It was a very late night. I made the sleepy walk towards my dorm, my heart still racing from caffeine, everything else exhausted. I took the stairs toward the Ridge slowly, with deadlines and due dates rattling around my brain. I stared down at my feet as I walked, focusing on each concrete step glistening orange from the buzzing florescent light, when suddenly my foot paused in mid-air, hovering six inches off the ground. Below it was a long, slimy, mild-yellow pilgrim, making his own slow progress home.
I’m not from the West Coast originally, but while camping on Whidbey Island, I awoke one morning to find a bright yellow slug hanging out in my shoe. Thankfully I spotted the little guy before shoving my foot in the shoe. After careful extraction, I set him on the ground and spent some time watching him go about his slug business. I say “him,” but slugs are hermaphroditic so assigning gender is really an assumption in this case.
The other people I was camping with were all from Washington and they were confused by my fascination with the thing. Slugs are, as one person pointed out, basically a stomach with a foot that eats people’s vegetable gardens.
But I think they are a lot more than that. Its aimless migration in search of food and love mirrors our own, only the slug is a lot better at taking its time. And yes, a lot of slugs pay the price for their indifference to the ever-present dangers of life, especially life near any sort of human settlement. They are strewn here and there on campus after a rainy day, half crushed by a shoe, split in half by a bike tire, squeezed like a tube of toothpaste by a car. In some ways it doesn’t seem fair.
The life of a slug happens at a different pace. Its concerns are few and far between and everything else is just an existential journey, antennae poking around the different aromas, mouth gobbling up and decomposing organic refuse, doing its part for its ecosystem. It makes one wonder what exactly we do for our ecosystem, what role we’re supposed to be playing.
So, no, I did not step on the slug as I climbed the stairs that late spring night. I, instead, sat a couple of steps above and watched it. It didn’t seem to mind. As I watched it, I considered the insignificance of the deadlines and due dates that were upping my heart rate. I realized that the truly necessary parts of my life are as simple as that of the slugs - love, food and a very close relationship with the ground beneath my feet. If I could only slow my existence down to slug-pace and see, taste and smell every moment in a completely present state, some sort of nirvana would surely be within reach.
Suddenly - well, maybe not suddenly, it took several minutes - a second slug emerged from the leaves on one side of the step, closely following the slime trail left by the first. Slugs code information in their slime about where they’ve been, where they’re going and whether or not they’re in the mood for lovin’. There’s actually research being done to use slug slime like a microchip and code hundreds of gigabytes of information in a quarter-sized disc of slime. But this new slug was unconcerned with the possibilities for an information storage revolution in that slime. All this guy was concerned about was some slug love.
I didn’t stick around to watch. I love slugs, but that would have been a bit strange. Every being deserves its privacy during intimate moments. I finished my long trek home and crawled into bed a little less worried about meaningless things. My thoughts were focused on love, food and adventures - the keys to slug-bliss.
So as you walk or run or bike around this city and this part of the world, make sure to keep an eye out for slimy sojourners. Take a moment, watch the slow dance of their antennae and consider your life’s bare minimum, the bits that really matter. Try, at least for a moment, to slow yourself down to slug pace, to feel the ground under your feet, the sun on your back and the air moving in and out of your lungs. You might find slug slime to be a trail worth following.