May–June 2021

From the Editor

Here Today ...

Life is short, and ephemera magnify that fact.

Humans are suckers for fleeting pleasures. For snow cones and sand castles, fashion trends and Internet memes. Life is short, and ephemera magnify that fact while encouraging us to be here now.

Profound examples of ephemera exist in the wild. In fact, the word ephemera derives from ephemeros—the ancient Greek term for short-lived natural phenomena. (Ephemeros loosely translates to “lasting only a day.”) In his pioneering biology text, History of Animals, Aristotle wrote about an insect called ephemeron, so named for its brief existence. Some modern biologists believe Aristotle was referring to the mayfly, which is famous for its extraordinarily brief adult life cycle. As long as we’re connecting the entomological and etymological dots here, I should point out that mayflies belong to the order Ephemeroptera. And then there’s the mayfly family Ephemeridae. You get the idea.  

May and June are prime months for witnessing short, dramatic bursts of life in Minnesota’s outdoors, including seasonal ponds that provide temporary habitat for frogs and other critters (page 13), as well as the last gasp of spring ephemerals—think wild ginger and wood anemone. And, yes, you might also see clouds of newly emerged mayflies dancing over the surface of a lake or river. 

Summer isn’t the shortest season in the Northern Hemisphere (that title goes to winter, if you can believe it), but it sure feels that way, evoking a collective sense of urgency to get outside and enjoy a few months of warmth. MCV deputy editor Keith Goetzman taps into that feeling in his article on canoeing the upper Mississippi (page 18), in which he advises paddling his suggested route when the river level is just right. (Paddling routes, by their very nature, are often ephemeral.)

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nature of existence is on full display in “Catching Waves” (page 34), a photo essay featuring the stunning work of Christian Dalbec. Dalbec is known for his Lake Superior photographs, and his wave shots are especially arresting. Armed with a very fancy camera and, I have to assume, more patience than most, the Two Harbors–based photographer excels at capturing the moment when a wave looks most like blown glass. The resulting images have a bittersweet poetry, inviting you to imagine the waves after they lose their unique forms and rejoin the greater churn. 

Chris Clayton, editor in chief