The Snail

The Snail

“Meister Eckhart … says that there is no such thing as a spiritual journey. If a little shocking, this is refreshing. If there were a spiritual journey, it would be only a quarter inch long, though many miles deep. It would be a swerve into rhythm with your deeper nature and presence.” - John O’Donohue

I was going to include this necklace in my shop update the other day. 
But, something didn’t feel right. When I imagined myself packaging it up and sending it off in the mail I noticed that this evoked in me an enormous sense of loss. There are times when sending my creations out into the world makes me grieve. Sometimes it’s good for me to let go and practice non-attachment. This time felt different. In the moment on Thursday night when I spoke the words “I need to keep the snail” to my husband, I immediately I felt the tight space in my belly relax and some spaciousness was created. I felt at ease. 
I love my little snail. My little snail is me. 
I need to keep it. 

Symbols are important. 
I usually don’t know the meaning of the pieces I’ve created until they are done and I sit back and process their existence and how they came to be. 
What was unfolding in my life as the piece was being created? 
What wisdom was revealed in the process of creating? 

This snail has been working in me for a long time.
When I reflect back, I can identify several moments in my recent life where the snail emerged: 

1. In February spirals started showing up in my work. I created a collection with ammonites and these pieces helped me connect with my authentic voice. In what felt like a magical synchronicity, my husband and I were watching the documentary series ‘Cosmos’ at the time and I learned that our galaxy, our DNA and so many things in nature are in the shape of a spiral. I began to wonder then if snails might be something I could make. It’s incredible to me that its shell is like a tiny incarnate universe here on Earth. 

2. If you’ve been following my work for the past while you will know that Irish poet, philosopher and theological, John O’Donohue provides me with incredible inspiration. For the past year, the peer supervision group that I meet with as a part of my spiritual direction practice has been reading his book titled ‘Anam Cara’ which means ‘soul friend’ in Gaelic. We are reading it slowly and with intention to integrate his vast wisdom. The quote I included above is one that has stayed with me. As someone who has spent years reflecting with people on their spiritual ‘journey’ I am intrigued by different ways, different images that help us to understand this human yet divine experience that we have as stardust come alive on planet Earth. The idea that the spiritual journey is only a quarter inch long resonated. Understanding and deepening our spiritual lives is a slow process. It can also be easily missed in the business of everyday life. I wondered how this quote, how the concept of the spiritual journey being a quarter inch, might show up in my work. The snail, it turns out, embodies this teaching. 

3. On October 21, at the same time that I was working on the beginnings of my “This Ancient Love” collection, I decided to do some playing with silver to just see what would happen. Kate of @katestangledstring had posted a story on Instagram of a super teeny tiny adorable little snail and I knew it was time to see if I could make one. I honestly didn’t think it was going to work. "This Ancient Love” is all about the divine feminine and a few days before I had done some playing to see if I could make a tiny goddess sculpture. It didn’t work. All I made was a melted blob. I thought the same was going to happen with the snail. I had no attachment to the outcome. Just play. To my complete astonishment, the snail actually worked! It came together with surprising ease. I couldn’t believe it! I used the techniques that I learned from Nicole Ringgold of melting, fusing and carving and the delightful form of the snail appeared. 

I often feel like my journey as an artist has been unbelievably slow. I would need to write a whole memoir to unpack this. Understanding my artist voice has required a patience that sometimes hurts and a longing that aches in my soul. 
Wearing my snail is my way to claim this symbol of the slow unfolding of my authentic self. It is both my reverence and my delight. 

1 comment

Spirals have shown up lots in my work too. The notion of a spiritual journey being only 1/4" long is new to me but I have for a long time thought that we are often circling back to truths we have learned again and again like peeling layers of an onion or indeed spiralling towards a centre. Thank you for the depth you add to Instagram.

Jess Phillips @watersedgesilver

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