Snail detours

It rains. It pours. Creeks are running by the bridges. River runs. It has not stopped raining since two weeks ago. Trees, grasses, and all kind of wild plants are growing as I have never seen before in Austin, Texas. Waking up with the pitter-patter sound of raindrops and the gray darkness of cloudy skies is sometimes challenging. The unusual  humidity of this year Texas spring has remained me of  the tropical regions Colombia. Who could have imagined that the dry lands of Texas could get so humid and tropical? Climate change creates so much disruption accelerating all the process of nature in planet earth. Ponds on the streets. Muddy gardens. Warm humidity. Charcos. This past week has been such a ritual of passage. It has marked perhaps the final turn of a journey I started 6 years ago when I decided to move from the North East to the South in search of a milder climate. In the middle of tropical storms, mosquitos, fireflies, cicadas, frogs, snakes, urracas parlanchinas, mapaches, armadillos, and other rural/urban wild creatures, snail detours are sometimes imperceptible.


On Tuesday morning as I was preparing the opening speech for my dissertation defense, I went to the porch of our house in Hyde Park to contemplate the heavy rain. The tempest animated the landscape of a wild garden with its winds, lighting, and drops. As I was  thinking about how to talk about the possible expansions for my dissertation project and imagining it as a longitudinal ethnography that extend for five or ten years, a curious creature moving on the top of a wooden desk called my attention. It was a little snail cruising a long wooden surface. The snail movement was slow and energetic at the same time, and it reminded me of the paradoxes of movement and speed. As well as of the paradoxes of immigrant assimilation and digital inequalities I studied on my dissertation. Holy snails! Santos caracoles! Alas! Snails and rains.

The snail was moving so fast, so slow, that looking at him/her doing a turn was almost an spectacle of relativism. When the snail turns, the world of his home balances to the other side of his body in order to gain momentum.

I did several video takes of the movement of the snail on the desk and enjoyed his graceful sliding and iterative detours. Framing its journey with the camera provided a nice composition with different layers of colors and movement. The little creature created curious patterns of movement in which he seemed to be making a one-line drawing on the flatten surface. His jelly-body traced a continuous line that had several loops and that kept getting more complex as he continued sliding over the desk.


Such one-line drawing made by the snail on the wet wooden surface remained me of the drawings I have been making with GPS data.  Tracing movements on space is such a curious phenomena, especially when the trace makes loops and contours that are evocative and imaginative. Furthermore, transversing space has great potential for elaborating criticism of urban environments. Remember for instance, the Pole Position walk exercise that was made once using a Formula 1 track and juxtaposing it over the map of Austin. I wonder what could happen if the drawing that the little snail made on the desk was amplified and then juxtaposed on the top of a map of a city. How many snails would we find if we walk a snail trace scaled 1:1000? Or maybe just juxtapose it over Hyde Park neighborhood, over the neighborhood where the snail was found. Santos caracoles Austinitas!

Paradoxes and movement. Dynamic change. Relativism. Scale, time, and space. Snail race. A dramatic turn finally was done. And the journey must continue. It was quite an inspiration to see this little mollusc and to document his/her locomotion. Dance over a wooden table while a tropical storm animated the background of an urban/rural spring. As I saw the snail making detours and coming back to its starting point, turning again and moving forward, I thought on the challenges and paradoxes of my journey as a doctoral student in Austin. River runs. Water dissolves. Watercolors. Watermemories. I have become a doctor after successfully defending my dissertation last Wednesday. I learned a lot in the phd journey through this Southwest lands. I discovered the borderlands and I am still fascinated by its ambiguity, contradictions, and dynamics. It was a journey rich in experiences and detours. I learned more than I could had imagined. I came to UT with the purpose of becoming a practitioner/theorist of sound, film, and interactive media and I am now exiting as an designer/ethnographer/bricoleur of digital media and learning. I am looking forward to come back to my starting point in the East Coast, and close a very long and deep time/space loop. Perhaps at that time in the future, i will be on time to receive a snail telegram.

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