Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Youth from around the world bring songs of hope to Faribault July 22, 2014

On a perfect summer night, Songs of Hope performed an outdoor concert at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

On a perfect summer night, Songs of Hope performed an outdoor concert at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

AS THE GOLDEN ORB of the sun shifted across the sky, as dragonflies dipped above the audience, as a distant train rumbled, Songs of Hope musicians performed before a rapt audience at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault on Saturday evening.

The performers focused on hope, like their name.

The performers focused on hope, like their name.

And the message they brought—in their dancing and in their singing—was hope.

Songs from Guatemala.

Songs from Guatemala.

Inspirational defines these performers who have been attending the St. Paul based international performing arts summer camp, Songs of Hope. Seventy musicians from 15 countries are currently on tour, presenting 33 concerts in 18 days.

Chinese youth perform as the sun sets.

Chinese youth perform as the sun sets.

Songs of Hope is “about people getting together and sharing culture and lives,” Program Director Tom Surprenant said as he introduced the group.

Performing outdoors at River Bend.

Performing outdoors at River Bend.

But with audiences, like the one in Faribault, they share so much more: possibilities, hope, peace, freedom, justice…

In nearly constant motion.

In nearly constant motion.

I was beyond impressed by these young people who sang with such force and enthusiasm and rarely stopped moving as they presented 90 minutes of songs spanning multiple nations from India to Jamaica to Guatemala to Italy to Russia and many other places.

The band provided upbeat music that made you want to dance.

The band provided upbeat music that makes you want to dance.

Even though I could not always understand, music bridges language and cultural differences.

Selections from Jamaica included "Linstead Market" and "Stand Up For Your Rights."

Selections from Jamaica included “Linstead Market” and “Stand Up For Your Rights.”

Truly, skin color, eye shape, height nor any other physical characteristic mattered as these youth performed.

Nevaeh, the daughter of friends, wore the perfect shirt for the concert.

Nevaeh, the daughter of friends, wore the perfect shirt for the concert.

They were to me just kids sharing a hopeful message through song and dance, showing us that we are all human beings who can get along if we make the effort, living in harmony and peace with one another.

Look at the fun these youth were having singing a song, "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream" about ice cream.

Look at the fun these youth had singing “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream,” a song about ice cream, a universal treat.

Especially moving was the group’s performance of “I Am Malala,” based on the experience of the young Pakistani girl who was shot simply for pursuing education. “Fight for what you believe in…for education…infinite hope.”

Hands joined in hope.

Hands joined in hope.

After attending this concert, I am, indeed, hopeful.

My heart went out to this boy from Israel given the current situation there.

My heart went out to this boy from Israel given the current situation there.

And I expect so is the young soloist from Israel who sported a t-shirt reading “PEACE & HOPE from ISRAEL.”

FYI: CLICK HERE to see a schedule of the remaining performances in the summer concert schedule, which ends on July 27. The final concerts are in St. Paul, Roseville and Montgomery.

Please check back tomorrow for additional photos from the Faribault Songs of Hope concert. If you have an opportunity to attend a performance, do. Songs of Hope will inspire and uplift you.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Northfield: Lovely gingerbread house and gardens July 21, 2014

OH, FOR THE SWEETNESS of this butter-colored 1879 gingerbread house.

Derrin and Paul O'Connells' Northfield home, built in 1879.

Derrin and Paul O’Connells’ Northfield home, built in 1879.

Arched windows and roof-line architectural detail. And that porch, oh, that porch—a cozy place to read or simply relax on a summer day. Pure white Adirondack chairs are positioned at a front corner of the house as an invitation to sit a spell and perhaps observe passersby or a game of croquet. And then a corner picket fence adds the perfect accent to this period home.

An inviting spot, complete with trellis, to sit a spell next to the garage.

An inviting spot, complete with trellis, to sit a spell next to the garage.

Derrin and Paul O’Connell are only the third owners of this 135-year-old house located by Central Park in Northfield. And, recently, their property was among six showcased in the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. Not the house specifically, but the yard and gardens, although my attention was focused as much on the historic house as the plants. I love old homes with character.

