I despair…

Just a quick note to say that I was asked to write a guest blog post for the Transition Network on the subject of DESPAIR!

So, putting aside my usual sunny disposition, I set to. You can read the post here:

The Snail of Doom

Doom and Hapiness

Doom and Happines

Happiness and Doom

The worm of doubt (bottom right) and friend

The worm of doubt (bottom right) and friend

‘What a great name for a blog’, people will say to me. I even meet people at permaculture events who exclaim ‘So you’re the Snail of Happiness’ and I have to confess that I am. I realise, however, that many readers don’t know why I chose the name and that there is also a Snail of Doom (that’s the two of them up at the top of the page) as well as a Worm of Doubt (left).

I did blog about the choice of name when I first started out, but I think the story deserves repeating, just so you’re not totally bewildered nor assume that I have a mollusc fetish (although for the knitters amongst you, you might not be surprised to know that my Ravelry name is Mollusca).

At the beginning of 2012 I attended a permaculture course (known as the ToT: Teaching of Teachers) to improve my teaching skills. It was focused on teaching permaculture, but was based on ‘Accelerated Learning‘ techniques, which are widely applicable. I do some permaculture teaching, but I do much more on ecology and conservation – either way, I wanted to enhance all my courses. One of the activities was for each of the participants to teach a short session so that we could get feedback on our technique. I’ve been teaching for fifteen years or more, so wanted to do something new rather than simply delivering a session that I’d done before.

In order to challenge myself, I chose to address a topic that can be difficult because it leaves those involved feeling rather depressed: I decided to teach a session on ‘spirals of destruction’ i.e. how we get ourselves into a vicious circle of negativity by taking small steps in a negative direction. So as not to leave everybody too gloomy I decided, as well, to get the group to think about ‘spirals of abundance’… getting into a ‘virtuous circle’.

Accelerated learning is not a spectator sport – learners all contribute and are actively involved, collaborating with each other in a social setting and constructing their learning in a relevant context. Trying to accommodate all these features, I decided that I would run a group story-telling session. And that it would be good to have some form of ‘talking stick’ to pass round when it was each person’s turn to speak. And thus the idea of the two snails came to me… the snail of happiness for our positive spiral and the snail of doom for our negative spiral, supported by the worm of doubt, who got thrown over my shoulder at the end of the session.

Snail of Happiness and Snail of Doom

Snail of Happiness and Snail of Doom

To make the session relevant to the context, I started the story with there being two weeks to go before I had to do my teaching session on the course and not knowing what to do.  I passed the snail of doom on to the next person, who told the next (negative step) in the story. We worked our way round the group, moving from ‘I couldn’t think what to do, so I didn’t bother’ to ‘there was only a week to go, I still hadn’t done anything’ to ‘so I had a drink’ to ‘and another drink’ and eventually to ‘and here I am in the session and I still haven’t got any ideas, but I do have a hangover’!  We then started from the same origin, but using the snail of happiness and describing positive steps and ending with a successful session (in the story and in reality). It’s a simple way to illustrate a point – getting everyone to engage with a story – but it works.

Telling a story with the snail of doom...

Telling a story with the snail of doom…

In order to run this session, I had to make the snails (two snails that are tactile and mirror images of each other turned out to be impossible to source) and that was when I discovered the art of amigurumi (knitted or crocheted critters). Once made, the snails rather took on a life of their own and I loved the idea of the snail of happiness so much that I used the name for this blog… it seems to be strangely memorable and is, therefore, also the name I have chosen for my etsy shop (coming soon – promise).

So, there you are, that’s the story! And if you need a knitted snail, just let me know!

Snail has an adventure

snail finalOnce upon a time the Snail of Happiness and the Snail of Doom and the bag of worms* got taken out for a visit to meet Tammi. Unfortunately, when they got to the place they were supposed to be meeting, Tammi couldn’t come, so the snails stayed safely in a bag out of the way of the other people who were there.

On the way home, the snails stopped to go to the university library to drop off a book and collect a new reader’s card. Snail of Doom was so excited that he jumped out of his bag and escaped into the wild!

He was so quiet about it that no one noticed.

When everyone else arrived home, they got out of the bag – did a quick head count and discovered that there was someone missing. The car was searched, the bags were emptied, the car was searched again. Disaster!

So, back in the car – the worms stayed at home, but Sam and Max came this time – drive 17 miles back to Aberystwyth and into the car park. A lovely man who was just parking in our old space kindly moved his car to allow a search to me made… he was remarkably straight-faced when told that the missing creature was a purple snail! But, no sign of the Snail of Doom.

More searching round the car park, to no avail. Retrace our steps… and there along the path in the small patch of conifers, the Snail of Doom. Hurrah! Celebration!

Good job I chose the Snail of Doom to knit, not the Cheetah of Doom!


* They are moving into a can soon!

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