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Possumhaw: This is the day


Shannon Bardwell



"Compared to a star, we are like mayflies, fleeting ephemeral creatures who live out their whole lives in the course of a single day."  


Carl Sagan, "The People's Scientist" 




Wilhelmina stood at the door on her hind legs looking wistfully through the glass. Just two inches to her left, a mayfly perched unnoticed; probably due to Wilhelmina's vision impairment -- strabismus. When I opened the door, Wilhelmina hopped over the threshold and sauntered outside. She fears thresholds. I couldn't find a name for fear of thresholds, although it is quite common.  


Carefully I lifted the mayfly from the window. He or she seemed to be alive, so I placed her on the sisal mat, then decided better to put her on the peace plant beside the mat. It seemed appropriate. The mayfly moved a little, adjusting herself. She was alive. I hoped she made good use of her time here on earth. An adult mayfly lives for a day at most. 


George Crabbe, an English poet and naturalist, compared the delicate mayfly to today's newspaper having the brief life of only a single day; he called it "ephemera," things that exist or are enjoyed only for a brief time.  


The English are quite taken with mayflies, which appear not only in May but well into autumn. In 1911 the first non-German rigid dirigible, a British airship, was named "Mayfly." It broke in two before it even got into the air. The name was apt considering its short lifespan. The renowned Mayfly pub sits on the banks of the world-famous trout stream, the River Test, in Hampshire, England,  


Oddly enough, British newspapers were enthralled with a mayfly happening along the Mississippi River in 2014, as were Huffington Post, USA Today and CBS. The hatch of mayflies was so enormous that weather radar picked up the condition as significant rainfall. Road accidents in the upper Mississippi River Valley were caused due to reduced visibility, as well as bugs being squashed on the roads and causing slippery conditions. 


Mayfly hatches, though prolific at times, are not what they used to be for many reasons including pollutants, chemicals and other changes in the lives of the sensitive creatures. 


Sam recounts days of old when the Highway 82 bridge, now the pedestrian bridge to the Island, that led to Bob's, the hamburger hangout, was covered with mayflies. He agrees the death of thousands of mayflies made the road slick and dangerous. "It was an amazing sight to see the bridge covered with mayflies. Maybe the lights attracted them. I don't know. We don't seem to have as many as we used to," he said. "The one and only time I ever went fishing down near Meridian at Okatibbee Lake, me and Jimmy Dolan were fishing and not catching anything. Then we noticed along the banks mayflies were falling out of the willow trees and the bream were jumping right out of the water. We rigged up our poles with poppin' bugs that look like mayflies and then things got fun. We started catching some fish. Must have caught about 50." 


I checked the peace plant and our mayfly was gone. I hope she had a nice day.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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