Ephemeral, adj., 1. lasting a very short time; transitory. 2. Lasting but one day; an ephemeral flower. 3. Anything short-lived, as an ephemerid (an insect of the order of Ephemeroptera, comprising the mayflies)
I heard myself say to a writer friend about teaching, “What I do is ephemeral, of the moment. The things I say are in response to the student. The lesson emerges from what each of us brings to the hour.” Teaching is like performing a cabaret show in that one cannot predict or control the ‘house,’ the audience. Hundreds of preparation hours merely set the stage for something which will be created in the event itself, never to be repeated again.
But back to those ephemerids, the mayflies. Oh, my, the mayflies. Years ago Kate Stratton, the daughter of a dear friend, traveled with me to Kelly’s Island where we stayed in a Victorian bed-and-breakfast, complete with a horse and buggy ride around the island.
Idyllic, yes? Well, no. It was the season of the mayflies, and they were everywhere. Prehistoric-looking insects with long gossamer wings, and having the capacity to stick to surfaces, including clothing and skin. Kate was horrified. I was horrified that she was horrified, and found myself both fascinated with and repulsed by the mayfly invasion.
They live 24 to 72 hours, after spending 1 to 2 years at the bottom of Lake Erie as nymphs burrowed in the mud. Millions of them emerge over a period of 2 weeks or so in June. They provide food for the walleye (a common Lake Erie fish), are harmless, and don’t bite. While living their brief lives, they molt, mate, and lay the eggs of the next generation.
And then they are gone. Ephemeral, indeed. Mayflies and lessons, cabaret shows, summer and life itself. We live, not in certainties and absolutes, but in the ever-changing now. A glorious ephemeral day to you—–