Back in December, I wrote here about what I should tell my grandson, when he came for Christmas, about the pet snail that he had left behind on his summer visit to Vermont. He had mentioned to his mother that he was looking forward to seeing his snail again, and I was wondering whether I should tell him what I believed was the truth, that the snail was long gone, done in by the snow and sub-zero temperatures; or invent a pious story about the snail waiting patiently under the leaves in the yard for summer and his next visit.
A number of you voiced your opinions as to how this should be handled, and one of you suggested that I simply find out what does happen to snails in winter. So I did a cursory web search–I was busy wrapping presents and didn\’t have much time–and found out that some snails live for four years. \”That must be in Florida,\” I muttered, and googled \”Vermont snails.\” And behold, the life span of some Vermont snails is two years. That means that those fragile, soft-bodied, slimy creatures make it through two whole winters under snow and ice. But how? Do they burrow under the earth somehow (and how do you burrow when your head is the consistency of jello)? Do they hide under leaves? The websites were silent on these points.
At any rate, when my grandson inquired about his snail, I was able to tell him with a clear conscience that the snail was outside somewhere, waiting for spring. \”But why,\” the boy inquired, \”didn\’t you keep him in the house?\” And here I did make something up. \”Because,\” I said, pointing to the fire burning in the wood stove, \”the heat would have dried him up.\”
My next dilemma will be, when my grandson visits in the summer and wants to see his snail again, whether to pick up an understudy from under a spinach plant and tell him he\’s the one, or to tell him the truth.
Nature red in tooth and claw–snails gobbled up by chickadees, bunnies carried off by hawks, a hundred Haitis in every square foot of field and woods–how can I bring myself to paint her as such to my grandchildren, when I have trouble seeing her that way myself?