Latticework accents a corner garden pergola.

Latticework accents a corner garden pergola.

The O’Connells have done a fine job of complementing their home’s style with garden rooms that call for lingering under a pergola or settling onto a bench next to a trellis.

Windowbox charm complements the historic home.

Windowbox charm complements the historic home.

Window boxes hold pink geraniums, hardy English ivy and airy Diamond Frost. Spruce trees, more than 100 years old, grace the yard.

And just off a sprawling 1980s enclosed porch addition that blends so seamlessly with the house in architectural style and detail that you would think it original, a swath of wide deck steps extend a warm visual welcome.

Some of Derrin's creations displayed next to a vintage suitcase in the porch.

Some of Derrin’s creations displayed next to a vintage suitcase in the porch.

Inside that porch, Derrin O’Connell showcased some of her creations, like sweet little girls’ dresses and headbands. Her artistry style of hand-stitching, upcycling and more fits this house as does her business name, Tillie’s. Derrin’s mom called her this endearing name when Derrin was growing up. Tillie’s will be among the featured vendors at the Fall 2014 (September 25 – 27) Junk Bonanza Vintage Market at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Click here for more info.

I love the interesting plant, right, tucked into a corner of the home's exterior. Anyone know its identity? I should have inquired.

I love the interesting plant, right, tucked into a corner of the home’s exterior. Anyone know its identity? I should have inquired.

Now if only I could have toured the O’Connells’ house, I would have been even more pleased. But I was grateful to wander around their yard, imagining the history this house, this land, holds.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Love the message on this plaque.

Love the message on this plaque.

Garden art in the hosta.

Garden art in the hosta.

FYI: Click here to read an earlier post from the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour. Watch for additional tour posts.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Saturday morning in small town Minnesota July 19, 2014

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I DIDN’T BUY ANYTHING at this recent garage sale in Dundas. But I got this photo:

 

Garage sale in Dundas 2

 

I can’t quite put my finger on why I like this scene, this image.

It’s not because I’m some old car enthusiast, although I admire this shiny 1957 Chevy.

Rather it’s the serenity, I think, of a Saturday morning in a small town. This car collector had driven to Dundas for a car show, which was cancelled presumably because of the predicted rainfall. This scene speaks to me of small town living and contentment and simpler days when life was less hurried.

And I like, too, how the hue of the car is mimicked in the color of the garage sale sign. Not quite the same shade, but noticeable to my eye.

This photo could write a story. That’s my conclusion.

How does this scene speak to you?

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

Pearl Button Primitives: A gem of a shop in Waseca July 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I’VE SHOPPED COUNTLESS antique shops in my life.

Looking toward the front of Pearl Button Primitives.

Looking toward the front of Pearl Button Primitives.

But never have I seen one as artistically inclined as Pearl Button Primitives in downtown Waseca.

A candy display rack repurposed.

A candy display rack repurposed.

Shopping here is like perusing an art gallery or perhaps a museum curated by someone with an artistic flair.

This setting seems the perfect prompt for a story.

This setting seems the perfect prompt for a story.

I expect that’s because Justine Meyer possesses an educational background in art. It shows in the way she artfully arranges merchandise in snippet scenes that catch the eye.

A backdrop of vintage magazine pages create visual interest.

A backdrop of vintage magazine pages create visual interest.

Afghans and quilts brighten walls. Vintage ads and magazine pages make for unique merchandise backdrops. Rows of 45 rpm vinyl records precisely arranged on a wall appear pop art style. A vintage suitcase holds Carolyn Keene’s The Mystery of the Ivory Charm, Zane Grey’s Nevada and other old books. Plastic magnetic letters—the type my kids once plastered to the front of the fridge—provide a visual pop of color in a chest of drawers. I wonder whether my eldest would appreciate one of the maps splayed across the wall.

The back room.

The back room.

