There it was, no bigger than a nickel. A thin, dark circle, barely raised against the surface of the rock. At first glance, it could have been a slice of obsidian — or even a raindrop upon the soft gray shale. And just like an ephemeral raindrop, it should have evaporated into the winds of time ...
... hundreds of millions of years ago.
Instead, this little bug left its tiny imprint on our Earth — disappearing into a sandy tomb long before the dinosaurs walked this land and reappearing, for the first time, as I drove a spike between two thin layers of shale.
"A trilobite!" you cried.
Indeed it was. But it was more than that. It was a tiny time machine. A window into prehistory. As old as the hills? No, that doesn't even scratch the surface. This was older. Much, much older.
I dropped my hammer, shook my head and ran my thumb over tiny, spiny fossil.
"Wow," I said.
That is all I could muster. Words simply failed me. And why should they not? Our ancestors began to communicate using language fewer than 100,000 years ago. This delicate little arthropod had been around for 500 million years. Maybe longer. And we had just unearthed it, waking it from its long slumber, robbing it from eternity.
We live just a few short hours from one of the most prolific trilobite quarries in the world. And as such, your mother and I had been meaning to do this for years. One thing or another kept getting in the way.
I'm so glad we finally did this. And I'm glad we got to do it with you. Because with all the awe I felt as we unearthed fossil after fossil after fossil, came an awe-inspiring reminder:
Our time here is short. Too short to leave undone what we dream of doing. Too short not to seek joy. Too short not to seek love. Too short not to care, deeply and passionately, for all of those around us. Too short not to be left speechless by a sunset, a snowflake, a little slice of shale.
Like the raindrops that danced on the soft gray rock as we reluctantly turned away from the quarry, we are both eternal and ephemeral.
And like the raindrops, we should dance.