Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Glorious autumn in my Minnesota backyard October 24, 2014

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I SHOULD HAVE RAKED leaves this week. Should have.

A view of my backyard taken from the back steps shows the one maple tree that has dropped all those leaves.

A view of my backyard taken from the back steps shows the one maple tree that has dropped all those leaves.

But I couldn’t. Couldn’t because there’s something wonderful about stepping out the kitchen door into a backyard blanketed by golden maple leaves.

Focusing up at the leaves still clinging to the maple.

Focusing up at the leaves still clinging to the maple.

Wonderment of color and earthy scent and crackle of dried leaves underfoot.

Garden art given to me by my mom several years ago.

Garden art given to me by my mom several years ago is surrounded by fallen leaves.

Oh, how I love this season, this Autumn.

Garden art still staked outdoors copies the hues of leaves and sky.

Garden art still staked outdoors copies the hues of leaves and sky.

The hues and scents and crispness endear me to October.

Posing Grant Wood style after raking leaves.

Posing Grant Wood style after raking leaves. The ground is once again strewn with a layer of leaves.

I thrilled in watching cousins—my two great nephews and a great niece—gather leaves by rake, hand and wheelbarrow into a pile for hiding and jumping.

My great nephew, who just moved to rural Faribault from Utah, didn't quite know what to think of being placed atop a leaf pile.

My great nephew, who just moved to rural Faribault from Utah, didn’t quite know what to think of being placed atop a leaf pile.

Oh, to be a kid again.

The monster leaf on the left measures nine inches across, here compared to a more normal-sized maple leaf.

The monster leaf on the left measures nine inches across, here compared to a more normal-sized maple leaf.

I marveled, along with Deb visiting from the Iron Range, at the nine-inch span of a leaf dropped by the backyard maple. Neither of us had ever seen a maple leaf so large. She took it back home to show her husband, who’s never traveled south of Minneapolis.

I'm in no hurry to rake the leaves in my backyard. This fountain rests on a patio table.

I’m in no hurry to rake the leaves in my backyard. This fountain rests on a patio table.

Autumn is too fleeting to rake her leaves in, to bag and haul them away in unwelcome dismissal.

I'm still hanging laundry outside and will do so until the snow flies. I noticed how this kitchen towel mimics the hues of autumn.

I’m still hanging laundry outside and will do so until the snow flies. I noticed how this kitchen towel mimics the hues of autumn.

I don’t want this glorious season to depart, so why would I hasten Autumn along?

Flower pots are stacked, waiting to be stashed inside the garage.

Flower pots are stacked, waiting to be stashed inside the garage.

Being a life-long Minnesotan, though, I understand the need to prepare for Winter. And I’ve started. Yes, I have. I’ve emptied flower pots of dead plants. I’ve yanked zinnias from the ground. I’ve hauled fern and cactus indoors.

Every day more leaves drop from my backyard maple. I know I will wake up one morning soon and  the branches will be bare.

Every day more leaves drop from my backyard maple. I know I will wake up one morning soon and the branches will be bare.

The leaves, though, will stay for awhile longer.

A garden art angel I have yet to move indoors.

A garden angel I have yet to move indoors.

Oh, how I love this blessed season of Autumn.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Touring Franconia Sculpture Park, Part II October 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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IF YOU’RE LIKE ME and grew up in a rural area with minimal access to the arts, you appreciate every affordable opportunity to experience art as an adult. For that reason, I often showcase the arts here.

I want you to be aware of the wonderful arts opportunities right in your own Minnesota backyard. To you readers who live elsewhere, I expect you will find local or regional artistic venues unknown to you or unexplored by your for whatever reason.

A snippet overview of Franconia shows "The Harris Project" by Ohio artist Araan Schmidt in the foreground.

A snippet overview of Franconia shows “The Harris Project” by Ohio artist Araan Schmidt in the foreground.

That brings us back to the Franconia Sculpture Park which, since its founding in 1996, has supported 735 national and international artists. Impressive. It offers an artist residency program. And to think I’ve never explored this 25-acre park with 100-plus oversized sculptures southwest of Taylors Falls until a few weeks ago.

But then again I’ve never been to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden either and that’s been around since 1988 and its even closer to my home than Franconia. I really must tour the Minneapolis park sometime. It’s my lack of fondness for urban traffic and urban areas that’s kept me away.

