The Quiet Sentimentality of October


Today is one of those days when the weather has suddenly gotten cold. You hear the brittle leaves on the concrete, you see wisps of snow whipping around, and you think back over the years and recognize how similar things today are to how they were in the past.

Sure there have been changes and improvements in technology, supposedly, but so many things remain almost exactly the same.

In nature, the seasons are the same. 

It all goes by in a kaleidoscopic blur, like a an old-time movie montage.

The emotionalized time-lapse perspective of the years, which resides in the mind of the perceiver, as well as in the objective reality of those things.

I look around and I see things that are, for most intents and purposes, the same as they were 35 or 40 years ago.

Maybe what also triggered this reverie for me, as I sit here in King Sooper’s (supermarket) parking lot, tapping these words onto my iPad, was something I have not experienced, though I have wanted to, for maybe a year or two, which is far too long, only because I had not been regularly attending one church, but 34 churches over the last five years or so…

Holy Communion. This morning at Woodmen Valley Chapel. It had an affect on me a little stronger and a bit different than years before.

I realized the human physical earthiness, the common humanity, of the body and blood of the loving and divine Jesus, given and shed to wash away all my sins.

That God would Incarnate as a man and suffer torture, shed His blood, and die on a cross is about as physical and brutal and terrifying a punishment as you can get.

But this writing is about life’s commonalities enduring through the years, not just spiritual realities.

About a half hour ago, I had a sudden specific craving for Mac ‘N Cheese, which I really never get. (Usually it is for mashed potatoes.)

I thought of my brother Bryan. His favorite food from childhood forward was M&C.

I ate a charbroiled “Six Dollar Burger” at Carl’s Jr.. The restaurant name made me think of my grandpa Carl, and his faith and love and kind heart and helpfulness to everyone.

An airplane goes over and I think of my Dad’s 38 years at United Airlines, which was the way he provided for me and our family. Because of early experiences, I love huge busy airports in a way most people I have talked to cannot understand. (All other crowds and noisy places I do not like at all.) It seems things are always taking off at the airport.

I go through the Drive-Thru at Wendy’s and sometimes think of Wendy.

There is a construction company named BRYAN, which has its name on the side of stationary semis in huge letters around town, which reminds me of my brother Bryan, who is highly skilled and extremely hard-working at painting and construction.

There is a tree-lined street named “Lyle” near my apartment, and a breakfast restaurant named “Doug’s.”

My Mom Kaaren helped me get back from Phoenix about twelve years ago, and I am still in Apartment K.

Some time ago, I saw old but energetic black-and-white photos of my grandma Aimee driving around in old Model T-like cars on Facebook as a young woman.

Several products bear the name “Bob’s” (Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Organic Whole Wheat Flour—sponsor of “The Score” film music radio show) and “Don’s” (burritos) and “Matt’s” (Best organic orange juice I have ever tasted). There is CineMark and the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

And I’ve always had Renees and Andres in my life.

For years, there was a Joanne Fabrics store.

People from past and present.

The past is still here, all around.

The people I love are still here in my heart.

My faith in Jesus is still here, since I was a kid.

The wood-mounted metal cross from my confirmation hangs on my bedroom wall, from 41 years ago, a gift from a kind and generous Lutheran man named Norm Bruss.

In an older painting by Warner Sallman, a miniature version on my desk, Jesus feeds the sheep. 

Warner created the painting that is the earliest memory I have of my Savior Jesus’ goodness, divinity, kindness, love, forgiveness, glory, and holiness.)

In a newer framed painting, Jesus, glowing, is still walking on the water in the dark storm.

Jesus still feeds the poor and heals the sick and raises the dead back to life, their hearts pounding, lungs breathing in, and their lids suddenly popping open in wild-eyed amazement.

Technology, thank God, has not changed everything.

Technology can never replace the human soul or the Spirit of God.

Sitting in my car at KFC out by the same tree facing Academy Boulevard, eating that Mac ‘N Cheese, I looked out and saw and heard older cars, the U.S. flag, a Stop sign, and other things that are identical to 35 years ago.

You look at young people now middle aged, and the new young people, soon to be middle aged, struggling against it and denying it the same as the people they laugh at used to do.

I think back on all the people from childhood and young adult memories who seemed like such everlasting pillars, Carl, Aimee, Auntie Elle and Uncle Harry, Sally, people who would always be there, now gone to their eternal homes.

And the cycle goes on.

The clock keeps ticking. 

The seasons keep changing.

People keep getting born, and getting older. 

Sad funerals keep happening.

Church bells keep ringing.

“Preachers, keep on preaching…” (song reference for Don.)

The lasting ideas and truths and spiritual realities endure.

The love lives on in the hearts of those who have loved, or been loved.

The Mac ‘N Cheese is still just as good, the ice cream tastes just as sweet.

The gently roaring fireplace smells just as good.

It warms the room just the same.

For weeks, maybe months, I have thought of how we have lost our Judeo-Christian heritage and our values and great and beautiful and wonderful things, but maybe we have not so much lost them as have had them socially suppressed, or sublimated into the background.

But they are still here if you want them, everything is still here, in our life, and in our hearts, if you look for it.

Breathe it in, as the first snowflakes fall, dancing around in the air.

Remember all the good things, and all the good people, and all the good things they did for you.

Even if you have not taken the sweet wine (or juice) of Holy Communion in a long time.

Curtis Smale 

Real Romantic Love. It’s Okay to Cry Reading the Last Line…


Love isn’t an act, it’s a whole life. It’s staying with her now because she needs you; it’s knowing you and she will still care about each other when sex and daydreams, fights and futures—when all that’s on the shelf and done with. Love—why, I’ll tell you what love is: it’s you at seventy-five and her at seventy-one, each of you listening for the other’s step in the next room, each afraid that a sudden silence, a sudden cry, could mean a lifetime’s talk is over. ”
— Brian Moore, The Luck of Ginger Coffey