Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Most Exquisite Little Creature

I’m going to take a little sidetrack here, because I just have to show you something. Yesterday while hiking by the river with my kids, we came upon a beautiful little mayfly! My husband was able to get a picture of it:

Such an exquisite creature! As far as I can tell, this is a subimago (subadult) of one of the species commonly called “Blue-winged olive.” Mayflies are unique among insects in that the wingless aquatic nymph (larva) molts into a winged subadult and then again into the mature adult. All other insects that molt from a wingless to a winged form only do it once-- from the larva directly to the adult. Another cool thing about mayflies is that while nymphs live in the water for up to a year or more, the subadult and adult are very short-lived, usually less than a day. I get very excited about all of this, and my husband has to remind me to calm down a little bit whenever I see a mayfly (if there are other people around). Even though adult mayflies are sometimes present in large, impressive swarms, to me each one of them is a rare and beautiful thing.

The more I learn about the beautiful creatures God has made, the more I am in awe of his work. There are those who feel that trying to explain the physical world through science, without reference to God, automatically undermines a belief in him. But for me, the understanding provided by science (even though it must reach its conclusions without reference to God) enhances rather than diminishes my appreciation of God’s handiwork.

I like how Kenneth R. Miller said it:
“Each and every increase in our understanding of the natural world should be a step toward God, and not, as many people assume, a step away. If faith and reason are both gifts from God, then they should play complementary, not conflicting roles in our struggle to understand the world around us.” (Miller 1999:267)

I am grateful to understand, from a stance within science, how some of this amazing world works. And I am grateful to know, from a place outside of science, that a loving God is responsible for it.


  1. Lovely post! It makes me think of one poem by Leslie Norris. My sister and I would listen to it from a cassette tape of him reading his poems. It's called "The Mayfly," oddly enough, and it goes like this:

    "The Mayfly
    by Leslie Norris

    I like to watch the mayfly when it hatches in the river in the month of May
    To see the mayflies rise up in their little bubbles of air,
    And float on the water and unfold their tiny wings.
    I walked by the riverside one May morning
    When the hawthorne was in bloom and the sun was shining.
    I sat by the river’s edge, my toes on pebbles,
    And I saw the clear water full of brilliant bubbles
    And one bubble floated up and opened softly, showed me a tiny insect
    A frail mayfly. She lay there in the sun
    Her wings growing strong,
    And the river’s swift surface carried her along
    She stretched out her fragile legs, her wings thin and flimsy,
    Then danced in the morning air
    Well flown, little mayfly!"

    In memory of this poem, my sister made me a throw pillow and cross-stitched a mayfly on it... It reminds me of unexpected beauty and other wonderful things. It's funny how these little things (like mayflies) can hold such fascination and meaning.

  2. I love that poem, too!
    Yes, very small things can hold great significance.