Banana slug

Since the start of the pandemic, I have been more patient. I’m home a lot, and I tend to projects with a steadier focus. There have been fewer “expletives deleted” when something doesn’t go right because I have time to deal with it. I built another gate this week and designed it to hang a certain way, but when I put it up, my addled brain switched the sides, and I mounted it backward. It dismayed me that I flipped it like that, but then said, “What else am I going to do?” and corrected it. Let’s call that Pandemic Patience. I enjoy staying at home. I’ve also been writing letters, long letters, and old-fashioned letters.

If you’re over 40, I’m sure you remember the world before short emails and texts. At one time, long-distance telephone charges were expensive, and people didn’t casually call across the country or the world. People wrote letters to each other. When I finally moved to the Pacific Northwest, I spent part of each week writing letters to friends. Sunday nights were set aside to connect with others as if I were Charles Darwin writing from HMS Beagle, sailing the world and wanting to share it with others. The best part of that experience was being present with the others during the time of writing the letter. Twitter, Email, and Texts are tiny dots, particles of life, but as the physicists say, light is both a particle and a wave. Some aspects of life require the more expressive “waves.”

Here is an excerpt from a longer letter I sent to friends in Italy last week. I thought you might enjoy it and imagine how our cosmopolitan European friends received it. Something tells me European media is not covering this part of how the pandemic is unfolding in America.

Dear Friends,

We are doing fine. We don’t go out much except for occasional runs to the grocery store, to see friends with proper mask and social distancing. After a brief road trip, we decided it is much easier to settle in at home.

This past week, Nancy and I discovered a new form of hunting. We go out to the gardens every night around 10 when the dew starts to settle and armed with a flashlight, like Marg Helgenberger on CSI, CSI-style, gloves to around the slime, and a saltwater container of water, each night has been thrilling. I’ll leave it to your imaginations what “collect” means because what once was an occasional fling into the pond for the unwary slug has become thrilling and a bit demonic. The first night, we discovered that the slugs seemed to like one potato plant, and we collected close to a hundred slugs! You almost feel guilty, what with them being one of the creatures that Noah gave passage to in the ark, but you are what you eat, and we eat vegetables more than slugs. Nancy suggested there might be a way to eat them -- slugs as food is a mythic dream of Northwesterners, equivalent to what an oasis mirage is for parched nomads in the Sahara Desert.

During the first week, the hunting was good. On three consecutive nights, we captured over a hundred large and small slugs, but after that, each successive night yielded fewer of the little creatures. Last night I went, and there were no slugs in the vegetable garden. I found some strays in other parts of the flowerbeds, but now, the vegetables are free to grow.

There is a type of slug here called the banana or tiger slug that is as long as eight inches (that’s 20 centimeters for you guys), and for some reason, we relocate them instead of salting them. They are very territorial, and we find them in the same place. I’m trying to figure out a way to tag them so we can identify them individually.

You guys may not be familiar with Cabelas, it is a national sporting goods chain that features all sorts of hunting supplies, but when we went there the other day to ask about slug hunting gear, they looked at us as if we were crazy. I told them this is something they may want to start stocking because it could become big! The store manager was skeptical but polite when I shared my suggested list of essential slug hunting gear. He did seem to appreciate a new market for hunting attire but didn’t think Nancy’s suggestion for canned slug was going to go far.

Anti-slug recipe

* Five pounds of rock salt

* One pail

* Gloves

* Multi-purpose slug scraping and flinging tool

* High-Intensity flashlight