Monday, August 18, 2014
a surprise of snails
After my post-office errand, I walked down Solar Street, in Syracuse. I had two pieces of litter in my hand, a flattened beverage cup with straw and a flattened cigarette pack. I had already recovered and delivered to the USPS doorkeeper (closing time had passed while I was writing a check in the P.O.) a white paper plate stamped with tire tread and some remnants of plastic bag that resided in front of the P.O. (Or something else. I am already forgetting.) I did not want to bother the affable clerk to open the locked door once again. Plus, he might see me as some litter-gathering psycho. In the shade of sunny Solar, I spotted, on the border of cut grass and overgrown shrubbery, a split-open empty potato chip (or similar contents) bag. I hesitated. Why pick it up? It will dirty my hands. What difference will it make? I could do this all day and not make a dent. Just yesterday, strolling through Solvay, I passed the lawn of some young people with kids adrift and noise aplenty. At the edge of their lawn, garbage, litter, filth. I paused and looked at the detritus, angrily hoping to catch the attention of the residents. And then what would I say? And would my life then be in danger for saying it or silently conveying it? Killed over litter. Not the way to go, I guess. Or would it be a bold statement? Um, no. Walking home, I had a revelation. If they could care less about their own house or (most likely) rental property, why should I be surprised if they toss junk from their car window or from their hands as they walked? It makes no difference to them. Just as, perhaps, nothing makes much difference to them in their lives. As I picked up the shining foil of the snack bag, I was surprised to fine dozens of snails in the dirt. I jostled the shells. They all seemed vacant of snails. I guess they would be. So, it was a surprise of snail shells, not snails. I know little of snails, despite my reading of the fiction of Anthony Doerr. Naively, I expect shells like these to be found near the sea. The closest water is Onondaga Lake, and the stream leading to it, Nine Mile Creek. James Lipton compiled An Exaltation of Larks. Are snails, or shells, included in his taxonomy and lexicon?