The family recently acquired a “Mystery Snail”–pomacea bridgesii for anyone interested–for the home aquarium, located, conveniently, in my den.
So I’ve been observing this little fellow now for the past week or so, mostly in the evenings, and I’ve been amazed to learn a few things that I thought I’d share with you:
Seven Life Lessons from a Mystery Snail
Mystery Lesson Number One: Adaptability
As I watch the little golden shelled dude slide around (is ‘slide’ the proper verbiage?), it’s amazing to me how adaptable he is. (Notice the projection of gender from me to ‘him’.) If he needs to eat, he slides around and eats algae and left over food from the bottom of the tank. If he needs air, he slowly glides to the top of the tank where he can catch some oxygen. If we’re vacuuming the bottom of the tank he closes his shell tightly and waits out the storm. In fact, no matter what his environment throws at him, he seems to calmly and deliberately do exactly what is needed in order to adapt; no more, no less. No huge or unreasonable expectations, followed by bitter disappointment or anything like that here!
Mystery Lesson Number Two: Determination
He climbs up the glass walls, slides around the gravel, gets bumped by a minnow or a shark, closes his shell up for a few moments, then opens back up and starts his journey again. Sometimes he almost makes it to the very top of the tank and gets knocked down, only to forge ahead from the beginning all over again like nothing happened. All is never lost and he never seems to throw in the towel. And to add another inappropriate metaphor for a snail: no skin off his teeth.
Mystery Lesson Number Three: Humility
It doesn’t seem to matter how lowly the fish in the tank think he is (or seem to), he deals with it all in stride. Bump him, push him around, grab the tender bit of food he was trying to get to, or even take a premeditated nip at one of his tentacles, Mystery Snail doesn’t flip out, tell the other fish off, or take it out on some other creature in the tank in order to make himself feel better. He just accepts things as they are and moves ahead.
Mystery Lesson Number Four: Kindness
Mystery Snail doesn’t seem to have a mean or malignant bone in his body. (In fact, he doesn’t seem to have ANY bones at all…) But, really, despite all of his obvious limitations and daily tribulations, he can never be spotted trying to furtively slime over a sleeping fish or occupy another’s favorite prime spot in the tank. He seems quite kind and generous to his fellow tank denizens in both spirit and general attitude.
Mystery Lesson Number Five: Patience
It doesn’t seem to matter how many hurdles are in his way, whether he’s trying to eat, explore, or get some air. And he doesn’t seem to care what the nature of the hurdle is. In fact, whether it be man (my gravel vacuum), nature, or beast, Mystery Snail seems unperturbed and unfettered. He eventually finds his way to his goal, whatever that may be and however long it may take him.
Mystery Lesson Number Six: Industriousness
This snail can WORK! One day I came in towards evening and saw that he had cleared out an area at least twenty times the size of his own little body during the previous eight or nine hours. Incredible! I like to fantasize about how much more I could get out of living if I had a proportionate amount of energy and focus for my size!
Mystery Lesson Number Seven: Rest
This little guy also knows how to STOP!! If only we too could learn how to truly allow ourselves to take a break here and there with a clear mind and a clear conscience. No guilt, no anxiety, just rest. Oh, what a world it would be!
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand a Few Things First)