Sunday, September 11, 2022

CAP’N CRUNCH – Master of Dwindling Days

I’ve never been that big a fan of fall. The lush, green mantle that summer tucked around us so tenderly in June is growing threadbare. Flowers are fading. The crisp crack of bat on baseball is giving way to the dull thump of foot on football.

Summer’s luscious, oxygen suffused air will turn first to the sugary sweet smell of decay, then get wrung out, dried and sterilized.

Worst of all, daylight, after nourishing eyes and souls well into the evening for the past few months, gets dialed down like lighting for a noir photo. Too soon it will be dark by 4:30.

And need I even mention the coming four-month deep freeze here in Minnesota?

     I set out each day looking for—and finding—
     the bright side of autumn.

It all feels like gradual starvation. Nonetheless, determined to choose a mindset of abundance over scarcity, I set out each day looking for—and finding—the bright side of autumn.

My daily walks are a kind of meditation on that ambition. I head outdoors with eyes and heart open to fall’s undeniable small wonders: berries, from black to white with all the colors in between; the busyness of critters squirreling away stores for winter; leaves, dying with panache, flaunt their finest colors.

One of my favorite harbingers of fall is the oaks’ dropping their acorns. More specifically, stepping on their brittle capules, many of them knocked loose by impact with the sidewalk.

As I walk I seek out the elegant little crowns, aiming to crush as many as I can. I'm sure I look deranged, lurching back and forth, seeing if I can’t hit one with each step. Chalking up a double is especially rewarding.

Squnching one with the toe or arch of your shoe might do the trick, but the sound and feel are most satisfying when you hit it right on the ball of your foot.

The lower the humidity, the crunchier the little cups get. If it rained last night, fuggedaboutit. The best is when they’ve baked in full sun for a few hours.

(My wife rolls her eyes when I do this; thinks I’m reverting to my silly, inner ten-year-old. Which, of course, I take as a compliment.)

      Look right past the withering of summer’s
      joys and find those of fall.

Don’t we all—especially after all the dispiriting events we’ve been through the past few years—need a little more reversion to childhood? Hell, we needed it even before COVID, George Floyd, the climate calamity and what’s-his-name, when far too many of us were already allowing workaday concerns and mindless diversions to steal our innate senses of wonder and play.

So c’mon folks, let’s reclaim that precious, lighthearted exuberance that is—or at least should be—every evolving soul’s birthright. Get out there, take a deep breath of this sweet, late-summer air. Look right past the withering of summer’s joys and find those of fall.

Look for those first crimson leaves of sumac and the fantastic shapes and patterns of fungi; smell the crisp autumn air; listen for the Vs of Canada geese heading south.

And by all means, indulge your still playful ten-year-old self with a mischievous, crunch-a-licious stroll through fallen acorns.

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     There are three distinct classifications of crunchiness: Crispy is onomatopoeic; it whispers; sounds like its spoken-word self. Crispy is biting into a classic potato chip or a piece of puffed rice cereal (a Rice Crispy, if you will). 
has a bit more heft. The item’s usually a bit harder, more rigid. The sound’s deeper, gravellier, like chomping into a fresh carrot or a well-toasted almond.
     And then there’s Crackly. Crackly’s brittle, snappy; you really get the sense that something’s breaking. It’s what happens when you bite into stuff that’s hard and thin, like peanut brittle, ribbon candy or even some “kettle” style potato chips.
     Some things—like ice—can be either crunchy or crackly, depending on their hardness or thickness.