There’s so much to take in here that I really needed more than the 20 minutes I wandered through the shop on a recent Saturday afternoon. But Justine and crew (friends are part of the business, too) were already plucking up merchandise that had been hauled out back for an alley garage sale when I arrived late. They are clearing out, making way for new stuff and promise more such sales. I figured I best not linger too long.

Beautiful pairing of colors.

Beautiful setting just makes me want to scoop up these dishes.

Pearl Button Primitives describes itself as “an eclectic mix of antiques and primitives; featuring vintage jewelry & buttons, linens, architectural salvage, furniture, pottery, and other gathered treasures all lovingly displayed.”

A little quirky, a little scary.

Quirky.

In the tight space of this shop, antiques and collectibles abound. Quirky doll heads with open and shut eyes remind me of my favorite childhood doll.

It takes an artist's eye to pair this coat with this afghan.

It takes an artist’s eye to pair this coat with this afghan. Textures and contrast of color make this work.

Milk bottles and vintage jewelry pins and wash tubs and dainty floral hankies and dishes and a lovely coat and so much more draw my interest.

Symmetry and simplicity makes this display work.

Repetition and simplicity. Perfect.

But it is the artsy displays, the attention to detail, the obvious time and care invested here which most impress me.

There's something about this portrait of a determined, defiant woman with an attitude that I love.

There’s something about this portrait of a determined, defiant woman with an attitude that I love.

This shop makes a memorable imprint. Just like the “Woman with an attitude,” as I’ve dubbed the hands-on-hips woman in a portrait showcased at the front of the store. Love that painting.

The narrow space that connects the front of the shop to the back.

The narrow space that connects the front of the shop to the back.

Love this shop.

FYI: Pearl Button Primitives, 206 N. State Street, Waseca, is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but not year-round. Best check before you visit. Click here to reach the shop’s website and here to reach the Facebook page. Phone: 507-461-1648.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cruisin’ the car show on Central July 17, 2014

ONCE UPON A TIME, I could have cared less about car shows. They held no interest for me. Or so I thought.

A scene from Faribault Car Cruise Night during Heritage Days.

A scene from Faribault Car Cruise Night during the community’s recent Heritage Days.

But then a few years back, I tagged along with my husband to a local car show, camera in hand, and I was hooked.

It’s not the make or model or engine or such that typically draws my interest. Rather, it’s the art of the vehicles and my ability to view a car show with a photographer’s eye.

The red grabbed my attention.

The red grabbed my attention.

 

This rustic Chevy wagon rated as my favorite of the evening.

This rustic Chevy wagon rated as my favorite of the evening.

Here it was the message which drew my focus.

Here it was the message which drew my focus.

From the back of the Rat Rod (above photo), I moved to the front, crafted from a tractor.

From the back of the Rat Rod (above photo), I moved to the front, crafted from a tractor.

And then I moved in even closer to examine the freaky skull atop the Rat Rod.

And then I moved in even closer to examine the freaky skull atop the Rat Rod.

I find myself seeking our hood ornaments, the curve of a fender, the shine of a gleaming bumper. Anything artsy. Or unique. Or interesting.

I'm ever conscious of shine and reflections.

I’m ever conscious of shine and reflections.

Awhile ago, a Chicago ad agency contacted me about using a car show image of a rippled, shiny bumper. The offer for my photo, one of six being considered for a nation-wide ad campaign for a car wax company, was wildly substantial. In the end, mine was not chosen.

But this experience taught me to value every photo I take, even those shot at the car shows I once dismissed.

All ages participate in and enjoy the car show.

All ages participate in and enjoy the car show.

It’s not only the photo op aspect I enjoy, though. It’s also the opportunity to stroll along the street of my historic downtown in the gloaming of the day, chatting with friends and car collectors alike.

As darkness falls, vehicles begin to leave.

As daylight fades, vehicles begin to leave.

Talking cars. Talking family. Talking while the sun fades and Johnny Cash rumbles “Ring of Fire,” his throaty, husky words bouncing between buildings.

BONUS PHOTOS:

I like the style and the colors. So classy.

