‘Tokum, tokum, tokum….’

~ Blue Cliff Record, Case TK

In gathering material for our group to sit with weekly, sometimes I start with a koan and pair it with an anecdote. At other times, I have a good story and find a koan to match. This week, after much searching, I could find no good koan for my current dilemma: marauding garden slugs (ambigolimax I am told).

In the springtime, when I start various vegetable seedlings ~ lettuce, carrots, beets ~ for my garden, invariably I am visited by local slugs and their European cousins, snails (see Snails Climb Stairway to Heaven from last spring). I get lots of them. I don’t put out pellets or pans of beer ~ I go out hunting at night with a flashlight, and on some nights will harvest several dozen slugs and a few snails. They love to nestle in and eat my lettuce and kale, and can mow down my tomato seedlings with gusto. For a time, I collected them and fed them in the morning to the crows, but then the crows got too rowdy and entitled. And anyway, the crows are hell on the nesting songbirds.

But I have been stymied in finding a good koan to address my slug problem. The great koan ‘No’? Nope, that one is best for dogs. Original face? Does a slug even have a face? What is the sound of one hand clapping? (‘Teacher, I have searched everywhere,’ exclaims the slug, ’and I can’t find a hand!’).

Maybe there isn’t a big enough problem to frame into a question. They are beautiful in their own ugly way. And after all, they and their kin arrived in San Mateo long long before me and my ilk, and probably will out-survive us. They clearly like my garden, which I find mildly flattering. And the garden seems to help them find a solution to their own life issues, though those lives may be tragically cut short when I come across them. I like that koan about going to wild places to search for a slug’s true nature. Maybe next spring I will have an appropriate answer.