Valentine's Day

An Essay By Sarah Bethany // 3/3/2009

A few days before Valentine's Day, I decided to drive around for the day.
I ended up back in my town at evening. As the night shadows crept in, I prayed in the chapel. The only light there was a little sacristy candle flickering; I was in the basement of the town’s church. I looked out the window and idly watched the bare trees waving, and the blue and orange sky. It felt so weird to be down there at five o’clock. I imagined the daily mass attendees, most of them elderly, early this morning walking the pea-soup colored carpet through the patterns of sun, to receive communion, in the simple, wholesome feel a New England morning gives a place. Empty, quiet, now, with the shadows that remind me of being in an old person’s living room. I like being places when it is not the right time to be there.

Ten minutes later, the coordinator of religious education suddenly broke the silence and stamped through the dark room, saying, “I’m sorry - I need it - there’s a child sick -” and I tried to shrink behind a column.

I didn’t want her to see me, because I felt like someone would have said, “Can I help you?” or “Why are you here?” or “Are you okay?” because why would a twenty-year old girl be praying in a church unless there was some catastrophe in her life? But I was annoyed at the same time that I should feel like I was trespassing in my own parish. I wish I had more of a possessive and settled feeling there.

But there is also a distinctly unwelcoming sensation that comes from a room with no lights on in it.

I watched the clock. Ten to five. Five to five. I was distracted by the elven waving trees, and the orange and the blue. Five o’clock.

I went out in the parking lot, where parents were picking up their kids from CCD, and I sat in my big old white car and ate sweethearts - since there was a big bag of them left on the seat by my dad. When a woman walking her dog came too close by, I slid even further down.

So there I sat, crunching on the talc-like taste of the candy, and looking upwards at the pastor’s tan-painted rectory, and watching the trees blow.

A white heart - “Be mine.”
A green one - “My girl.”
A pink heart - “One kiss.”
A yellow one - “Marry me.”

I liked feeling that I could be out, and just eating sweethearts. I wasn't running errands or doing anything purposeful. (There goes an orange one.) I was savoring my own independent existence. There is something about automobiles and being autonomous, I thought. (Another orange one.) I realized then, rather startlingly, that I could exist apart from everybody. My car could be my house. (Purple.) Maybe all I needed was money and a vehicle... I certainly felt cozy against the blue cushion of the seat.

The wind came in big gusts and hit and moved the car. As I sat cradled down, I felt it rock. I call it a Boat, actually.

Home is one of the deepest places of acceptance on earth, I think, aside from God. But it is a strange and thrilling feeling to one day realize you can also live apart from anybody, and exist independently of everything. However, I was grateful for a hot dinner that night. Maybe our independent thoughts last longer at times than others... that want to live on a mountaintop or out of a car.

Yet the idea of the gypsy life lingers, temptingly, in the back of most people's minds.

It's strange, contemplating your own independent existence somehow leads to a contemplation of the entire universe, as well. Because as soon as you believe yourself the director of your own actions, life is put on a larger scale, and the question comes, "So what should I DO?"
The existentialist philosophers had the same problem. Or agony, rather. They, too, looked up at the stars and thought, "So I am an independent being. But what is the point of life? Where should I go? Is most of it vanity? What is the meaning? It's so short. I want more. And is there anything beyond these trite beauties and truths I see?"

You've probably thought as much yourself. It would probably be pointless to run the long list of doubts, that mankind pretty much has said since day one. I'll end with something from my brother, then, who is at the college I used to attend. He wanted to share with me quotes he had found interesting in his reading. One was from Gaudium et Spes, a Church council document. He sent it to me a few days after Valentine's Day, randomly. (It shocked me how coincidental it was!) It's about the incongruities of the mind, and may help you feel more relaxed when you yourself are grappling with the questions of the universe.

"As happens in any crisis of growth, this transformation has brought serious difficulties in its wake. Thus while man extends his power in every direction, he does not always succeed in subjecting it to his own welfare. Striving to probe more profoundly into the deeper recesses of his own mind, he frequently appears more unsure of himself. Gradually and more precisely he lays bare the laws of society, only to be paralyzed by uncertainty about the direction to give it... Though mankind is stricken with wonder at its own discoveries and its power, it often raises anxious questions about the current trend of the world, about the place and role of man in the universe, about the meaning of its individual and collective strivings, and about the ultimate destiny of reality and of humanity."
(VATICAN COUNCIL II, Gaudium et Spes)

Hope you had a happy Valentine's Day!


I've thought how exciting it

I've thought how exciting it would be to just get in a car (when I can drive of course) and just drive around the country with no particular destination in mind.......Just taking whatever exit comes next and going to any town that comes on the road. Maybe some day I will do that....

I have also wondered what life is about. I mean, of coarse, life is about serving God. But what am I suppose to do for Him. What would be the most affective way. I know I can do big things with God's help, but what those things are I have only a vague idea.

I don't want to be forgotten. That may sound like a selfish thing to say, but that's the way I feel. Think of how many people there have been that are completely unknown to us. They aren't even on record anywhere, and they didn't do anything special, but live. I don't want to be forgotten or unknown. I don't want to waste my life, when there are enough people that do that and WILL be forgotten. What am I to do? Should I help children some where? Should I help adults some where? Or should I stick to the life of writing I had planned out? I'm not sure what.

God gave me life, and He expected me to use it well. There are other people whose lives are being taken away from them, I should treasure mine.

Not just everyone will do something great, but I don't want to be "just everyone"......I'm talking too much...

It's obvious to see that I was "slightly" interested by this essay. I thought it brought out some thoughtful points (again, obvious). Your writing is kind of like Jane Austen's. It takes ordinary, every day, life experiences, and shows how interesting "ordinary" can be.

The Brit | Wed, 03/04/2009


Sarah, I loved this. Just recently myself I had the opportunity to be alone in a Church that was completely black, except for a few flickering candles. It was seriously life-changing. I liked this piece a lot, because I could just see you doing all those things. And it made me miss our philosophical discussions at late hours.

Brianna | Thu, 03/05/2009

"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

Haha, yeah, like our

Haha, yeah, like our after-midnight almost-delirious philosophical discussions about Animal Reservation Arenas and putt-putting? Haha! <3

Thanks for your comments!! That's great that you go to be in a black church as well. There is something so personal and changing about it. Like you're in the proverbial "closet" or in bed in your own dark room. Or something like that.

Sarah Bethany | Thu, 03/05/2009


Really interesting. I like how you described the scene and feelings.

Anonymous | Wed, 03/11/2009

Hi, Brit! I'm sorry I hadn't

Hi, Brit! I'm sorry I hadn't replied to this yet!! I just saw that I hadn't. Sorry!! Your paragraph about not being forgotten jumped out at me, because I wrote something similar, thinking about posting it on apricotpie! Except it was funny - it was about maybe we should be willing to be forgotten. Lol. Horrible thought, no? I don't know about it.
And also, thank you for the Austen comment. I struggle to remember how interesting ordinary life can be. :) It's good to recall - thanks!
And what is life about... yes, the big question. I doubt the people who act like they have it pat-down figured-out! :D Sure, we know theologically that it's to know, love, and serve God... but that doesn't stop us from wondering about... everything!

Sarah Bethany | Tue, 05/26/2009


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