On a walk one morning, I encountered about 10 different snail trails. They must have really been moving along that particular morning. I started to notice as I studied each trail, that some crossed all the way across the sidewalk, and some seemed to stick to their “side” of the sidewalk, maybe venturing out to what seemed like almost the middle, and then heading back to the same side.
I got to thinking a couple of things about these snail trails.
Pulling in vs. leaving the shore. In some seasons, we stay close to shore, pull things in a little tighter, like friends, our budget, our family, and travel or work. We might pull back in an effort to protect ourselves because we deem it necessary because of circumstances personally or corporately. And in other seasons, we’re ready to “cross over” into the new - we see a new opportunity, a dream or a vision, a new space, for us or our family, and we make the choice to move toward it.
The trail we leave. I noticed that every trail was different, each snail made their own mark on the sidewalk, no two exactly the same. Isn’t that like our lives? We all leave a “trail” of some sort behind us, in our parenting, work, marriage, or friendships - and each is completely unique based on who we are. If we don’t like a particular trail we’re leaving, we get to change it.
Movement requires an initial step. The snail has to come out of its shell to move. To even get to the edge of the sidewalk, the snail has to come out of its shell. It has to make the decision that it’s going to show up that day, and creep out of its shell, look around, and start slithering in the direction it wants to go. It’s much the same for us, we have to get out of our shell to move. Past hurts, current struggles, or complacency can make us want to stay in our shells where its safe, but sometimes, it’s time to come out of the shell.
Iteration happens along the way. I also got to thinking that the trail is marked as the snail moves in real time. The snail doesn’t necessarily plot their exact course before they forge the trail, they just start moving, and the course becomes defined. Sometimes, we have to move away from the “shore” to see our next steps. We have to allow a space in between our comfort and us to get clarity around where we’re headed. Maybe it looks like boundaries in relationships, space in our schedule, a re-evaluation of current commitments, or asking for help in some way. That space helps us navigate our next steps.
Be equipped to move through the hard. The snail’s foot is highly muscular and adapted for traveling over hard surfaces. It has a large flat foot which remains attached to the surfaces over which it is crawling due to the adhesive properties of slime (mucus). To prevent damage to the softer tissues of the snail’s foot, it secretes slime and a continuous trail of slime is laid down often seen as ‘snail trails’. What I found interesting about the slime - is that it goes on ahead of the snail in real time, laying down “tracks” that protect it and prepare it for the harder surfaces. As we move through life, creating our own trails, looking on ahead and anticipating what we’ll need as we move into new seasons can prepare us for the challenges we’ll face. The solid habits, routines, and people we have around us can help us move in real time, but lay down our own “tracks” as we move through the hard.
We tend to look at “a snail’s pace” as a detriment, but I found that slowing down to really look at it held a lot of lessons that can be applied to our lives. It’s much the same with many things we encounter throughout our days - if we’re slowing in some moments - there’s a lot we can see beyond the surface.