damp morning, you can see snails heading to their daytime nap spots. Watching a snail traverse pavement, then gravel, then mulch can easily take up the full time you’ve allotted. They move at 150 feet per hour, top speed. And that speed, of course, depends on the surface it’s traveling. The bottom of the snail is its foot, which oozes the mucus that delights us as children and disgusts us as adult. That mucus is like the oil in our cars – it reduces friction so the snail appears to be gliding.
Notice where the snails go, and consider how wondrous is the snail’s ability to climb using that foot. I’ve seen snails sliding up the outside of an agave leaf, tilted upside down at an angle guaranteed to drop other critters. As well as smoothing paths that are rough, friction-rich surfaces, that mucus and foot working together seem to slurp suction to keep the snail on its path.
Like most of us, you probably think of snails as harmful creatures that eat your garden plants, so you’re tempted to throw out snail bait or salt to wipe them out
I slowed down to watch three snails in a parade one day and realized they were not eating healthy plants. They were after the sick and unhealthy ones, and the decaying plant matter on the ground. Yes, they chewed ferociously on my fuzzy-leaved Salvia argentea. But, frankly, that plant was in the wrong place, on the low side of sloping pavement, where it got too much runoff. The minute I moved the plant to higher and drier ground, the snails left it alone.
And when I’ve pushed the limits of my garden’s climate and soil conditions too far, thinking sweet goldenrod would be OK in the heat if it’s growing in shade, the snails have reminded me that my decisions about plants don’t always follow “right plant, right place.”
Watching snails humbles me.
I’ve seen at least 5 kinds in my garden, both round ones and those that look like spirals. They often lay 100 eggs at a time, which seems like a huge number until I realized their life is full of predators. Not only are snails eaten by mockingbirds, roadrunners, and doves, they are also a yummy delicacy to toads, frogs, and snakes. In fact, they are lovely morsels to firefly larvae, beetles, and even other snails!
So try sitting on a low cushion in your garden to watch the snails go by. They eat dirt for the calcium to grow their shells, can’t see too well, and have an amazingly sharp sense of smell. And they can live for 5 years.
At the speed they move, 5 years must seem like a really really long time to a snail.
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