My enduring love for the ephemeral

My enduring love for the ephemeral

The mulberries are ripe.

Mulberries are the ideal fruit. They are so sweet, and have no thorns, and are so abundant, and take no care at all. They are easy to find because of the purple ink they leave on the ground when they fall.


That is, mulberries are the ideal fruit if you don’t actually own any mulberry trees. If you just bought a house with no garage, but which has a mulberry tree with branches hanging over where you park your car, you may well hate mulberries. I don’t own any—I sneak around the bike trail and to abandoned houses with a bedsheet, shake the berries down, and sneak off again.

So far I have been too chicken to ring anyone’s doorbell and beg–to either beg for their fruit, or to beg them not to waste the yummy juicy goodness.

There’s a phrase—one person’s trash is another person’s treasure—but no word I know of that explains the same thing.


Mulberries are only around for about a week in early summer, and the word for things here and gone is “ephemeral.”


I somehow got to be 32 before I learned the word “ephemeral.” I remember, because I was in an archives class, categorizing “ephemera,” which, in this context, means theater tickets, embossed napkins, stuff that tells about the here-and-now that so quickly becomes yesterday.


I love having, at last, a word for those wonderful, fleeting things. There’s a special, indulgent delight in knowing I simply MUST make the snowman while the snow is falling, because day-old snow doesn’t pack as well, that the strawberries will never be any better than the instant I pick them, that if my daughter asks me to read to her, RIGHT NOW will be more magical than making an appointment for it later.


There’s a differing pleasure in the things that are better later, such as day old meat loaf, or remembering that first kiss thirty years after.


There’s no word for that, either.


So linguists had better get going: We need both a single, musical word for that-thing-which-you-saw-someone-discard-but-which-you-prize, and the-thing-that -is-better-old-than-new.  Although maybe the thing better later–meatloaf–should be a different word from the thing that is better in memory–that first kiss.


Well, I don’t have the answer. I have to go rinse the mulberries.


2 thoughts on “My enduring love for the ephemeral

  1. “Nostalgia” doesn’t work for something that’s better in memory than when it really happened? Anyway, I tried to come up with fake words, but I failed, BUT some quick googling returned this: and this: which don’t describe the things you wanted described, but were pretty fascinating to me anyway and in the same line of thought 😉


    1. I love that the word “nostalgia,” because of its -gia suffix, actually means an UNhealthy attachment to the past. That’s what it really means, but not how people generally use the word. 🙂 Thanks for the links!


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