The Mayfly

Amazing creatures, they spend most of their lives eating and growing beneath water, and then when their time has come to emerge from the water they spend a few hours looking for a mate, breed and then die. As adults they don’t even have a mouth or digestive organs they can use because they won’t live long enough to need them!

As a symbol they reflect perfectly the mortal state, being both short-lived and delicate. The word that always comes to mind is ephemeral, a perfect word to describe them (and without intention I have just discovered that in French they are called éphémère and in Spanish efímera, though maybe it was an association floating around the back of my mind).

There is something graceful and beautiful in their delicacy, and that is much like our life. When looked from a larger and longer view-point, aren’t we delicate? Aren’t our lives short? We are ephemeral creatures, living a short while and then disappearing.

For me, the brevity of life makes it so much more sweeter and intense than immortality, and full of beauty, distilled in the brief light of each day.


6 thoughts on “The Mayfly

  1. I love this post. I have enjoyed reading your blog. I have been interested in the symbolism of insects in literature. It is fascinating me. I didn’t know this about the digestive system in the mayflies. I remember one time we went for a camping trip in our boat on the lake in Chattanooga, TN and during the night the mayflies had swooned the boat because it was looking at a light. They were all inside the cabin where I was sleeping. I freaked out when I woke up and saw and felt these insects.

    • Thank you for reading my blog Snail Cloth.

      Apparently the digestive system is vestigal in adults. That’s quite an experience! Now if it happens again you don’t have to worry about insect bites from mayflies, lol.

  2. This seemed beautiful at first, but after a few reads oh so tragic; to be born for only one thing without an opportunity to develop, transform, transcend. In many ways it reminds me of the simple or poor or those whose opportunities have been snuffed before they could ever have the opportunity to explore them . . . .


    • It is tragic when you say it like that, there’s is a huge opportunity for people to live, but they waste it. For me, life being ephemeral means that there is an urgency to living, that there is no time to waste. But as Vivian said, there is a Web-of-All-Life, of which we are a part. My life (whether it be 30 or 80 years) may be ephemeral, but it is part of a bigger picture that is developing and transforming, and I am part of that. Any sense of continuity is found in something that transcends this limited “I”, as long as I particpate in it.

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