Minnesota artist Mary Johnson's "Lizard Lounge."

Minnesota artist Mary Johnson’s “Lizard Lounge.”

Give me rural any day, one of the reasons I appreciate Franconia so much. It’s located in Franconia Township, which nestles the St. Croix River. The park runs flat and open and stands next to farm fields.

With these hours, there's ample opportunity to tour Franconia.

With these hours, there’s ample opportunity to tour Franconia.

Yesterday I offered you a photo tour glimpse of Franconia, which is open dawn to dusk every day. Here’s one more peek at the art you’ll find there.

Donations are encouraged to support the park.

Donations are encouraged to support the park.

Admission is free, although donations are encouraged.

ONWARD, INTO THE TOUR:

It's interesting to study the light reflecting on these triangles. New York City artist Ryan W. Turley created this sculpture which he calls "Spectacle."

It’s interesting to study the light reflecting on these triangles. New York City artist Ryan W. Turley created this sculpture which he calls “Spectacle.”

There's something about the bend of this sculpture and its positioning that drew my eye.

There’s something about the bend of this sculpture and its positioning that drew my eye. And, yes, that’s a cornfield in the background.

There are a few, what one would consider, more traditional sculptures like this one.

There are a few, what one would consider, more traditional sculptures like this haunting one.

Art in progress.

Art in progress.

I couldn't figure out if this was art or the home of a resident artist or both.

I couldn’t figure out if this was art or the home of a resident artist or both.

Maryland artist James R. Long calls his sculpture "Vessel with Orbs." To me it looks like BINGO balls minus the numbers and letters.

Maryland artist James R. Long calls his sculpture “Vessel with Orbs.” To me it looks like BINGO balls minus the numbers and letters.

I really liked this sculpture

My impression of this sculpture: escape.

CLICK HERE TO READ my first post about Franconia Sculpture Park.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Franconia, up close: A visit to a rural Minnesota sculpture park October 22, 2014

Welcome to Fraconia Sculpture Park.

Welcome to Franconia Sculpture Park.

EXPLAINING THE 25-ACRE Franconia Sculpture Park in rural Shafer, Minnesota, eludes a succinct definition.

Some of the pieces invite interaction and play.

Some of the pieces invite interaction and play.

This place, just west of Taylors Falls off U.S. Highway 8 where State Highway 95 turns south in Franconia Township, seems a playground for the imagination. For here you will find 105 oversized sculptures and others in progress that are mostly abstract and open to interpretation.

An overview of a section of the park shows its size and scale.

An overview of a section of the park shows its size and scale.

And isn’t that part of what defines art, the perspective the viewer brings to the piece?

How we view art is rooted deep in our experiences.

How we view art is rooted deep in our experiences.

I won’t pretend to bring any studied art knowledge to this mini photo tour of Franconia. I bring only my background, my life experiences, my interpretation and a deep appreciation for the creative process. For whether we create with words or paint, metal or wood, or any other material, the reason for creating remains rooted in passion and the need to express one’s self.

This suspended sculpture by Minnesota artist Melanie VanHouten is titled "Reclamation." All I could think were Dorothy and "you're not in Kansas anymore" and tornadoes and "The Wizard of Oz."

This suspended sculpture by Minnesota artist Melanie VanHouten is titled “Reclamation.” All I could think were Dorothy and “you’re not in Kansas anymore” and tornadoes and “The Wizard of Oz.”

Franconia is worth a visit, whether to immerse yourself or for a quick study of art worked from mostly found/repurposed objects. I especially appreciate that aspect of this sculpture park.

I noticed how the trailside flowers mimicked a sculpture behind them.

I noticed how the trailside flowers mimic a sculpture behind them.

It’s a vast, wide open rural space that anchors these sculptures and hosts resident artists. Allow plenty of time to meander the many trails that wind among the sculptures. And, if it’s a cold and windy day, clamp a cap upon your head. You’ll need it.

SELECTED PHOTOS from my tour of Franconia, with more to come in a second post:

Bayete Ross Smith of New York City created "God the Power: Minnesota," a towering stack of boomboxes. Remember these?

Bayete Ross Smith of New York City created “Got the Power: Minnesota,” a towering stack of boomboxes.

These remind me of broken surfboards. They certainly inject a jolt of color into the park.

