I recently read 2 books that were about nature, but from very different viewpoints: the first let me see snails in a different light, and the second gave a peek into the work/life of biologists,
“The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Elisabeth Tova Bailey is a journalist who dealt with long-term illness and in that time, started to learn more about the life and habits of snails. The snail she get to know was a gift from a friend, and at first it felt like an odd gift, until it became more and more of a fascinating and vivid element that kept inspiring her through the difficult weeks and months of her illness. It's one of those cases were the troubling time opens the view to elements of life and nature that usually are too slow and boring for us to notice:
"While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches as the snail takes up residence on her nightstand. Intrigued by its molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making ability, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence."Reading the book made me think of Susan Sontag's book "Illness as metaphor" that i read in December (here's more), and her quote on the other side of life - and how that other side is one with a different concept of time, and of mobility:
“Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”(and looking for the quote, i arrived at this awesome trailer: Regarding Susan Sontag)
But back to the book: reading it brought a different feeling for snails - so far, I've mostly seen them as trouble for the garden flowers. But reading more about them made me wonder how the world looks for a snail. And that they are an important part of our ecosystem.
There's more about the snail book on the author website, including interview links and a snail video:
The other book is the memoir of wildlife biologist Scott Lillie, who writes about his time out there in the field, and gives interesting insights to the work of wildlife biologists:
Tents, Tortoises, and Tailgates: My Life as a Wildlife Biologist by Scott Lillie
Here's the book description: "Field biologist sounds like a romantic job, a job people often think how lucky one must be to have. At times, it is exactly what people think: seeing amazing and remote places, holding cute and fuzzy animals, and trying to save the environment. But those moments are the rewards after hours of grueling work and surviving some of the harshest environmental conditions nature can throw at you. Some people do it their whole lives, others only a few years. I have been working as a field biologist for nearly ten years. This is my story, from face to face encounters with rattlesnakes and mountain lions in the burning deserts of the Southwest, to dealing with snow, ice, and tornadoes in the Midwest."
So in some ways, it's a book about being out there, but also a book about patience. And it is fascinating to read about work of such a different kind, and to read about all those who try to protect the evironment and the habitats of wild animals. I already had a glimpse of that when reading the nemoir by Meera Lee Sethi a while ago - she worked for a summer in Sweden as volunteer in a bird observatory: Mountainfit.
For more reading notes, click here: life as a journey with books
A reading list by regions is online at: World Reads by country