For the last several weeks, I’ve been attempting to present all the trails in a single poster. I’ve tried so many combinations. I knew going into this effort that – given the great variety of styles, colors, feelings – to combine the trails would defy the basic rules of good design. Rules, shmools. Good, shmood.
I figured – I still figure – it must be possible to combine the trails in a way that is pleasing and interesting. So far, however, my posters have induced headaches. At best.
Again, I started over. This time, instead of analyzing combinations, I started with a favorite trail and asked which other trail it wanted to stand beside. I tried again with a second trail. Not getting answers the way I sought them, I tried a third time.
What I learned is that the trails vant to be alone. However, duplications and mirror images of themselves are okay.
All of which led to this image, a prayer rug of a snail trail that has got me hearing Garvey’s Ghost (Burning Spear’s dub version Marcus Garvey), which I haven’t thought about in years.
However, my snail trail colorings have begun to slip from curiosity and exploration into planning and process.
I take dream advice seriously. Thus, I doubt that it was coincidence when an irritable dream voice recently told me (in a C’mon, get with it tone), “You’ve got a snail trail. Learn how to wander.”
I’ve set aside ideas for more snail trail embellishments. For the moment, at least, I’m not pursuing them.
I confess that I’m not sure how this snail trail can teach me about wandering when I can’t even follow its frigging path. Which brings me back to the impatience/patience thing. Doesn’t feel like I’m getting anywhere, I’d better turn versus Oh is it time for a turn? Alrighty then!
After various failed efforts to follow or reproduce the sea snail’s route, I tried to follow it in spirit. That is, I attempted to stop steering and instead make turns without forethought, as they present themselves.
It’s not my first round at this particular rodeo. With and without snail trails, my life proceeds most gloriously when I am able to live it without trying to steer and plan. My days become deeper and richer. My fiction writing brings wonderful surprises.
And yet it takes daily/hourly/momently effort to put steering and planning on pause.
And so, the Snail Trail Project has become another opportunity to practice wandering. I began to dabble with shapes in the trail and have wound up spending weeks decorating those shapes. Early on, in the colorized trail shapes I saw an impala, prancing. In a recent dream, impalas played an important role, so I colored the snail trail to emphasize the impala:
It takes a certain squint to see the impala, kicking up one heel.
After I traced the trail, I attempted to recreate the path that the snail took. I used my puzzle-solving skills. I used scientific strategies for interpreting geologic history, such as the principle of cross-cutting formations (if a line is on top it is “younger” – it happened more recently than the line below).
I started at one end and moved forward.
I started at the other end and moved backward.
I messed with the image contrast and shadows.
I got my other glasses.
Every time I thought I figured out one small piece of the middle maelstrom, my next choice would contradict the previous.
Only on the simplest loops was I able to (maybe, mostly) determine the snail’s path.
I stopped trying when self-combustion became imminent.
I decided the snail’s path would remain a mystery.