I like the style and the colors. So classy.

Details: a toy Mustang in a rear window.

Details: a toy Mustang in a rear window.

A snazzy GTO.

A snazzy GTO.

Custom upholstery matches the exterior paint striping.

Custom upholstery matches the exterior paint striping.

A 1965 Plymouth Baracuda purchased in 1964 and still owned by the original owner.

A 1965 Plymouth Barracuda, center, purchased in 1964 and still owned by the original owner.

Leaving...

Leaving…

Leaving the show and driving southbound on Central Avenue through historic downtown Faribault.

Leaving the show and driving southbound on Central Avenue through historic downtown Faribault.

FYI: Faribault Car Cruise Night is held from 6 – 9 p.m.  the third Friday of every month during the summer with upcoming shows set for July 18 and August 15. The event is held on Central Avenue in downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Fairy tale garden in Northfield inspires July 16, 2014

MAGICAL. ENCHANTING. DELIGHTFUL.

All those adjectives fit the gardens of Susan and Dale Kulsrud who’ve created a fairy tale world outside their south Northfield home.

 

One example of the fairy tale magic tucked into the Kulsruds' gardens.

One example of the fairy tale magic tucked into the Kulsruds’ gardens.

 

From streetside, you’d never guess this corner lot would hold such garden charm. So when my husband parked our van and we crossed the driveway past the Corvette to the side yard during the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour, we were surprised.

What a delight.

The side yard garden featuring Dale's handcrafted trellis sculpture.

The side yard garden features Dale’s handcrafted trellis sculpture.

 

First the side garden with an array of flowers—including magnificent towering delphiniums—grabbed my attention. But this plot includes much more than plants. An impressive wood sculpture trellis crafted by Dale defines the space that includes other works of art.

 

The garden shed, Valhalla.

The garden shed, Valhalla.

 

Art. It’s everywhere in this enchanting yard where a garden shed of Dale’s design and crafting anchors a rear corner.

I almost hesitate to dub this building a shed given its appearance and name, Valhalla. The name is an apparent tribute to the family’s Scandinavian heritage. Valhalla is a hall for the slain in Norse lore.

 

Shade-loving plants fill the Valhalla garden.

Shade-loving plants fill the Valhalla garden.

 

With the use of carefully chosen shade-loving plants like hosta, King Kong coleus, ivy, impatiens, begonias and more and the integration of garden art, the Kulsruds have created a fantasy world in their backyard.

 

A view of the garden behind and to the side of Valhalla.

A view of the garden behind and to the side of Valhalla.

 

The area surrounding Valhalla calls for an inchworm pace with multiple pauses to examine the details. I literally lowered myself to nearly lying down at some points to take in and photograph the scenes created here. Kids would love this mini world of surprises tucked in among the plants:

 

I placed my camera on the ground to photograph this cat napping among hostas and impatiens.

I placed my camera on the ground to photograph this cat napping among hosta and impatiens.

 

A jolt of color among hosta.

A jolt of color among hosta. Perfect.

 

Some of the art is more serious, like this bust.

Some of the art is more serious, like this bust among flowering hosta.

 

Garden gnome humor.

Garden gnome humor.

 

The stuff of fairy tales...

The stuff of fairy tales…

 

Looking down into a fairy garden.

Looking down in to a fairy garden created in a bird bath.

 

A ground level view of the gnomes' rocky woodland home.

A ground level view of the gnomes’ rocky woodland home.

 

My favorite scene could have come straight from the pages of a Scandinavian storybook with a gnome house situated against a tree trunk and the resident gnome sweeping his front stoop. It’s absolutely magical.

 

Impatiens spill from a tipped pot.

Petunias spill from a tipped pot.

 

This entire yard enchants with plant life and art complementing each other. Flowers and accent plants spill from pots and window boxes, mingling with all that art.

 

Impatiens and butterfly art add color to a plant situated along a walk way.

Impatiens and butterfly art add color to a planter situated along a walk way.

