Ephemera

My collection Water-Rites was begun in response to a drought and a death. Interesting that the book’s release appears during an unusually wet spring here in my valley. On my morning walk through the meadow today, I saw quite a few species of dragonflies, generally a sign of a damp period in my region. Two days ago, mantis cases hatched; now there are tiny praying mantises on the patio slates, in the lawn, and among the grassy flora where we seldom mow.

The bees are out; the cabbage moths and early butterflies busy themselves with knapweed, eupatoria, penstemon, golden alexanders, honeysuckle, milkweed. The fragrance settles above the dewy grasses.

Most people are aware of honeysuckle’s scent. Few people know how lovely the aroma of milkweed blossom is. You have to time it just right–there’s no perceptible scent when the buds are furled, and the blooms are open only briefly. Almost at once, the blossoms ripen into pale knobs that will produce the familiar pods full of seeds packed cone-like into the pointed cases, silks battened tightly until autumn dries the pods and they burst.

But in early or mid-June, when the butterflies begin to arrive, those blooms are pale purple clusters of fragrance on a stem.

milkweed bloom

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Ephemera intrigues me. Human ephemera usually is just that: brief, transitory, “lasting a day” (the Latin name for daylily, hemerocallis, comes from the same root: ἐφήμερα). Our letters, our emails, our YouTube videos and Hallmark greeting cards and shopping receipts.

Biological ephemera, however, is part and parcel of the cycle of life.

And poetry? Perhaps it’s an effort on the part of human beings to contribute to the lasting sort of ephemera.

 

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milkweed in autumn Ann E. Michael

 

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