The snail is a universe without a mind and I am a mind without a place to be today at large in a book that I’m writing on somewhere else—with someone else in mind. He has taken the morning to move between a potted palm and me on one foot, stripped to the waist like Sisyphus carrying his stone. In an hour or so he has made my pot plant an indoor topiary— a thought balloon above a stunted stem and nothing can save it now. His work has been done a bite at a time and like a film run in reverse— it’s a masterpiece resolved into a doodle. I am Issa and feeling uninspired. I am Bashō on a bad day rewriting Homer as haiku. I have sixteen syllables in hand and a book’s worth of words boiled clean of ideas. The snail is a godsend—today any distraction will do. As he clips the Yucca into a cartoon tree and I watch his work instead of my own, it occurs that the snail would just be a slug without its shell. I test this idea on him and he thinks on it as he kneels in his shell, his upward looking eyes on the glory of slow things. By the time he is done with my tree I have uncapped my pen but the light is poor and the nib bends as I write into an awkward bow.
Slow Life with Inscrutable Snail