My son Beren sits on the kitchen floor. Cabinet drawers are open, and spatulas, potato mashers and hand mixers are strewn about. He's working on pulling our old electric blender base from a low drawer, by wrapping himself in the electric cord and pulling with all of his 12 month old might. Causing Papa some modest alarm (mental note, tell Momma to watch Beren extra closely when cords are nearby...).

He's fueled entirely by curiousity. He knows not the concepts mine, yours, property line, nor the costs of different items. What is this, he wonders? How does it move? Can I pick it up and manipulate it? Does it make noise or smush or smash?

We take walks outside and he is engrossed for hours. Sticks and gravel in infinite supply, topography to test balance and strength (up to the walnut trees, down to the swampy meadow, visit the hackberry, repeat). Puddles in the dirt driveway, multiplying and diversifying with every storm, worth a visit every time.

The way he picks at the lichens on boulders or crinkles the dry oak leaves transcends the concept of "toys". Here is a young creature exploring his world, honing the subtleties of his senses, trying his strengths and getting wet, bruised, and covered in dirt and moss in the process.

In one of my favorite photos of him, he is crawling on an Adirondacks trail, plastered in mud and tiny winged yellow birch seeds from his pants legs up to his chest. He's one of the wild life, dispersing seeds as he wallows, crawls, and digs around.

Inside the house is different. After a few days of investigation, most of the "baby toys" he has are more-or-less ignored. Which means that days cooped up inside can get frustrating and boring, as he tries to climb the drawer handles to get at the interesting items on top of the rolltop desk, or open the top drawers in the kitchen (knives, Felco clippers, glass measuring cups, etc.)

I cringe (a little) thinking ahead to a time when all this unrelenting curiousity about objects is superimposed on a greater acquaintance with the marketplace, and the word "mine". Partially, the concern is financial. But more so, it hurts to think of all that intense, sensual curiousity being transformed into consumerism.

And isn't this a process that has happened to all of us? I'm bored, I'll go shopping. There are people, behind the scenes, who have dedicated their lives to creating items that appeal to as many of the long-evolved curiousities, proclivities, and desires of human beings as possible, all wrapped into one. Sleek, shiny, easy, interactive... with sugar on top. Utility... but only enough to help the desiring person to justify buying what is often a direct appeal to a swirl of senses, needs, and the desire for self-transformation.

I'm hoping that the natural world remains available and interesting to Beren, as an antidote to the enchanting world of the consumer object. Natural medicine against the thrall of plastics, virtual realities, and the broken promises of the newest and most fashionable.