To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s long meditation on, of all things, a snail, is a beautiful thing. A modest, unostentatious and tender account of one year confined to a sick bed, at times close to dying, kept alive in hope and spirit by connection with a snail. Life slowed down to simplicity and snail time as living at human speed becomes impossible.
Victim of a lethal mystery virus – possibly Lyme disease, possibly also ME, possibly tick-borne encephalitis, Tova Bailey has written an account of one year of her history of debilitating illness. Observing a snail brought to her on a violet plant by a friend provides deep immersion into what it means to be human by contrast with what it means to be snail. Tova Bailey explores with interest the lives of snails – but this is much more than a fascinating introduction to gastropods. Its a beautiful illustration of Blake’s ‘Auguries of Innocence’ quote above – anything, no matter how humble, can open into wonder and provide ‘thoughts that do lie too deep for tears’
Oh, and if you think ‘well I’m not the least interested in snails, horrid creatures’ prepare to be seduced into seeing a snail from a changed perspective, gently shown the blinkered quality of your previous snail view by this delightful snailscape!
Another writer with a brilliant ability to show the natural world in a deeply reflective, transcendent manner is Sharman Apt Russell Anatomy Of A Rose: The Secret Life of Flowers and An Obsession With Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect
Admittedly Tova Bailey’s subject is rather more unusual – many of us love roses and butterflies, and both of them have acquired mythological and mystical connections – but Snails??? Prepare to be enchanted.
I was reminded of just how much I had been moved, enchanted and come into being present, by the reading of this reflective, modest book, by another blogger’s post about it – here is a ping back to that review
I originally received the book as an ARC from the Amazon Vine Programme, UK