These remind me of broken surfboards. They certainly inject a jolt of color into the park. The circle is part of another sculpture in the background.

A somewhat more traditional sculpture.

A somewhat more traditional sculpture.

It is the setting of this geometric art that especially pleases me. Right next to a cornfield.

It is the setting of this geometric art, right next to a cornfield, that especially pleases me.

I happened upon this sign, a reminder that artists are actively at work here.

I happened upon this sign, a reminder that artists work here.

game

Minnesota artist Kari Anne Reardon’s “The Big Game”drew my attention for the subject matter and scale. Yes that is a “gun” aiming at a deer.

This sculpture was among my favorites and reminds me of milkweeds.

This sculpture was among my favorites and reminds me of milkweed pods.

Milkweed pods, along the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway near Morton, autumn 2006

See the resemblance to milkweed? You’ll find real milkweed growing at Franconia. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

"Black Book," the work of Minnesota artist Peyton features multiple paintings on "pages."

“Black Book,” the work of Minnesota artist Peyton, features multiple paintings on “pages.”

Donations to this nonprofit arts organization are welcome.

Donations to this nonprofit arts organization are welcome.

Note: Please visit the Franconia website (click here) for titles of artwork and the artists and for more info about the art shown here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Ending domestic violence: It takes a community October 21, 2014

This logo comes from a 5K walk/run honoring Faribault native Margie (Brown) Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia. Margie's husband, Roger Holland, is serving two terms of life in prison for their 2013 murders.

This logo comes from a recent fundraiser honoring Faribault native Margie (Brown) Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, murdered in 2013. Roger Holland, Margie’s husband, is serving two terms of life in prison for their murders. Margie’s dad was once my neighbor.

THE MEMORY STILL STIRS ANGST.

His voice rising in anger. Yelling in her face. Rage exploding. The peace of a glorious autumn morning shattered.

The disturbance drew me from my task of emptying flower pots to observe the young couple passing by across the street.

He was shirtless on this October morning when the temp had not yet reached 60 degrees. That in itself seemed odd.

But it was his anger toward the woman walking beside him that led me into my front yard, thoughts of calling the police already formulating.

I pulled muddy gloves from my hands, patted the cell phone locked in my back jeans pocket. Then I watched. I watched as he shoved her, grabbed her. Then a parked vehicle blocked my view before they emerged on the other side and she attempted to cross the street. He pulled her back. Then they disappeared around the corner, out of my view.

I’d witnessed enough.

This is not fiction. This is an actual case of domestic abuse. This happened last week in my neighborhood in my community of Faribault, Minnesota, where last year the Hope Center served 473 women and 54 children through its domestic violence program. The center’s sexual assault program served 62 primary and 38 secondary (family and friends) victims.

Hope Center advocates provide additional assistance and education. Click here to learn more.

I don’t know what happened to the couple after I phoned law enforcement. Could I have done more? Should I have intervened?

If this man was verbally and physically abusing this woman in public along a busy street, I fear how he treats her behind closed doors.

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THE HOPE CENTER and my county of Rice have submitted a grant request to fund a new program, “The Blueprint for Safety,” in an effort to stop domestic violence, according to information on the county attorney’s Facebook page. I wish it wasn’t needed. But it is.

The program initiates a collaborative effort among agencies to tackle issues, “to move forward with things such as better data collection, information sharing, training, and understanding of each player’s role to help improve the response to domestic violence in our community.” (Click here to learn more.)

I applaud this effort.

But it still takes each of us, individually, to speak up with a strong and unwavering voice against domestic violence. It takes a community.

FYI: If you live in Rice County, Minnesota, and are a victim of domestic abuse, you can call the Hope Center 24-hour SafeLine at 1-800-607-2330.  The center also offers support to family and friends. Call 507-332-0882 during business hours to speak with an advocate.

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FORTY YEARS AGO in St. Paul, the first shelter in the U.S. for battered women and their children was established. Women’s Advocates will mark that occasion with an anniversary celebration and benefit on Thursday evening, October 23, at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Click here for more info. Today the center serves an average of 45 women and children daily.

FYI: For Women’s Advocates information or help, call the 24-hour crisis line at 651-227-8284 or state-wide toll free at 1-866-223-111.