 

I left undeniably inspired.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE POSTS from the Northfield Garden Club 2014 Garden Tour.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Novice & seasoned poets bring their poetry to Mankato trails & parks July 15, 2014

I DON’T KNOW if I was more thrilled with her win, or mine, in the 2014 Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride competition.

A graphic I created for Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

A graphic I created for Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

But when I saw 12-year-old Hannah Leraas’ name in the list of fourth through seventh grade division winners, I whooped out loud. Yes!

The young Faribault poet I’ve mentored had just published her first poem.

Hannah joins me and 20 other writers whose 35 winning poems will be posted soon on poetry sign boards in parks and along trails in Mankato and North Mankato. Additionally, poems by three selected notable area poets will also be published. Submitted poems were anonymously judged by noted League of Minnesota poets Bethany Barry, Charmaine Donovan and Peter Stein.

"Off to Mankato to 'get and education'", posted near Glenwood Gardens, in the background in this photo.

My poem, “Off to Mankato to ‘get an education’”, posted near Glenwood Gardens in 2013.

This marks the second year of this competition and I’m delighted to once again be part of an effort that brings poetry to the public in an unassuming way. Two of my poems were showcased last year.

Now my poem, “Bandwagon,” based on the John Deere Bandwagon television show originating in Mankato, will be displayed in Lions Park North. Hannah’s poem, “Snow,” will be located on signage in Sibley Park West.

My husband and I listen to one of my selected poems.

My husband and I listen to one of my selected poems in 2013.

Additionally, QR codes and phone numbers will be posted, allowing the public to hear poets read their works.

But for now, I want you to read, Hannah’s poem:

Snow

I woke up to see,
And it fills me with glee,
As I stepped out of bed
I suddenly said,
“I need to hurry!”
I dressed in a flurry,
Dashed down to the door.
My snow pants I wore.
Like an airplane in flight
I flew with pure delight…
SNOW!

The mentor in me is thrilled that Hannah chose some strong verbs like “stepped” and “dashed.” She could have written “got” or “ran,” verbs that are not nearly as powerful.

But my favorite part of this homeschooler’s poem is this: I dressed in a flurry.

The double meaning of that word, “flurry,” referencing both action and snow, truly impresses me. Hannah understands the power of language.

As soon as the snow began, my neighbor girl was outside building a snowman and a snow fort.

As soon as the snow began, my neighbor girl was outside building a snowman and a snow fort. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, February 2014.

And then there’s the imagery—can’t you just visualize Hannah flying out the door and into a snowy world?

She loves winter. I mean really loves winter. “I love snow and winter is my favorite season,” Hannah tells me.

And why? Snow, this thoughtful poet explains, is like a blank sheet of white paper upon which to draw pictures or write with a stick. There’s another poem in that response.

When’s the last time you thought about writing with a stick in the snow? Been awhile, hasn’t it?

Hannah is, not surprisingly, excited. Here’s her reaction to winning: “Like seriously, are dyslexics supposed to get published?”

Yes, this pre-teen struggles with letters and numbers and sentences. But that hasn’t stopped her from writing poetry, which she says helps with reading and writing and has improved her spelling. You have to admire her determination.

There were a few rules to follow in entering this contest which was open to writers living within a 50-mile radius of Mankato. Each poem could be no more than 18 lines with 40 characters or less per line. That’s a challenge, to write within such strict confines.

Hannah, who’s been penning mostly rhyming poems for about two years now, turns to her thesaurus—the one I gave her—to find the perfect descriptive words for her poems. I praised her for using that reference book, one I tap into often also.

She’s an enthusiastic poet who shares her favorite line from her favorite poem, one about Bob, a cuddly toy monkey she received one Christmas from her parents, Jesse and Tammy.

In writing that poem, she thought of the flying monkeys in the “Wizard of Oz” and then her beloved Bob:

…the big squishy guy,
the one who can’t fly…

FYI: For more information about the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride, click here. Once our poems are posted and Hannah and I get to Mankato, I’ll post photos of us with our poetry signs.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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