The word ephemeral comes to us from the Greek εφήμερος meaning "lasting only one day", and we use the adjective to describe entities existing for only a short duration.
A journal or diary describing our days is an ephemeris, and several together are called ephemeredes—someone who keeps a journal or writes an almanac may be called an ephemerist, although that word does not get a lot of use in modern times. A huge tattered book in my library, also called an ephemeris, charts the journeys of the stars and planets in their ceaseless musical motion through the heavens, their rising and falling through the known universe like flocks of birds. On clear nights, Spencer and the ephemeris and I gather in the garden with telescope and camera and peer through our lenses up into the starry spangled darkness.
As above, so below... Nature is is brimming over with ephemeral entities. Ephemeral streams and creeks flow for only a brief interval, usually in springtime when winter's snows have disappeared or after a torrential downpour. Plants and insects come into being, mature and pass away within a short time, and the scant hours of their living are bright, intense and vibrant.
Giant Saturnid or silk moths (like the Atlas, Ceanothus, Cecropia, Luna and bright eyed Polyphemus) are truly ephemeral wonders, and so is one of my other favorite summer residents - the cicada who performs such resonant music high in the trees on hot August nights. Like the magnificent saturnids, the adult cicada has no mouth, and so it cannot feed. After a long adolescence spent dwelling quietly underground, it climbs up into the light and sings gloriously to attract a mate. Once it has passed on its genetic material, it expires and passes effortlessly back into the essential matter of the universe.
Look around, and we begin to understand that almost everything we encounter is ephemeral: trees, rosebuds, woodland violets, cherry blossoms and garden lupins, fields of waving goldenrod or corn, rabbits in the hedgerow, herons and hawks, wild wolves and shy woodland deer. Our own specific motley collection of molecules and their allotted time on this planet is brief, but oh how we blaze with life while we are here. Walking through this world like mobile beacons and perambulating lighthouses, we are lit from within by a flame bright, intense, passionate, and oh so ephemeral.
through this life we pass
here only for seventeen
syllables, three lines
August 10, 2012
resting easy in friday rambles