Collectibles

This weekend in Minneapolis has been as lovely and picturesque as autumns can be, the autumn of sentimental poetry and watercolor illustrations for timeless picture books. The trees are gold, country lanes carpeted with russet hues. If I were a better writer I would reel off a description until you wept, but I can ID about six colors between red and yellow and fewer trees by their leaves.

Autumn Lane

Yesterday, I tried to embrace the perfection of a gorgeous fall day in the country, to live in the moment, to treasure it, as people implore parents of the very young to do, though ignoring the stresses of life is like telling someone on a walk to ignore a pebble in one’s shoe.

Children are different; they just run headlong through the woods until they want to be carried home. Our child wanted us to stop and admire truck tire tracts the same way my wife stopped to show him deer tracks. Nobody has told him that any of it isn’t wonderful, that one day is any better than any other, that the woods are better than a city park, and so he — absent the pressure to treasure it — enjoys it more and absolutely, but can be equally stunned by very large parking lots or gas stations with racks of novelty items by the register.

This morning we went the park, and B found two maple leaves, one maroon and gold, to add to his collection. At the park, other children were doing the same — filling their parents’ pockets with perfect specimens. Kids as young as two and as old as twelve were stopping to wonder and admire the gems strewing the paths. I imagine all of them have a treasure chest like this one at home:

leaves and pine cones

But the collection is curated by parents, who say no to the cicada shells, headless action figures, and cellophane wrappers a kid might also take a shine to. At the park B played with a child who had collected, in addition to his leaves, the googly eye lost from a toy, and a bit of string. Children don’t sort the world into good things and garbage. It is all interesting. I think we cease to be really young when we start to discriminate. And that is the great paradox — we can no longer truly treasure the wonders of the world as we realize there are treasures to be had, that the rest of it is garbage.

On the walk home B stopped to do a little jig, bringing to mind this line from Stafford:

“Kids – they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.”

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