The sun was nesting for the night beyond the distant hills, and by trimming its lamp for the evening, the world seemed to fade into nothingness.

It was Valentine's Day.

The meaning of the day, expressions of love, found its climax in our home as the day faded and we gathered about the table for dinner. The table was set with our best china, crystal, and linen napkins. The table became a visual expression of what was to follow- all my favorite dishes.

We had exchanged Valentine cards in which we had allowed others to speak our feelings by their poetic words, skilled calligraphy, and artistic designs. Now, we sat together as a family and basked in the warmth of the day's symbolism.

After the table had been cleared and the dimmed lights turned up, the choreographed mood gave way to the commonplace, the 'commonplace' being our tendency to take everything for granted without particular notice. We settled in the family room, ready to use up the remainder of the day in that setting.

Charlie, our sheltie, had other ideas. He demanded to be taken outside before settling down in his favorite spot for the night. He timed his maneuver perfectly. Once outside, I felt as if I were in a valentine. I looked upward through the pines to see the moon glowing brightly, as though it had just been washed and polished. The light from the sun not only fired the brilliance of the moon, but made the night sky glow as a landscape of pale blue. Clouds hovered motionless over the sky pasture and radiated a soft pink light. I had seen the night sky in many moods but never before in such sublety of color. I had chanced upon a momentary panorama of God's love of beauty. The moment had almost been lost to me. It was as if God were sending his own valentine.

Self-imposed blindness is sad. If we were forced to surrender one of our five senses we would cling to sight above all others. Yet, with sight we often fail to see.

If one day of our living could be distilled into compartments, we would probably be shocked by what we have allowed in contrast to the day's potential. Here, time spent complaining. There, time given to envy. Pursuit wasted on unworthy goals. Thoughts cultivated in unimportant and often weed-infested soils. All the while, persons we love move about unnoticed, nature churns out masterpieces unseen, and sounds become beautiful music unheard. Most importantly, the right words go unspoken and unwise words cannot be deleted.

At the end of life, each of us would give all our possessions for just one more day to live. Yet, in the trash heap accumulated in our lifetime lie many unused days.

Each day is as a jig-saw puzzle. We join the pieces as each moment mandates. At the end of the day the puzzle is completed. The image projected by the finished puzzle is a record of our choices throughout the day. Two persons can live the same day with the same circumstances

and one will create a masterpiece while the other is little more than a nursery-school paste-up.

We become pieces in the puzzles of others. Our smiles imprint smiles. Our kind words elicit warm responses. Our good deeds lighten loads. Our encouragement strengthens.

If each day is a finished puzzle, each day can be seen as a woven tapestry as well. Our lives are threads that are woven into the tapestry of other persons' lives. If our threads are golden threads they will add beauty and worth to others. If our threads are black threads they will darken and inhibit the lives of others. The tapestry we weave for ourselves reveals who we are. Our choice of thread shapes our personalities, our selection of threads determines our characters. To be chosen are strings of integrity, strings of honesty, strings of compassion, and strings of courage. Such a tapestry comes from the looms of commitment and perseverence without which the woven article will unravel.

Self-imposed blindness blurs reality. For us, if we do not see beauty it does not exist. If we do not hear music, there is none. If we do not accept love, love is non-existent. As long as our eyes are closed and our ears stopped, we exist in an empty world.

After last evening's stumble into a valentine night, I yearn to capture each special moment before it passes, to caress each pleasure offered, and to embrace each worthy opportunity. I want to discipline my life so that I can capture the good and reject the bad without deliberation. I want to bask in the positive forces about me and become immune to the negative.

I want to experience each day as though it were Valentine's Day!

by J. Vance Eastridge, 2000