The Snail’s Huffle

Little snail,
Dreaming you go.
Weather and rose
Is all you know.
Weather and rose
Is all you see,
The dewdrop’s
~Langston Hughes “Snail”

   A walk, a rout, an escargatroire
of snails—do you envy their elasticity? To each,
      an aria, the tender antennae perceiving,
         smelling and feeling, heeding
         an orchestration, inborn: Seek. Glean.
      O this thirst! Dare we risk
   spiraling outward, onward, a frangible
ode-in-motion? Dear Earth, why show us
   these rippling, quicksilver guides,
      their boneless glide,
         the fearless right-angle ascent,
         with a cellular hope’s acrobatic
      sheen—even upside-down? Surely,
   an ancient desert mother advised,
Your shell will teach you everything.

~Laurie Klein “A Walk, a Rout, An Escargatroire”

James was a very small snail…
and gave the huffle of a snail in danger.
And nobody heard him at all.
~A.A.Milne from The Four Friends from  “When We Were Very Young”

I mean, the analogy writes itself
like the onion in a grand conceit
though we really are like two slugs
in a derelict mausoleum.
Google “snails are…”
Dangerous. Slow.
Destroying my garden.
Our jobs and our women.

You, who cannot speak snail,
wouldn’t understand how the shell
was the gift and curse of diaspora,
how our songs and laments resound
in our half-remembered houses
that we carry to forget, to carry on.

~Samatar Elmi “The Snails”

…who has a controlled sense of wonder
before the universal mystery,
whether it hides in a snail’s eye

or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ?
~Loren Eiseley from The Star Thrower

If a snail’s shell gets injured, a repair can be made quickly. New shell material is secreted by the mantle, and where there was once a crack, a scar appears, looking much like a skin scar. Even a missing shell section can be replaced.

Oliver Goldsmith described this in 1774:
Sometimes these animals are crushed seemingly to pieces, and, to all appearance, utterly destroyed; yet still they set themselves to work, and, in a few days, mend all their numerous breaches . . . to the re-establishment of the ruined habitation. But all the junctures are very easily seen, for they have a fresher colour than the rest; and the whole shell, in some measure, resembles an old coat patched with new pieces.
― Elisabeth Tova Bailey, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

A gastropod brave enough
to cross a busy sidewalk
appears in no particular rush~

no hurry toward the grassy expanse
on the other side.
The lawn will still be there
whether an hour from now
or tomorrow.

Its waving little snail eyes
trying see and smell the future.

To assure it would not be crushed underfoot
I decide to intervene in history
and give it a lift
as Someone has done for me
when I was in danger.

So today,
I saw a snail at risk of being crushed
and didn’t need to hear its cry
to do the right thing.


Make a one-time or recurring donation to support daily Barstorming posts

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is deeply appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Where the Sun Never Sets

In this kingdom 
the sun never sets; 
under the pale oval 
of the sky 
there seems no way in 
or out, 
and though there is a sea here 
there is no tide.
For the egg itself 
is a moon 
glowing faintly 
in the galaxy of the barn, 
safe but for the spoon’s 
ominous thunder, 
the first delicate crack 
of lightning.
~Linda Pastan, “Egg”

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:
it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly

while remaining an egg. 
We are like eggs at present. 
And you cannot go on indefinitely

being just an ordinary, decent egg. 
We must be hatched or go bad.
C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

I try hard to be the good egg-
smooth on the surface,
gooey inside, often a bit scrambled,
yet ordinary and decent,
indistinguishable from others,
blending in,
not making waves.

It’s not been bad staying just as I am.
Except I can no longer remain like this.

A dent or two have appeared in my outer shell
from bumps along the way,
and a crack up one side
extends daily.

It has come time to change or face inevitable rot.

Nothing can be the same again:
the fragments of shell left behind
must be abandoned as
useless confinement.

Newly hatched
and transformed:
now there is the wind beneath my wings.
I’ll soar toward an endless horizon
where the sun never sets.
and stretches beyond eternity.

I will no longer be merely ordinary.


Make a one-time or recurring donation to support daily Barnstorming posts

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is deeply appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

The Coiled Shell of Their Lives

Needing them still, I come
when I can, this time to the sea
where we share a room: their double bed,
my single. Morning fog paints the pale
scene even paler. Lace curtains breathing,
the chenille spread folded back,
my father’s feet white sails furled
at the edge of blue pajamas.
Every child’s dream, a parent
in each hand, though this child is fifty.
Their bodies fit easily, with room
to spare. When did they grow
so small? Grow so small—
as if it were possible to swell
backwards into an earlier self.

