Posted by: floridanature | October 12, 2008

The Snail Within

The rains we so badly needed here in Florida hadn’t yet started when the snail came into my head.

There were coonties nearby in a clay pot,  and atop the plants in the pot was a pinkie-finger sized anole acting as if it were a large dinosaur, leaping many times its length in the air to catch an insect on the bloom of the lantana, one pot over.  There was a tree frog the size of a quarter hiding in the crook of a magnolia leaf. And finally, a comatose dragonfly with a red tail and green thorax that I had rescued from the top of my car; a dragonfly which  I hoped would come back to life.

I was sitting in an old white wicker chair on the long and narrow screened porch that trails between the house and the garage, looking at the trunks of the live oaks outside. None of the them were upright like responsible trees; instead, each splayed out in every direction, more like a giant clump of tasseled grasses than a real tree.

The Spanish moss hung low on the branches, and birds like Carolina wrens flitted through it, snatching insects. The resurrection fern, with no rain to keep it inflated, had drawn up tight into itself like tiny dried funeral bouquets pressed into the tree bark.

I don’t know why I should think of the snails then, but I did. I had lived in this house at the edge of a historic neighborhood in a small northeastern Florida town for two years. I was still getting used to it, still making compromises with living in a town after spending most of my life living on the edge of the country.

The impending prospect of having a two story condominum complex next to my backyard where once there had been a 20 acre citrus grove pelled doom for me. I was tired of it all and a stable older neighborhood was less likely to have a brand new box store of any sort wedged into the middle of it. So here I was, sitting on my back porch with the distinct image of a snail in my head.

The snail was what I had thought was an aphaostracon, and back at my old farm house, I was constantly stumbling onto animals like that which were either migrating through or were revealing themselves in the dirt. The pass-throughs included gopher tortoises and flocks of over-wintering birds; revelations in the dirt included broken limestone from an old Timucuan campsite, and the shells of land snails.

The snails were fun to find since they were usually hidden away —sometimes in the branches of the giant Cereus night-blooming cactus, sometimes near the fish pond.. They were always empty shells, and the older ones of course were bleached white by the sun.

The newly vacated shells were more pinkish in color. All were about the same size, about an inch and a half from stem to stern, and elongated.

I imagined the animal to be akin to other snails I had seen —just a slug head with antennae, maybe a quarter size of the shell itself, all in proportion.

So, this is about snails in the landscape. But, really, it’s about details in the world around us.

I’m figuring if we pay attention to details, it gives us information we would not otherwise have.

Tiny antenna. A fern the size of a dime that is is full bloom. An anole that lives in my coontie and acts as if he (she) is the toughest reptile on the block. A tiny tree frog that sucks up mosquitoes like we might inhale air.

Jeez. Makes me thankful for living where I do, when stuff like this can actually happen almost any time of the year.



  1. Yes, we have got to be thankful for whatever we have wherever we are: snails are the perfect example. They are surprisingly fast if you ask me, at least here in south Florida they glide. (They are probably slower up north).

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