Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Starry, starry night July 21, 2011

THE HOUR HAD SLIPPED well past midnight when I joined my sister Lanae and my son on the patio.

“Is there a place for me to sit?” I asked, as I stood still, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the blackness of the night.

“There’s a lawn chair next to me. Caleb’s lying on the patio.”

And so he was and she was and now I was—the three of us clustered under a sky filled with more stars than I’ve seen since my last visit to the southwestern Minnesota prairie.

I gazed skyward, quickly finding the Big Dipper.

“Do you see the Milky Way,” my astronomy-loving 17-year-old asked. I pivoted my head to the right and pointed.

We sat in silence, for minutes, simply staring at the immense sky studded with all those stars.

“This is what I miss about this place,” my sister said, finally breaking the contemplative silence. “The stars.”

And she is right. It is one of many things I miss about my native southwestern Minnesota. Only in rural areas like this, mostly untouched by light pollution, can you view the night sky as it is meant to be seen.

“Did you see that?” my boy enthused, eying the same falling star I had just seen shooting a trail of light across the dark.

“This is better than that place we went to in St. Cloud,” he said. He was referring to a high school astronomy class field trip last summer to the St. Cloud State University planetarium. I remember his visit there, how unimpressed he was with the whole thing and how he disliked being caught in Twin Cities rush hour traffic on the drive home.

No doubt experiencing the night sky here at my brother’s place just north of Lamberton—where only rural yard lights and small-town lights in the distance punctuate the darkness—would outshine any planetarium any night.

And, for sure, traffic jams are not an issue.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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6 Responses to “Starry, starry night”

  1. Amy Says:

    That will be one of the things we miss most about living in Kansas. They skies are always so open and bright, and every time we have looked we have seen the Milky Way. The other thing out here are the fireflies. On calm or no wind nights, they are in the thousands. It is such an awesome sight, I wish I could have captured it on the camera. I told my sister one morning after a beautiful night of fireflies, “If they could coordinate the flashing of their butts, it would be daylight outside!” There were so many and it was beautiful. But we get to move back to a city where stars don’t exist…….

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yup, not too many visible stars in the big city.

      As for those fireflies, we’ve had more in our backyard this summer than I can ever recall. I tried one night to photograph them. Impossible. But then I didn’t set up a tripod either.

  2. Jim Smith Says:

    The most beautiful things in our life seem to come from the hand of God and not from man. Stars in the sky, a firefly, butterfly or bird or flower. Life can really be simple
    And oh so wonderful.
    I sailed on a small boat across the Indian Ocean to a place called The Saychelles. The night sky with no moon had a Milky Way that actually appeared to be painted across the sky. Why this Minnesota native will never forget it.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, said. What an experience that must have been to see the Milky Way “painted” across the sky.

  3. Katie Shones Says:

    Last night, at midnight, when I pulled into the driveway after working a 12 hour shift, for some reason, I looked up into the sky. The stars were so bright, that I didn’t need the yard light to get into the house. I sat on the trunk of the car for about 30 minutes and gazed into the heavens and enjoyed the 60 degree weather. It was a wonderful feeling.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      So glad you took the time to appreciate the starry skies on a night that was picture perfect for summer in Minnesota. Thanks for sharing.


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