Caracol: How a Snail Came to be the Symbol of This Journey

I’ve lived for 15 years on the Port Madison Indian Reservation in Washington state, home of the Suquamish Tribe. During that time, I’ve been honored to make some wonderful friends and to work with the Tribe on projects, including securing the return of the land where Chief Seattle once lived. (Here’s how it happened.) I’m not Native, but I’ve been invited to paddle with the tribe on their annual canoe journey, traveling out on the ocean and 600 miles north to the small island community of Bella Bella, all in hand-carved cedar canoes.

These are just some of the joys of living here, and this is how I met a talented young artist, Katie Ahvakana. It took me a couple of weeks, but I finally worked up the courage to ask her to paint the tiny camper I would be taking on my road trip. I wanted something to remind me of home and of my neighbors, and I wanted to be reminded that this journey would take me out of ordinary time and space.

Here’s how Katie describes what she did with the front panel.

Katie collaborated with her friend and talented artist (and fisherman), Toma Villa, who works with groups of children to create breathtaking murals. Toma was the artist behind the spray paint.

The sides of the camper depict a shell, which along with the pickup truck make the truck and camper into a large snail. All that’s missing are antennae for the hood! That seems appropriate. I’m driving a small, 4-cylinder used truck that gets decent gas mileage. So, yeah, I will feel like a snail climbing the mountains.

The snail also represents “slow journalism.” I plan to take my time getting to know the people and places I’ll encounter along the way, although not as much time as these walking journalists, whom I envy.

Sarah and CaracolAnd the snail shell, called a caracol in Spanish, is the symbol used by the Zapatistas of southern Mexico to represent the autonomous communities where, instead of focusing on their struggle with the Mexican government, they live and govern themselves in their own way.

The spiral of the snail shell also has meaning. I plan to make a large, uneven circle around the United States. I will not be the same person when I return. A spiral denotes return and transformation.

Spirals are also used to describe something changing at an accelerating rate. That seems appropriate to the current times. Things are getting worse and worse, but also better and better. As I travel, I hope to learn more about the transformations going in both directions, but especially where the potential lies for things to spiral in positive directions.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to see Caracol as she travels the U.S.

10 thoughts on “Caracol: How a Snail Came to be the Symbol of This Journey

  1. Hello Sarah – I’m Gail’s partner and volunteered in the office a few times. We were unable to attend your send off party. Our dear sweet dog of 10+ years was in his dying process.
    If your travels take you into the Western Mountains of Maine, two wonderful women own and operate A Wrinkle In Thyme Farm which has always been a beautiful vision of hope and sustainability for me.
    Travel dreams abound!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sally. I don’t plan to get that far Northeast, but I’ll add it to my list in case my plans change. Much appreciated!


  2. Sarah come to Santa Barbara for Oct 12 Community Conversion with Paul Relis and Pico Iyer -in 1969 the oil spill devastated and inspire monumental community change around oil and it’s impacts a young 22 year oil activitist help galvanize the community grief into changes that effected the environment around the world Paul Relis’s new Book On of the Wasteland describe this story up to the present and the future of community action to move the conversion of action as we just went through another oil spill -f you want more details and our invitation to attend and host you please contact me we are organizatiing the event with the Community Environmental Council which Paul help to found and is celebrating it’s 45 anniversary this year

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Would love for you to swing by Hailey (Sun Valley, Idaho) area. I’m heavily involved in working to shift the paradigm around death & dying. I am a certified death midwife, educator and advocate. I will be hosting my first Death Cafe Sept 16, the second one Oct 21, third Nov 18 (not sure where you will be during these dates). I am a member of Compassion & Choices and will be joining the national debate on medical aid in dying. Please visit me! Kate


    1. Oh darn! I so wanted to meet you. Here is a link to the what the Death Cafe is all about with some history.
      I was involved with three cafes in Boise, Idaho and we had to move the location because of the increase in people attending. Must have something to do with the Baby Boomer generation. As a practicing certified death midwife, I am seeing a huge shift in the paradigm around death and dying (finally!). Let me know if you want more information or an interview. I’m ready! In the meantime, be safe and have a blast! Kate


  4. Hi Sarah,
    First thing, Cedars UU has twice hosted a Death Cafe here on Bainbridge Island, near your hometown. Hopefully, you’ll be around when we do another one sometime this year.
    And then this: I now live in the PNW, but lived in Madison WI for decades. You should visit this strange place of contradictions. Very liberal–but one of the highest Black incarceration rates in the country; low achievement among children of color, etc. If you make it there, let me know.
    Your travel Tardis is beautiful. Enjoy the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Sarah! We have a huge vegetarian potluck here in New York, with a speaker and networking. Its sponsored by Earthsave “spinoff” Healthy Planet and has been established for over 20 years. It is held at the sustainability institute of Molloy college, usually attended by hundreds who contribute all vegan dishes. It is very heartwarming! Thought you may be in the area around that time, usually its the weekend before Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

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