One more year, I ask the silence.
Last night to launch myself
into sleep I counted their breaths, the tidal
rise and fall I now put my ear to,
the coiled shell of their lives.
~Rebecca McClanahan from “Watching my Parents Sleeping Beside an Open Window Near the Sea” from Deep Light: New and Selected Poems.

My parents have been gone now for some time, my father over 25 years, my mother now over 10 years. Their dying was a long process of counted breaths and pauses. I witnessed their bodies curling into themselves, shrinking smaller, worn down by illness and age.

I still miss them, reminded of them by the events of my own life, still wanting them to take me by the hand as I navigate my own daily path.

After mom’s death, those possessions not distributed to family members have remained packed up and stored in our barn buildings. I know it is well past time to deal with their stuff as I become keenly aware of my own greying and aging.

Untouched in the bookshelf of our bedroom is a sealed box of over 500 letters written by my mother and father between 1941 and 1945. I know the letters began as they were getting to know each other at college, then going from “pinned” to “engaged” and continue for three and a half more years after a hurried wedding Christmas Eve 1942. By mid January 1943 my newly minted Marine officer father shipped out to spend the next three years of his life on the Pacific Ocean, fighting on the battlefields of Saipan, Tinian and Tarawa, not to return again to the states until late summer of 1945. My mother wrote her letters from a rural eastern Washington community, living in a “teachers’ cottage” with other war wives who taught school while waiting for their husbands to return home – or not.

It has taken me a decade to find the courage and time to devote to reading these letters they treasured and never threw away. Yesterday I sorted them unopened by postmark date into some semblance of order and sat down to start at the very beginning, which, of course, is my beginning as well. Only sixty letters in, I open each one with some trepidation and a lump in my throat about what I might find written there. I worry I may find things I don’t want to know. I hope I find things that I desperately need to know.

Most of all I want to understand the two people who became my parents within the coiled shell of their forty years together, though broken by a painful divorce which lasted a decade. Having lived through that awful time with them, I want to understand the origin of a love which mended their cracked shell, glueing them back together for five more years before my father died.

As I read their words over the next few weeks, I hope I too can cross a bridge back to them both.

Both Landlord and Tenant



The frugal snail, with forecast of repose,    
Carries his house with him where’er he goes;    
Peeps out,—and if there comes a shower of rain,    
Retreats to his small domicile again.    
Touch but a tip of him, a horn, – ’tis well, –           
He curls up in his sanctuary shell.    
He’s his own landlord, his own tenant; stay    
Long as he will, he dreads no Quarter Day.    
Himself he boards and lodges; both invites    
And feasts himself; sleeps with himself o’ nights.        
He spares the upholsterer trouble to procure    
Chattels; himself is his own furniture,    
And his sole riches. Wheresoe’er he roam, –   
Knock when you will, – he ’s sure to be at home.
~Charles Lamb  — “The Housekeeper”




I like to think of myself as carefully self-contained and safe from whatever threatens  – not dependent on others, able to bear my own burdens, completely sufficient unto today.

The reality is far different.  As sturdy and solid as I may seem on the outside, I’m nothing but soft and a bit mushy on the inside. And I have a tendency to retreat and hide inside my shell when the going gets rough.

Yet even shells can and will be broken.  I know it’s my home only for a little while.
So knock when you will:  I’ll be here.


For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.  Hebrews 13:14






Time to Hatch


It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:
it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.
We are like eggs at present.
And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.
We must be hatched or go bad.

~C.S. Lewis
Our destiny is to fly free,
whether soaring alone
or arcing and sweeping together as one organism.
It starts in the nest, protected and warmed.
No view of sky
until shrugging off the shell,
then fed until our wings
spread beyond the edges,
readying to carry us
to places beyond imagining.

Broken Things


God uses broken things.
It takes broken soil to produce a crop,
broken clouds to give rain,
broken grain to give bread,
broken bread to give strength.
It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.
~Vance Havner


And I might add:
a snail wandering into sidewalk foot traffic,
crushed, cracked and dying, clinging to the pavement,
its broken shell a gift of metaphor
of our own leaking brokenness.