by Nadine Cowen

We had come in search of a tiny denizen of Georgia’s tidal marshes. When we found the white periwinkle snails encased in their protective spiral shells, our guide asked each of us to hold one close against our throat and softly hum to it! As a lifelong city dweller quite ignorant of periwinkle personalities, I was skeptical, perhaps fearful of being duped. “Just do it,” I said to myself. After humming to what appeared to me to be an inch long dollop of whipped cream, we were asked to turn our marsh dweller upside down; a circular plug at the opposite end swung open. Then a gelatinous brown round head gracefully emerged. I was transfixed by this tiny being’s quiet presence. I had been granted an audience with one of God’s smallest creatures. It was love at first sight. I burst into tears. As I collected myself, we were instructed to tap the outside of the periwinkle’s shell after which he disappeared back into his shell, his “door” closed behind him.

Many of the other periwinkles chosen could not be coaxed out of their shells. So the tiny being I met for a moment was handed round and upon request amazingly repeated his awesome performance. Perhaps he was one of a few Southern periwinkles willing to entertain Yankees that morning. To this day I take pride in my ability to hum a snail out of its shell.

Nadine Cowen: I’m delighted the coordinators in the writing study group inspired me to capture one unforgettable moment to share. The process of my first attempt was really challenging, but the result was well worth it!