SO THIS is passion. I wake when the sun is just a wash of red diluting the purple veiling the horizon. I wake early not to make love but to make war.
The first morning I brought three to ruin. The day after, five. In this rude awakening, the enemy appears long before the rains return to transform the garden into a wet and moist arena.
Fortunately, I am making the reacquaintance of an appetite I know too well. The enemy steals in under cover of darkness and disappears before the dew evaporates. Woe to the gardener who oversleeps and is caught unaware.
To catch a garden snail, I cannot be a snail myself.
My father, a World War II veteran, reserved his deepest scorn for a pest he called a “Japanese snail,” insidious and treacherous. Yet biologists show that this garden invader cannot be blamed on the wartime architect of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
The common garden snail, “Cornu aspersum,” originated from Europe. According to the Invasive Species Compendium of the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, many countries, including the Philippines, introduced snails to be cultured as food or accidentally brought them in with imported plants and vegetables, as the Spaniards did in their colonies in the 16th century.
I don’t need much help to create a mess.
A “snail’s crawl” is a hyperbole of ridicule. Frustrated over the trail of ruin left among plants painstakingly raised from seed and transplanted as seedlings into the ground, I have learned never to underestimate an enemy, even one that moves at a speed of 0.048 km/h.
Using its single “foot” of muscle to slide on the trail of mucus it secretes, snails can surmount any surface. Escaping my notice, snails congregated at the crown of a papaya plant that towered over our second floor. After the papaya withered and died, only the dark crown of brown- and black-banded shells remained as evidence of the remorselessness of appetite.
Regrets, like shortcomings, creep in unannounced and unwelcome.
Despite cartoonish depictions, the garden snail is a worthy opponent. It makes war against predators by making love. A true hermaphrodite, a garden snail is both male and female, with both partners during mating ejaculating and receiving sperms in large numbers and depositing an average of 100 eggs into a nest or about 500 eggs a year.
While I blame others, my problems multiply.
Before the noise of the world intrudes, waking early to handpick and crush garden snails is not Lilliputian when ranged against other struggles. As with other obsessions, the object becomes more and more to become the inverse twin of the obsessed.