Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Maybe he plows snow… October 30, 2014

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Photographed on a hot and humid Saturday on Minnesota Highway 3 in Northfield.

Photographed on Minnesota State Highway 3 in Northfield.

AT THE TIME I shot this Ford truck with the “let it SNOW” window sticker, I found the message humorous. It was a hot and humid July afternoon in Northfield, Minnesota.

Now that winter isn’t all that far away and overnight temps are dipping into the 30s, I’m not laughing.

All too soon the snow will fall. Remember the Halloween blizzard of  1991?

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Undergoing that most dreaded of screening tests October 29, 2014

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Two of six photos of my colon given to me after the procedure.

Two of six photos of my colon given to me after the procedure.

SHE CALLED ME a Colon Virgin.

And, at eight years past fifty, I was and shouldn’t have been.

I had my first colonoscopy on Friday.

That title bestowed upon me by the nurse taking my health history prior to the colon cancer screening made me laugh. That was her intention along with praise for the young family doctor who made sure I didn’t leave the clinic after my annual physical in July without scheduling a colonoscopy. Smart doctor.

So there I was, 3 ½ months later, lying on my back in a hospital gown, thin sheet covering me, answering health questions and dreading the procedure that would begin within the hour.

I was assured that I would not be aware nor would I remember anything while under conscious sedation. I thought to myself, they don’t know me.

The two nurses continued prepping me– inserting an IV, wrapping a blood pressure cuff around my left arm, snapping a heart rate monitor on a right finger and then clipping tubes into my nose because “sometimes you forget to breathe.” Probably not the best thing to say to me.

I could feel my rapid heart rate, the tenseness that held my body. I didn’t want to be here. But, I reminded myself, I’d just endured a challenging cleansing process and I’d been through much worse than this medically. Why would I back out now?

So I tried to relax, told the two healthcare workers that I needed something to distract me. “That’s why we have music,” said the nurse with the sense of humor. For the first time, I heard the music as the two headed out the door to find the doctor.

I laid there for a really long time, or so it seemed, listening to the music, wishing it was the uplifting and prayerful Christian music I listen to daily on Twin Cities radio station KTIS. I willed my body and mind to relax and chuckled to myself when a singer crooned something about waking up when it’s done. Quite appropriate.

At the exact appointed time of 8:30, the surgeon entered the room. “I’m really cold,” I complained and was promptly layered in a heated blanket. Yes, I should have been more welcoming to this man who delivered my first daughter nearly 29 years ago by emergency Caesarean section. But at that moment on that morning, I was not particularly happy to see him again.

I told him I was nervous, made him promise that I wouldn’t remember anything. He reassured me. Last thing I remember was his request that I roll onto my left side and my wondering aloud where to comfortably place my blood pressure cuff wrapped left arm.

And that was it until I saw changing images of my colon on the computer screen.

Remember that part about not being aware or remembering? Despite my alertness, I was not anxious. The “happy juice” was still working its magic.

In the end, I made it through just fine. I survived the cleansing of my bowels, semi-fasting (liquid diet), lack of sleep and a resulting headache and lower back (kidney) pain and then the actual procedure.

The good doctor removed two non-cancerous polyps. And even though I remembered part of the colonoscopy, I wasn’t traumatized. In five years, I’ll be back because, you know, dealing with colon cancer would be a lot worse than having another colonoscopy.

#

COLONOSCOPIES HAVE BEEN IN THE NEWS this week as Cologuard, a new non-invasive procedure to screen for colon cancer, is now on the market. The screening involves submitting a stool sample, which is then analyzed using “advanced stool DNA technology to find DNA from abnormal cells and hemoglobin from red blood cells” according to information on the Cologuard website. The lining of the colon naturally sheds cells.

Early reviews on this screening method are mixed. That’s to be expected.

You can learn more about Cologuard by clicking here.

Whatever you decide, if you’re age 50 or older and/or have a family history of colon cancer, don’t just do nothing. Doing nothing could cost you your life. Take that from a former Colon Virgin.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

 

 

Discovering Osceola October 28, 2014

An artist's rendition of Chief Osceola, after whom Osceola, Wisconsin, is named, stands near the stairway leading to Cascade Falls.

An artist’s rendition of Chief Osceola, after whom Osceola, Wisconsin, is named, stands near the stairway leading to Cascade Falls.

I ALMOST DIDN’T DESCEND the stairs to Cascade Falls in Osceola, an historic community of some 2,600 located along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Polk County, Wisconsin, just an hour from the Twin Cities.

Many are drawn to the natural beauty of Cascade Falls in downtown Osceola.

Many are drawn to the natural beauty of Cascade Falls in downtown Osceola.

