About the Name

Brown LemurCathemeral (rhymes with ephemeral) is a word from ethology, the study of animal behavior. It roughly means “active in short, intermittent periods throughout the light and dark phases of the day.”

Owls are usually nocturnal, or active in the dark. Songbirds are diurnal, or active during daylight hours. Many insects are crepuscular, which means they’re active during the twilight hours. Cathemeral activity was first observed in certain species of lemurs. As far as I can tell, a lot of creative professionals and small business owners are cathemeral, especially where their creative energy is concerned.

I’m taking some liberties with this term, and I’m nearly certain this isn’t how it was meant to be used by the scientists who coined it. But cathemeral is the closest term I can find to describe the nature of the work I do. Through repeated and, for now, incorrect use, I’m hoping to expand the meaning of “cathemeral” to describe the irregular bursts of creative activity that are variously celebrated and cursed by creative folk.


Animal Influences

Several members of my mom’s family have devoted their lives to the care of animals. The name of my company, with its animal-science origins, is a small tribute to them.

My mom’s dad, Dr. Francis H. Fox, began his large animal veterinary practice in 1945. He was a professor at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine from 1953 until his mandatory faculty retirement in 1992. After that, he continued giving guest lectures and making house calls to dairy farms. He still maintains an office at Cornell.

My mom’s brother, Ted Fox, is the director of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY. His specialty is ornithology, or the study of birds. He makes such accurate bird calls that the folks who work with him never know if it’s Ted or a rare bird in the next room. Ted is also the person who introduced me to the word “cathemeral.”

My mom’s mom, Mildred “Cully” Fox, cared for a house full of children and animals for many years and accompanied my grandfather to several veterinary conferences. When I was younger, she would put me to bed with stories of the many animals that Francis and Ted brought home over the years: dogs, cats, rats, snakes, parrots, canaries, a donkey, a goat, chickens, pigeons, squirrels, a skunk, a raccoon, geese, ducks, and an alligator, among others. My grandparents currently have a dog, two cats, and an African Grey Parrot.

My sister Jill has recently completed a degree in zoology, and we’re looking forward to seeing what exciting things she does in the field.