What is hand sanitizer good for? Slime. Oozing, can’t-wash-it-off slime. Trust me on this one: it is the perfect antidote to an afternoon spent slug sliming yourself.
Soap and water just can’t touch the gross stuff that leaks out of a banana slug. It clings to your fingers like crazy glue. And the more gigantic, gooey, monstrous slugs you touch, the more the layers of slime build up on your fingers.
Why do we know this, you just might ask? Because our kids made it their mission to touch 100 banana slugs back on a walk we did when we first visited Point No Point… a little piece of rugged, atmospheric paradise on the west coast of Vancouver Island over a decade ago.
Point No Point’s name stems from the fact that this coastal area is linked to its tidal rhythms. At low tide, there is a point of land attached to the rocky shoreline that is populated by crabs and starfish, anemone and chitons, barnacles and other age-old marine creatures. At high tide, the point becomes an island, attached to the mainland’s rocky, wave battered, stormy shore by a brilliantly painted red bridge.
Point… No Point.
An incredible mini-world to explore, it changes regularly with the tidal rhythms. Point No Point’s trails are literally carved, like tunnels, out of the underbrush that grows so densely along the misty shoreline of Vancouver Island’s west side. It’s untamed nature, at its best. When you can break out, escaping the clutches of that coastal rainforest and launch yourself onto the small coves and inlets of its wild and spectacularly rugged Pacific shoreline, you enter an amazing, storm bashed landscape that is so fun to poke about and explore.
So why are these slimy critters called banana slugs? Well… they’re the size and relative shape of those Thai fingerling bananas, so they are HUGE when it come to slugs. And, whether spotted or not, they are often the colours of those bananas as they are starting to turn bad. Monstrous, slimy snails without shells, banana slugs call the temperate rainforest of Canada’s southern west coast home, they come in a (dare I say it) pukey yellowy beige colour and a marvelous, almost iridescent jet black. Some are spotted, while others are uniform. All are gross and slimy and absolutely fascinating to a child who is seeing them for the first time.
This photo comes from that trip. Not content to just touch each slug, our intrepid explorers decided that the slugs needed to extend their adventurous existences as well and experience life on an innukshuk…. a trail marker made out of stacked stones that mark many of our rugged trails across Canada, and the world, for that matter.
And this brings me back to the joy of travelling with children, something that we have been fortunate to do a lot of in the not-so-distant (okay, maybe it feels like an eternity!) past. The neat thing about travelling with young kids is that they make you stop and live in the moment.
It takes a lot of time to carefully touch and stroke 100 banana slugs. It takes a lot of patience, as a parent, to watch and participate in this process. And yet, there is something magical about seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Something wondrous. Things that seem old hat to you as a jaded, been-there-done-that adult, are inspiring and awesome, when viewed through the lens of a curious child.
Somewhere, along the line, children lose that innocence, that wonder and that curious awesomeness. They bend and cave under the pressure of the need to conform. They feel the societal burden of fitting in.
But as an adult, nurturing along the curiosity of a young child, you can gain that feeling back again by living in the moment… even if it’s a slime filled, gross, oozy, wondrously disgusting moment, with a child, on a beach, on a rainy day, on a rugged, and at first glance, inhospitable, coastline… a moment spent in search of slimy bodies to touch and count.
So this 2003 photo represents a number of things to me: a paradise lost; a moment in time full of curiosity, exploration, humour and anticipation; a unique family memory (I’m pretty sure there aren’t many families out there that have bonded over slug slime!); the continuation of our learning about this incredible world in which we live; and a sneak peak, unbeknownst to us at the time, into the future (our son built the Innukshuk home for the slugs and is now, over a decade later, in civil engineering).
And, there is always the reason why I still, to this day, travel with a small bottle of hand sanitizer: you just never know when life will get impossibly sticky.
I encourage you all, whether you have children or not, to find a young child and for a moment in time, and see things through their eyes.
Myself, I currently love the bits of time I get with my neighbours’ children, whether it be through snippets of conversation over the back fence or a long, full of questions romp through my vegetable patch. I find their insights fascinating, their questions and comments so revealing, and, at times hilariously refreshing. I laugh with them and, admittedly, I often stifle a bit of laughter at their expense. It’s such great fun to see the world through the eyes of a child.
The world is still a wondrous place.
Still not convinced? Watch here, as our son’s voice gets all squeaky with excitement over slug number 107! I dare you to suppress that smile.
Snapshots is a regular feature, running every Tuesday on my blog when we are not away on our adventures. Each snapshot revisits some of my favourite photographs and memories of our years spent discovering the unique places of the world and the hidden recesses of our innermost selves.