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TO THE NORTH IN DULUTH,  a coordinated community response to domestic violence has just received an international award. The World Future Council last week bestowed the 2014 Future Policy Award for Ending Violence against Women and Girls upon The Duluth Model at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland. The equivalent of a gold award recognizes best policies to combat violence against women and girls. In summary, the plan focuses on the community working together to end domestic violence and on holding offenders accountable and keeping victims safe. To learn more about The Duluth Model, click here. To learn more about the World Future Council, click here.

FYI: For more information about the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs in Duluth, call 218-722-2781.

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Another resource to call is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Click here to read an earlier post I published about domestic violence.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A photo essay: Autumn at River Bend October 20, 2014

A trail through the woods at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault.

A trail through the woods at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE, I’ve determined, to fast walk my way through a park or nature center, camera slung around neck or over shoulder. Impossible.

A slower pace allows one to notice the individual trees in the woods.

A slower pace allows one to notice the individual trees in the woods.

I cannot hurry, even with the goal to raise heart rate and burn calories. My desire and need to notice details, to take in and often photograph my surroundings, overrides.

Rudi, one friendly collie who cooperated for one photo.

Rudi, one friendly collie who cooperated for one photo.

On a recent Sunday afternoon walk at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, I tried, oh, I tried, to step it up. But then Rudi appeared and I just had to pet and photograph this friendly collie. The thing is, I’m not a big dog lover. Typically, I’ll skirt a canine. But not this one who reminded me of Lassie.

A group of goats are grazing on Buckthorn at River Bend.

A group of goats graze on Buckthorn at River Bend.

Rudi proved to be distraction number two after I observed penned goats attacking invasive Buckthorn (more on that in a future post).

Oak leaves

Oak leaves

More oak leaves

More oak leaves

And still more

And still more oak leaves

My husband and I fast-paced for awhile before my eyes focused on patches of oak leaves in burnished shades of orange and red. I veered slightly off the tarred path for close-up images.

So many folks were walking the trails on a gorgeous autumn afternoon in southeastern Minnesota.

So many folks were walking the trails on a gorgeous autumn afternoon in southeastern Minnesota.

My husband claims this is a fossil in rock.

My husband claims this is a fossil in rock.

Rustic signs mark River Bend trails.

Rustic signs mark River Bend trails.

A burst of brilliant red berries caught my eyes.

A burst of brilliant red berries caught my eyes.

Even dried swamp grass possesses a certain beauty.

Even dried swamp grass possesses a certain beauty.

Even a dried milkweed pod does not go unnoticed.

A dried milkweed pod does not go unnoticed.

A single leaf is worthy of notice for its mottled beauty.

A single leaf is worthy of notice for its mottled beauty.

And so the distractions continued—fossil embedded in rock, leaves, tree trunks, contrast of colors and light, a quick chat with another couple, milkweed and signs and berries and dried swamp grasses.

A treeline showcases the changing colors of autumn.

A treeline showcases the changing colors of autumn at River Bend.

Everywhere, nature drew me to a halt.

Fallen trees and branches litter the woods.

Fallen trees and branches appear as nature’s art in my photographic mind.

And that’s alright. Sometimes life calls for a slow pace. An eye that sees a single leaf in the woods. An ear that hears the crunch of leaves underfoot. A nose that smells the earthy scent of autumn. A hand that feels the rugged bark of a fallen tree.

(These images were shot on October 12. One week later, River Bend’s woods had changed considerably with most trees bare of leaves. My husband reminded me that autumn can transition quickly in Minnesota.)

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots named “best local blog” in southern Minnesota October 17, 2014

Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

WE DID IT.

Yes, readers, I use the plural “we” because, without you, I never would have garnered the award of Best Local Blog/Blogger in southern Minnesota for 2014.

I was notified several weeks ago of the honor bestowed upon me by the regional arts/entertainment/lifestyle magazine, Southern Minnesota Scene. Editor Rich Larson phoned with the news and then interviewed me. You can read his story by clicking here. Reverse roles for me since I’m typically the one asking questions or gathering information. I prefer holding the pen and notebook.

The cover of Southern Minnesota Scene's November issue featuring the 150-plus "best of" winners.

The cover of Southern Minnesota Scene’s November issue featuring the 150-plus “best of” winners.

Larson requested that I not share the news online until the magazine published. Fair enough. Look for a hard copy of Southern Minnesota Scene so you can read about all 150-plus winners in the “Best of SoMINN 2014.” Or go to the publication’s website by clicking here.

