Autumn Spins Involute

(Becoming a Naturalist, Part 36)

By Jack Phillips

flamed tiger snail (soderberg)

Flamed tiger snail (Anguispira alternata) in autumn, Saunders County, Nebraska. Photo by Troy Soderberg.


Walking on this equinox our orbit feels not circular but involute, the sideways view of a woodland snail, long end of a spring come undone. Threads unwind from spool of Sun become then again wound around spine of the earth always leaving a tail or fray to tug. But migrating warblers are unwinding time distracted this year and the earth takes a wobble.

A more uncertain spool is looser and better bound for mystery and a walk, loose ends to follow. Every time I enter these woods I come unmade then made but what about today? These morning snails seem slightly more spun out, mossy involucres disheveling more their frumpy acorn caps and this fresh frog at home a vagrant, me too.

A new way of seeing needed I belly to warm earth summer hungover, face turned to mollusk umbilicus. From the center they grow and coil and find their being, rings adding time like wood, bygone days round and hard, new life shiny, sticky-slick and slip. Mating tiger snails take the day each one two genders at least. How else to right the cosmos?

They are masters of axis riding this orb, umbilicate bodies taking celestial form. Do not the stars make tailing wheels around this navel? That is what I want from my snails and I will lay here until I get it: to be spun and centered but never lacking for loose ends slack enough to swing the round years behind, slime-sliding easy on muscles and moments to come.