What's in a Word | All Blogs

Here today, gone tomorrow … or sooner

By Debra Dobbins

Yeah, being in middle management can be risky. When companies downsize, it’s not uncommon for head honchos to reallocate a middle manager’s job responsibilities to staffers above and below.

“Ephemeral” means lasting for a short while, temporary. It comes from two Greek word parts, epi, which means upon, and hēmera, meaning day.

The term is often used to describe occurrences in nature. A mayfly is considered ephemeral because it has a quite short life span, from a few hours to a few days. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it belongs to the order Ephemeroptera, a word stemming from the same two Greek word parts noted above.

Then there are ephemeral water bodies such as a “wetland, spring, stream, river, pond or lake that only exists for a short period following precipitation or snowmelt,” also according to Wikipedia.

I’ve started taking photos of things in nature that only last a short time, such as my crabapple tree when it was blooming. Its delicate white blossoms last only about a week, far less than that if subjected to gusty winds. The poppies in the front yard have now burst into bloom, but they, too, are ephemeral. They’ll blaze a brilliant orange for two weeks at the very most and then subside. The only consolation (which, by the way, is a feeling that poppies can symbolize) is that both the tree and the poppies will bloom again next spring.

In researching this term, I learned of a closely related term called ephemera. Being in publishing, I should have known it long ago, because one of its definitions is “printed matter (as theater programs, posters, guidebooks) meant to be of use for only a short time but preserved by collectors,” according to Webster’s.

Thank goodness for cameras, programs and, maybe most importantly, memories. Long after the actual occurrence of nature or an event such as a magnificent stage production, our memories preserve important images in our mind’s eye. In that way, what is ephemeral is not eternal, but it is enduring.

Photo by Debra Dobbins

Photo by Lusifer courtesy of Wikipedia


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