Peering over the edge at the labyrinth stairway to the falls, I hesitated. First, my fear of heights caused me to pause until I realized the stairs simply hugged the side of the Osceola Creek gorge. Then concern about ascending the 156 steps kicked in. In the end, down I went.

The falls through the trees.

The falls through the trees.

Sunlight peeked into portions of the gorge, highlighting the mist spraying from the falls.

Sunlight peeks into portions of the gorge, highlighting the mist spraying from the falls.

A shot of Osceola Creek, which rushes into the St. Croix River.

A shot of Osceola Creek, bordered by sunlit and shaded woods. The creek rushes into the St. Croix River.

Detailed autumn beauty on the path to the falls.

Detailed autumn beauty on the path to the falls.

A little history of the falls.

A little history of the falls.

And it was worth the laborious climb back up to listen to the rush of water over rock, to stand mesmerized by the falls, to imagine the history this place holds of mill and brewery. The falls were the reason this river town was founded in 1844.

Downtown Osceola from near the falls. Route 35 runs right through the heart of this town.

Downtown Osceola from near the falls. Route 35 runs right through the heart of this community.

To find a waterfalls in the heart of a downtown, along a state highway (35) is a bit of a surprise. I expect if my husband and I had explored more of this downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, we would have discovered more surprises.

A close-up of the Chief Osceola statue, a beautiful piece of art.

A close-up of the Chief Osceola statue, a beautiful work of art.

Especially impressive are the huge pots overflowing with flowers in the downtown.

Especially impressive are the huge pots overflowing with flowers.

This attractive signage hangs outside Osceola Antiques, which bills itself as the largest antique mall in northwestern Wisconsin with 11,000 square feet.

This attractive signage hangs outside Osceola Antiques, which bills itself as the largest antique mall in northwestern Wisconsin with 11,000 square feet.

Osceola Antiques also includes a place to get coffee,espresso drinks, candy and ice cream.

Osceola Antiques also includes a place to get coffee, espresso drinks, candy and ice cream.

However, after delighting in the waterfall, photographing a folk art version of Seminole Chief Osceola after whom the town is named, and perusing the cavernous Osceola Antiques, we headed to the next river town.

A local watering hole.

A local watering hole and eatery.

What now, I wonder, was our hurry on that Wednesday afternoon?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My impressions of Marine on St. Croix October 27, 2014

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The volunteer fire department is housed in the heart of the downtown.

The volunteer fire department is housed in the heart of the one-block, give or take a little, downtown.

MARINE ON ST. CROIX. It sounds so poetic, those four linked words that name a village banking the St. Croix River.

And it is that in the sense of feeling like you could be perhaps in South Shaftsbury, Vermont—although I’ve never traveled there and have no idea if this Minnesota community is at all like Shaftsbury—where Robert Frost penned his most famous of poems, “Stopping By the Woods On A Snowy Evening.”

A quick snapshot shows the Village Hall to the right and the Marine General Store on the far left.

A quick snapshot shows the Village Hall to the right and the Marine General Store two doors down.

Marine on St. Croix presents history and nature mingled in a quaint New England type setting. Here the 1870 General Store and 1888 Village Hall still serve this community of 700, although I have no idea where all those residents live. Apparently not near the town’s business district. Perhaps across the roadway which, to the north, will take you to Taylors Falls and, to the south, to Stillwater.

Fabric flags remind me of simpler times.

Fabric flags outside Reclaiming Beautiful remind me of simpler times.

This place has a timeless, poetic feel. Woods and river. Aged wood frame buildings. A history that stretches back to 1839 when this settlement was termed Marine Mills and served as home to the first commercial sawmill along the St. Croix River. That makes Marine on St. Croix 175 years old this year, founded 19 years before Minnesota became a state.

I can almost smell the scent of white pine which once forested this region, see logs bobbing in the St. Croix, hear the screech of saw against wood, domesticating trunks into lumber.

That aged General Store, which I didn't check out, but wish I had. Next time.

That aged General Store, which I didn’t check out, but wish I had. Next time.

Pausing at the General Store, I imagine deep dark coffee beans and yards of cotton calico and sticks of penny candy.

A sign points to ice cream, but...

A sign points to ice cream, but…

...the shop is closed for the season.

…the shop is closed for the season.

Marine on St. Croix clings to its past in a good sort of way that makes you want to stay longer, to linger and think poetic thoughts.

BONUS PHOTOS:

There's a garage in town.

There’s a garage in town.

And a cafe with that curious bike marking it.

And a cafe with a bike, minus Toto, marking it.

Reclaiming Beautiful was closed on the day of my visit.

Reclaiming Beautiful was closed on the day of my visit.

But the bar was open, although I did not check it out.

But the bar was open, although I did not check it out.

And the volunteer firemen were on duty.

And the volunteer firemen were on duty.

© Copyright 2014 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

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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

 

 

 
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