Today I am…

Today I’m both a little fearful and a little in love.

I’m a little fearful that I may be bad somehow…a sneaky shadow from childhood no doubt, still creeping along the ground of my life trying to keep a low profile.

But I’m a little in love with my snail shells, too.

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Snails and I also go back to childhood, only in a better way. I used to spend hours and hours with these tiny friends of mine, placing them on the palm of my hand to wait however long it took until they finally worked up the nerve to peek out again…oh-so-cautiously…checking to see if the coast was clear before spilling out to explore my hand.

Honestly the level of trust required for that really knocked my socks off.

I used to find these companions in a thick groundcover of pickleweed growing on the semi-desert hillside behind our house. My snails loved the succulent jungle it provided and I’d go out on the back patio alone to pick the slimy, slug-like creatures off the leaves and cradle their impossibly fragile shells in my hands, waiting for those two graceful antennae to reappear and wave around, reaching, feeling for something…anything really…to touch. They didn’t seem to care what.

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I was fascinated by their antennae and the way they looked like they belonged underwater, slow and undulating and tube-ish and transparent. They reminded me of the multiple tendrils of sea anemone, how they drift in ocean currents, only my snails antennae waved gracefully all on their own. I thought…and still do…that it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

They were also one of the most vulnerable creatures I’d come across. Their squishability was breathtaking to me, their supposedly-protective shells totally useless, which I still consider odd and unfair and a little deceptive from a destiny standpoint to the point where I feel a little betrayed for them.

Which is why their willingness to reemerge over and over again, no matter how many times I touched their antennae and drove them back into their shells…mostly gently but sometimes a little harder, a tap, to find out just how long it would take them to try this time…blew me away. They never gave up, these ridiculously flimsy creatures. Never quit trying. Never spiraled down deep into their shells saying Fuck it. Who needs this shit? I’m staying put.

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Their curiosity won. I used to watch them for hours, secretly longing for their kind of snail-trust. I was over-the-moon smitten with these guys.

Which is why I eventually carried a handful of them into my bedroom to put in the brand new plastic jewelry box my mother had given me for my birthday. They were a treasure to me, exquisite and beautiful and full of hope, and I couldn’t have cared less that they left snail tracks all over the red, synthetic material lining the inside, the slime staining the fabric while slowly drawing it into permanent wrinkles as it dried.

Turns out my mother cared though, and she was furious when she found them. She didn’t realize what they looked like through my eyes and, falling into that perilous abyss of misunderstanding that ever-gapes between adults and children, she returned them to the patio, built a little pile with them, and buried them in a mound of salt. I felt responsible for their deaths. And very bad.

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Of course, my mother was aghast when I explained to her in later years why I’d been collecting them, and she apologized to me over and over, feeling responsible and very bad, too. But then I knew my mother always loved me like that. I never once doubted that she’d regret it once she realized what happened. Not that she’d love them like I did, because to her they were still snails, but I knew she’d cherish and mourn them with me because she loved me that much.

Sometimes I feel like I was her little snail and my childhood was full of that same kind of thing, with Mom tapping on my antennae and then watching, fascinated and patient and smitten every time, as I’d peek back out and then spill into her hands. Sometimes, sure, she tapped my antennae a little too hard and I’d wind up curled inside for longer than usual, but in the end I could and would always come out again. I could snail-trust with her. That was her gift to me.

I miss her.

Today, I’m a lot in love with my mom.

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copyright 2014 Dia Osborn

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Modo’s Last Garden Stroll

Little Quasimodo the hunchback duckling is now gone, although in a good way.

His back slowly straightened out, the hole in his head mostly disappeared beneath healthy fluff, his nub of a wing gradually lengthened to almost equal the other, he’s eating and drinking like a champ, and his mobility is quite good. One eye still looks strange but other than that’s he’s thriving. In two day’s time he transformed from an injured, weak, and misshapen little newborn into an active, thriving ball of fluff who managed to scale to the top of his stuffed bear, hop onto the lip of the crate he was in, and almost topple off into the waiting jaws of Dane the mangy rescue mutt lurking just below.

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Clearly, we’re not duckling-proofed around here so, after nourishing fantasies all day Saturday of taking an older Modo out to paddle along contentedly behind my kayak whenever I go, I went online instead and Googled bird rescue centers in Boise and found the Ruth Melinchar Bird Center (an offshoot of Animals in Distress Association) which opens every year from April to September and takes in thousands (literally) of orphaned wild ducklings and goslings to raise and then release  back into the wild.

(Boise is a major nesting area for mallards and Canada geese and in the spring it’s not at all unusual to see cars on major city thoroughfares careening to a halt as a mother leads her newly hatched brood out across the street heading for the nearest body of water because nobody wants to run over a string of babies.  Nobody.)

I freely admit I was fighting back tears while driving over to the center to deliver Modo into his next life.  Turns out nursing a fragile baby bird through it’s first couple of days is something of a bonding experience…you wouldn’t believe how fast it happens…and I was beyond sad about giving him up, scared that he might get lost and pecked to death by a band of unsupervised ducklings, and worried that I might have already screwed him up for life by letting him imprint on me in the first place.

(A typical Mother’s Day.)

But the rescue center was delightful, the women working there were cheerful and grateful I’d brought him in, and they let me go back and peek into the tub that held eleven other shy ducklings nestled contentedly in a corner before they slipped Modo in with them.  At first I was glad that he barely paused before heading straight for the others, but then he started pecking at them which drove them all away, at which point I swung from the fear of him being pecked to death to an uneasy feeling that he might grow up to be one of those detestable drakes that chase down females and tear clumps of their feathers out while trying to mate.

I also found myself irrationally wanting to apologize for his bad manners and explain that he might have been brain-injured, but the women assured me his aggressiveness was a good sign.

In any case, he’s on his way now, saved from a cold and certain death on our driveway for some other kind of certain death later on, hopefully after he’s had a chance to fly and swim and mate and nest and fish and migrate at least a couple of times beforehand, although I’ll never know.  But anyway that’s what I’d like for him.

Or her.  I asked and was told there’s no way to tell gender when they’re still that young so I can add that to the list of things I’ll never know.

Anyway, I took one last video of Modo out in the garden with which to remember these two halcyon days of surrogate motherhood by.  Here’s all one minute and thirty-four seconds of it for anyone interested in seeing how much he improved:

(I just discovered that this video is no longer available. Evidently, when I deleted by Google+ account it deleted my YouTube account as well. First do no harm? Right. Sigh…sorry for the tease.)

Also, for anyone interested here’s the contact information for the bird rescue center:

Phone: 208-338-0897

Address: 4650 N. 36th Street, Boise, Idaho 83703

I gave them a very, very grateful donation before I left and if anyone else feels so inspired I figured I could at least make it easy for them.

copyright Dia Osborn 2013