I was mesmerized by the image of an early season robin, perched on the rung of an arbor I had built around a bird bath in order to display the flowers I will plant right after the ground allows me to do so.

Of course, it was too early to even think about planting because the ground was still covered with a blanket of pure white snow. It was early in the evening, right before the sun decided it had had enough of the day. The robin sat motionless, staring into the dimming orb of light, contemplating nothing more important than itself. Or at least I assumed it was doing so.

I had just finished what I considered a lousy day. Hell, I had just finished up a lousy month. Every time I tried to get ahead financially, some necessity in my life increased in price. The more I tried to relax, the more I was forced to speed my life up.

In my youth, this wouldn’t have bothered me because the definition of being young was living hard and fast, not caring what the future would bring because the future was too far away. But now that I see what time is going to give me, I find it more important to prepare myself and my family for what living too long is going to deliver.

Staring out a window made me wonder what this mystery bird knew that I didn’t. How come with all of its problems of survival this bird seemed to be relaxing in a sun that no longer had the capacity to give heat and barely had the strength to give the day any more light. I smiled, thinking I was part of a species that was supposed to be the highest level of living things on the planet. We were supposed to be in control of all other life.

I smiled, thinking maybe this was the problem. We thought we were so special that we took it on ourselves to control all the living things around us. Maybe nothing else wanted to do this. Maybe the other species of the world were too smart to be fooled into thinking that power meant peace.

Thinking back on the history of our world, I started to wonder if the dinosaurs, which once were supposed to rule the world, also became too tired to control what was uncontrollable and simply gave up. I wonder if some giant reptile looked out from its cave and decided enough was enough because it, too, was mesmerized by something much weaker and smaller who was staring up at the same ball of light at another time, seemingly relaxing in all its dying glory.

Snapping out of a trance caused by a combination of yearning to relax and wonderment over something taking place in front of me, I continued to watch the motionless robin stare into the dying sphere of light. I found my head turning toward the sun, hoping to see what this ancient creature saw.

Could the meaning of life be displayed for all of eternity on the face of a sunset, but because we were too busy trying to endure, we never took the time to see it? Could the meaning of all around us be so simple, so beautiful that as a species it is too simple for us to understand?

(Excerpted from a longer essay)