The Solace of Slugs


After a long dry spell, with the lawn dried to a light brown crisp and the garden crying for water, it rained last night.  It continues to rain today, each droplet slurped up into the ground without hesitation.  The world was very thirsty, which is a rare event here in the Pacific Northwest where waterlogged is the typical chronic malady.

Heading out to the barn for chores was a hazardous journey,  slipping and sliding on hordes of slugs that had surfaced everywhere like pimples on a teenager’s back, seemingly overnight. They crawled out from under every leaf and every stray piece of wood to bask in the rain, replenishing the moisture lost over weeks of hot sun.  Somehow I always suspected there was a secret world of organisms out there, oozing and creeping in the dark of the night, but preferred not to think about them if I didn’t have to.  But they would confront me regularly to remind me of their existence.  At dawn, the cat food bowl sometimes contained clues that parties were being thrown at midnight by the back porch, with glistening slime trails in and out of the bowl and in concentric circles all around.  When I would grab a handful of green beans in the garden, some of them would be slippery with slug slime and neat little chunks would be missing.  The tidiest stealth invasion was a tomato that looked invitingly red and plump from one side, but when picked, was completely cored, hanging in a dangling half shell from the vine with mucus strands still dripping.  There was some serious eating going on right under our noses.

Actually the chewing is under the slug noses, all four noses to be precise.  With that much sensory input, no wonder a slug knows about the transparent apple peelings lying on the bottom of my tall compost bucket outside the back door.  I think they traveled for miles to find this particular stash, climbing up the bucket sides and slithering down into glorious apple orgy.  The party lasted until morning when I discovered them still congregating and clinging, gorged and immobile in their satiety on the sides and bottom of the bucket.  I had unwittingly provided the means of their intoxication, having now become an accessory to minors in possession.

In my middle years, I now appreciate slugs for what they are.  No longer do I run for the salt shaker as I did in my younger, more ruthless days.  Instead I find it strangely reassuring that a land locked amorphous invertebrate can survive days of 100+ degree heat, weeks of no rain and still thrive to replenish its kind.  If something so homely and seemingly inconsequential to the world can make it in spite of conditions that conspire to dry it to dust, then maybe I have a chance as well.   I too may not be presentable at times,  and sometimes leave behind evidence of where I’ve been and the havoc I’ve created.  But then someone puts out a sweet meal for me to feast on, allowing me a celebration of life, and spares me when what I deserve is the salt shaker.

It is solace indeed:  if the slugs are loved, than so am I.

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