The process of being named best local blogger started late this summer with online nominations. Thank you to all who nominated me. Once ballots were tallied, the top three then entered the online voting process to choose the winner.

I was competing against Kevin Krein, who blogs at Anhedonic Headphones and also writes for Southern Minnesota Scene. Fiction writer Dennis Vogen, a Faribault native who has published three books and is working on his fourth and fifth, was the other nominee. He blogs, too, but has published only eight posts. Too busy, I suspect, working on those books. As Vogen suggested, maybe a category for “best writer” should be added.

I questioned editor Larson about the number of ballots cast in the blogging category. But he declined to release stats, indicating only that the voting was close. He reveals in print, however, that more than 25,000 individual votes were cast in the entire competition and that Owatonna produced the most winners. Last year it was Northfield.

While recognition of my hard work at Minnesota Prairie Roots is welcome, I can’t take sole credit for my success as a blogger. Without you, my devoted readers, this blog would not exist. Thank you for your ongoing support of my writing and photography, for continuing to read and appreciate the stories and photos I share.

You own this award, too.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring the Minnesota side of Interstate Park

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Westbound from Wisconsin and about to cross the St. Croix River into Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Interstate Park is just over the bridge to the left.

Westbound from Wisconsin and about to cross the St. Croix River into Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Interstate Park is just over the bridge to the left.

PUBLISHED IN 1953 in the anthology Minnesota Skyline, the poem “Taylors Falls” by Pearl Nearpass opens with these lines:

Climb higher and higher in the Dalles of the St. Croix
Until you look over the jutting cliffs
Of echoing beauty, the great eternal mounting
For a village linked and timed with history.

From the Wisconsin side, you

From the Wisconsin side of Interstate Park, you can see Minnesota’s Interstate Park to the right of the St. Croix.

History seems chiseled in stone here, rock carved away by forces of nature to reveal the magnificent St. Croix River gorge that divides Minnesota and Wisconsin.

You can glimpse the St. Croix River through the trees.

You can glimpse the St. Croix River through the trees.

Everywhere walls of rock dominate.

Everywhere walls of rock dominate.

Stunning views of the gorge prevail.

Stunning views of the gorge prevail.

Interstate Park, a duo state park just outside Taylors Falls, Minnesota, and St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, offers spectacular views of the Dalles of the St. Croix. Towering cliffs of solid rock. Jutting pine trees. River running wild.

Rocks pock the ground in both parks.

Rocks pock the ground in both parks.

Visit both, even though the Wisconsin park ranger suggested if my husband and I had to choose one, we choose hiking the Wisconsin side as it offers more trails. Maybe so. But the experience in each differs. We found the two trails we hiked in our neighboring state to be much more rugged than those in Minnesota.

The path through Devil's Parlor.

The path through Devil’s Parlor.

And an explanation of Devil's Parlor.

And an explanation of Devil’s Parlor.

Railings are welcome along rocky walls.

Railings are welcome along rocky walls.

In Minnesota’s park, railings and asphalt and planked walkways are more accommodating to those who prefer an easier perusal of the land. After following a short, rugged path to view the steep-sided river gorge, we followed a trail that led us down steps and into Devil’s Parlor and The Bake Oven, areas of rock carved away by water.

Nature's peephole with the Taylor Falls Princess awaiting passengers in the river below.

Nature’s peephole with the Taylor Falls Princess awaiting passengers in the river below.

Down the river just a bit, the Taylors Falls Queen was docked, too.

Down the river just a bit, the Taylors Falls Queen was docked, too.

The Minnesota side of the park also serves as the launch site for river cruises, a popular activity on the day we visited. One can only imagine the steamboats that once docked along this river.

Somehow trees grow seemingly right out of the rock.

Somehow trees grow seemingly right out of the rock.

Continues Pearl:

No longer the blasting charges
Drown the voices of loggers and waters.
But lonely and majestic moves the breeze
Above the pot-holes and the Devil’s Chair
Of a village albumed in history.

FYI: To read my post about the Wisconsin side of Interstate Park, click here.

(Poetry excerpts from Minnesota Skyline, Anthology of Poems About Minnesota, published in 1953 by The Lund Press, Inc. and a gift from my eldest daughter.)

 

 
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