One Splotch at a Time

snailtrail

Last week, I initiated a ritual of walking three miles a day. You could say I’m bringing my legs up to speed — helping them catch up with my “already-there” brain cells — so that my whole body will be ready to embrace the ambulatory life awaiting me in New York City.

I love walking, rather than driving (just as I love driving, rather than flying — and I hate flying, but I love driving — because you can make stops and look around). Still, walking beats all.

Had I been in a car, I would have missed seeing the snail — a creature cuter and more cartoon-like than its ickier, lower echelon gastropod cousin, the slug — a slimy animal with a rudimentary, if at all, shell.

It was my first time ever snail sighting, outside of its shell. Bivouacked on a shingle of a house or adhered to the side of a flowerpot, body furled deeply within, was how I’d always seen — not seen — them before.

Can you imagine, though, going through life at a snail’s pace? Impossible to conceive. On the other hand, how convenient it would be to carry your home on your back. No baggage, no bubble wrap, no POD to rent in which to stow your too many boxes of too much stuff whenever you move.

The downside is that the snail cannot escape its destiny as a camper. Camping is one outdoor activity I’ve successfully avoided throughout most of my life. Particularly so, here in California, where signs warning of bears, coyotes, mountain lions and rattlesnakes are posted at every trailhead.

A deterrent, absolutely. Still, a life unburdened by stuff, especially for me, these days — with all the packing and selling and throwing out I’ve been doing — seems awfully appealing.

If only I didn’t worry so much. About my stuff inside the POD (which has not even been delivered or packed yet) —

AboutUs_08-1— whether my stuff will be jostled around, broken, wrecked. If my scrupulously wrapped paintings will be dented or ruined. Or misdelivered. Or struck by lightning while in transit.

My excessive worry makes the life of a snail seem all the more attractive. Inching your way forward, one splotch at a time, languishing in your torpidity, never giving a second thought to the possibility of being squashed under a boot or shriveling up. Bliss.

So it isn’t any wonder that I’ve been jolted awake by free-floating angst one too many times in the middle of the night (picture those old Warner Bros. cartoons where the insomniac‘s eyelids snap open like window shades).

These nocturnal panic attacks are directly related to my impending move to New York — and the concern about how I can possibly cram all my stuff — along with JC’s — in a one-bedroom apartment.

Admittedly, I am a mass of contradictions.

For example, over the past few weeks, I’ve totally lost touch with the contents of the cardboard boxes that have been piling up in my living room — boxes that hold my books, cds and scores of other personal items to which, only a month ago, I’d felt so attached.

Boxes

What happened? It’s as if the old me has been archived inside those boxes and would be better served as a resident of a storage facility than occupant of an apartment in New York.

As poet Robert Bly has written in his insightful The Little Book of the Human Shadow: “We all have more than we can possibly use.”

And therein lies the conflict. My inner polemicist — the devil’s advocate side of me — will rue, at some future date, each and every action I have taken to rid myself of a given possession.

At some point down the line, guaranteed, I will set out in search of said possession…only to realize I’d sold it or thrown it out.

And right after that, I will kick myself for it.

So on my next three-mile walk, it might be more helpful if, rather than a snail, I would cross paths with a creature a little closer to my own personality, like a Bowerbird.

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