There are potted-up succulents on my dining table. I often look closely at them and just enjoy staring at their shapes as I eat my breakfast or idly sit in the sunshine trying to wake up for the day. It's therapeutic, really, to look really hard at 'em. Those little succulents are good for me with all those succulent-y shapes they have. There are long shapes, round shapes, pointy shapes, stick shapes and leafy shapes.
And then there was a little shiny round shape at the bottom of the plants in the dirt. It moved. Having pulled a slug from a fresh clump of moss I had just brought home from the garden center, I expected another fat and ugly slug. Upon closer examination, and closer examination still, this shiny little guy was a snail. A teency little snail maybe no bigger than a freckle. A tiny thrill of "oh boy" flew through me, as I quickly adjusted to the idea of having a new pet.
sure, he was a wild snail, and not really a good pet as housepets go. But he was so teeny! and he had those oogly woogly eyestalk things looping through the air ahead of him as he slowly slimed his way across my potted succulent forest floor.
I immediately grabbed my gardening tweezers (a pair of long-ish tweezers usurped from a high school lab years ago) and gently grasped the shiny round creature, now startled and 'hiding'.
Unable to stop myself, I announced to the room and directly AT the snail: "You're a Snail!"
Proclamation complete, I reached over for an experimental jar I keep in the windowsill. The jar locks tightly and is acting as a mini-micro-greenhouse kind of terrarium with a healthy layer of soil on the bottom and a chunk of spare kindling and a little decorative mud-house and some struggling succulent cuttings inside it. It steams up dutifully every day and then goes all healthy and clear at night. The first batch I had in there got moldy, fast. The remaining stragglers, now gaining a foothold in their little jar, are looking pretty strong and healthy.
With one hand I unlatched the glass jar's lid and a breath of that wet soil-flavored steam hit me. It's a good smell. I plopped my little snail inside the jar and waited and watched what happened next with the jar lid wide open. Now was the time to observe and see if this would be a good match. Indeed, the snail seemed pleasantly surprised with the new surroundings and immediately took to "running" all over the place and shlooping up the moist jar sides and then glumping across the black potting soil and then taking a few tentative moments here and there to explore the plants who also shared this space.
When the snail was happily re-stuck to the glass, I closed the jar lid and held the whole contraption up in the sunlight.
The shell on this little garden pest was less than paper thin. The sunlight poured through it with abandon and then illuminated one of nature's secrets just for me. I saw the snail's heartbeat. Ker-thump, ker-thump went that tiny little heart which was hardly bigger than a few grains of sand. Ker-thump, ker-thump, ker-thump, it went as the snail explored droplet after droplet of condensation in the jar.
Although humans have been well aware of common-garden-snail-anatomy for ages, I secretly knew that no human had ever seen THIS heart beat before. And even the snail, in his snail-ly perfection, probably wasn't even aware that such a thing was happening. I don't know, maybe snails thrill to the steady chunk-a-junk of their own heartbeats... but likely they don't really think much about it.
Me though, there I was at my dining table holding my little experimental glass jar terrarium up in the sunlight and I was watching a snail's heart beat and beat and beat and beat.
I need not tell you what a really benignly magnificent moment that was.
I dropped a small fringe of lettuce leaf in there to sustain my guest until I could think better of what to do with him. He's in there now, while I'm at work. And I think of that dutiful little heartbeat, thumping away for all its worth, in the pit of a teeny weeny snail shell in a jar in my windowsill in Alexandria Virginia. And I'm suddenly overcome with the sounds of all the other unseen heartbeats in my world around me... the bugs, the birds, the spiders and the squirrels... ker-thunk, ker-thunk goes the world.
ker-thunk, ker-thunk goes my heart right along with it.