There we were, finishing Shabbat lunch just hours ago when BOOM! A crash of thunder, and the heavens showered down. For the first ten minutes or so, the downpour was heavy enough to imitate a snowfall over the not-so-distant valley. Without missing a beat, the kids ran outside to rejoice in their own personal rain dances, while we adults stood under the eaves, hoping this was only the beginning of a long, rain-drenched season.
As the drops dissipated, our lunch hostess T (a.k.a. my father-in-law's cousin's wife, who also happens to be our neighbor; see this post) sighed. Don't you just love that smell, after it rains? Definitely. I wait for that smell every year, and I was especially glad not to have to wait until mid-December, as in many years previous. Now we wait for the newly-sowed fields in the valleys surrounding our little hilltop to begin sprouting their waves of green.
But let's get to the really important stuff: Immediate gratification. Just this morning (on Shabbat, of course, when we can do nothing about it, but never mind) Always the Imp expressed a keen interest in having a pet of her own. OK, today was far from the first time she'd expressed such a desire, but this time she said it with such enthusiasm.
What sort of pet, I queried, getting a little nervous.
(Previous requests had included the word "rat," a pet I wouldn't entirely object to owning. After all, I did not spend my childhood in Manhattan, a place which, as I understand it, can lead to the development of a firm anti-rat stance later in life).
Always: A pet of my own, that I can hold.
ALN: What about a walking stick? You know, it's an insect that looks like a --
Always: I know what that is, Mommy. They brought them to our gan [kindergarten, last year]. I don't want that.
ALN (hesitating): How about a rat? You once said --
Always: No, no, not a rat.
ALN (To self): Phew. (Out loud): Then which pet do you want?
Always: I want a pet snail!
Apparently she had already picked up a bit of knowledge concerning this animal's personal habits, including its hermaphroditic tendencies, since a few minutes later, she added, Mommy, if I have snails, am I supposed to call them he/she?
I didn't quite know how to answer that one. But I was relieved she had settled on such a convenient pet. Today's rain had conveniently reawakened the snails, who protect themselves over the dry season by covering their shell openings with a coating that dissolves at first contact with water, and so they were now sliding around our garden in surprisingly large numbers.
And so, despite the Shabbat injunction against capturing wild animals, the collection process began immediately with a human-induced Gathering of the Snails onto Alway's personal snapdragon plant sitting on the windowsill (leaving the creatures free to roam and, therefore, not technically "trapped").
After Havdalah we brought the small plastic fish box down from the closet, filled it with earth, some gathered plant life, and the chosen local snails.
Voila! Instant, personal pets for Always, acquired with minimal effort and, best of all, at no extra cost. She's happy, and so are we.
(Later a brief internet survey led to the realization that a lining of peat moss or some similar was supposed to be involved. If you're curious about raising snails, here's one site that answers the basic questions but leaves incredulous as to whether -- as they claim -- we really are meant to be bathing the creatures. I'll let you know about that one. For the record, we are talking about local, indigenous snails and not the large African variety, which can wreak havoc on agriculture and is therefore illegal in both Israel and the U.S.).
I must admit, while photographing, I got kind of attached to them... they really are endearing little guys (or is that, guy/girls?), in their own way.
And just think: for every snail in Always' mini-terrarium, there's one snail fewer outside, munching away at my garden.
Keep the balance,