15 lessons I learned from stepping on a snail in Bali (and then saving it)
15. Anyone is capable of anything.
14. It's the actions we take after we “mess up” that truly matter.
13. Be honest with yourself, and your current situation.
12. Do your best and know that is all you can do.
11. Every creature is worthy of a fair chance.
10. Walking away is always an option.
9. So is staying.
8. Help when and where you can.
7. Not everyone will agree with your choices.
6. Some people will say your emotions are weird, and that is okay.
5. Just because someone else wouldn’t, doesn't mean you shouldn’t.
4. There is a community for everyone on this planet.
3. Walk mindfully.
2. Be present in every moment, with every task, big or small.
1. A cracked/broken shell doesn't mean you’ll die, it means you are vulnerable, and in need of repair, but you are not doomed and you have the abilities to heal.
I am walking late at night. My mind is racing. I am worried about my phone, it had gone for a light swim two full days before and had yet to turn back on. Walking quickly with no thought about where and how I am stepping, it is dark and I have no flashlight. CRUNCH. I can’t see what it was, and . I do try (briefly) to feel around, but can’t feel or find anything, I am at a shala in a rice field, it is pitch black, and so I quickly return to my obsessive phone thoughts and just head to bed.
I wake up the next morning, feeling fresh and with a clear mind. Resigning myself to letting go of the attachment of my phone, which I didn't even want to need for this trip. I walk out of my room, take a deep breath of fresh morning air and begin my walk to yoga. I usually walk rather slow, especially when I am in a place where I am able to be barefoot. I am just a few steps down the stone path when I see it, a giant snail just off the rock in the grass. This is the largest snail I had ever seen! Just slightly smaller than my fist! I am in awe and amazement. I have only been admiring it for a few seconds when I realize it is missing a large chip of its shell, completely broken off. My breath caught. This is what I had stepped on last night! I pick it up and the snail is trying desperately to retreat to his shell but is unable to with the large piece missing. I am confused and decide to just put him in the garden less than a foot away, at least this way he is off the main path.
I can not bring my mind to be present in yoga. I feel awful. I feel responsible for this snail, if it wasn’t for me, he would still have his home, his protection. I try to blame it on my phone, naturally. If I had my phone, which has a flashlight, I would have been using it and saw him. Except I know deep down that is not true. I haven't used my cell phone flashlight once this whole trip and it was 7 days in. In fact, I don’t know if I have ever used my flashlight feature. No, this was on me, and I could choose to let it go, or dwell and do nothing, or leave yoga and do something. I walked out of yoga. I wasn’t really doing yoga anyway. I was moving my body, but I wasn’t present, with myself, the teacher or with the class.
As I walk up the path in a slightly hurried pace, I keep a close eye on the ground where I am about to take each new step. I see a group of chickens right where I left the snail! They scatter as I approach. He is still there. I pick him up and take a proper look at him for the first time. There is a chunk of shell embedded in his slimy body. That may be enough to discard him, decide it's gone too far, but I can't give up that easy. And I can't even explain why I can't, not even to myself. Perhaps it's this magical land, I feel a deep responsibility to fix this, or at least try. I find a large, steady blade of grass and gently push the shell piece out of him. He is trying to retreat, with nowhere to go. I find a larger leaf and place him on there but I have no idea what to do next.
As I stand, almost in shock, I am feeling quite upset and responsible for its life. I crushed its home and shelter, I can not leave it into the chickens. My mind is racing, who could help me? I decide find my retreat sister. The one I know will truly understand me, how I am feeling and why I need support in this situation. I find her in her room and knock on the door, leaf and snail in hand, tears in my eyes and a plea in my voice. She waves me in and gives the snail a once over as I explain what happened. She kindly tells me i am not responsible for its life. “But I am!” I say, “I crushed its home, he/she is vulnerable because of me. It is my duty to do my absolute best for it”. She suggests putting it in the dense bushes on the other side of the pool. The chickens never go over there and we have all seen many snails in the thick leaves. I feel relieved to have a plan! I head over to the spot and find a nice patch of dirt under a large banana tree leaf. I place the leaf and snail down and head to breakfast. Of course, I then need to google its fate. How much of a chance does a snail with half a shell have? I read some bleak information, and some positive information. Ultimately though, it depends on how much shell is remaining since it is their protector of vital organs. Almost all the shell of this snail is still there, I feel a lot better about its chances. It has been about an hour since dropping him/her off to the “healing home” and I head back to check on it. Amazing! It has moved to almost the edge of the leaf. I feel good about this! The patch of dirt is about 10 inches around of space with many large Abyssinian Banana tree leaves shade and block the sun and view. There is plenty of room to travel but with ample coverage from the elements.
Today is a personal day in the retreat. I try to keep busy and move my thoughts to other tasks. After a day out I head back to check on any progress, its all for my peace of mind really. As I pull back the large Banana tree leaf, I see the snail has moved just off the green platform on to the dirt. Amazing! He is okay! Then I begin to take in the sight of the area around the snail, the small patch of dirt now has about 10 large snails that were not there before! A community has formed around this broken and healing snail!
A wave of relief and joy washes over me! Of course, I don't know for certain he will be ok, it's impossible to know for sure. However, I feel like he has a damn good opportunity to heal! Yes, I could have left him, broken and hurting, to be pecked at by the chickens in the hot sun.
A wave of love, openness and appreciation for life takes over me.
So, I crushed a snails shell, because I was worried about an electronic device I promised I wouldn't even use. I could have left him and maybe it would have been okay. But I wanted to give him his absolute best chance possible, and in the end, that is all I could really do.
Unfortunately, there is no photo of the actual snail, I was in the moment, living fully and presently in the situation, and didn’t even think to find a camera to take his photo. instead, here is a photo of another cool snail that was spotted at the Shala :)