Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Seeking solace on a drive through rural Rice County January 21, 2014

The rural scene unfolds before us.

The rural scene, dominated by a blue sky, unfolds before us.

BLUE SKY STRETCHES before my husband and me as we traverse back gravel roads northwest of Faribault Sunday afternoon.

A drive along country gravel roads always uplifts me, no matter the season.

A drive along country gravel roads always uplifts me, no matter the season.

I yearn for this escape, for this reconnection to the land, this attempt to rejuvenate my spirit.

This scene

This scene inspires the poet in me.

Just being in the country calms my soul, brightens my outlook, causes me to pause and appreciate this land, this place God has created and given into our care.

Memories in this scene...

Memories in this scene…

In this moment, at this time, I slip into the past, envision myself laboring in the barns we pass. Soothing thrum of the milking machine. Cocooning warmth among cows snugged in mounds of golden straw. The comfort of ‘CCO radio.

I envision these fields seeded in corn or soybeans.

I envision these fields seeded in corn or soybeans.

In farm fields, I see a much younger and skinnier version of myself plodding between rows of soybeans to yank cockleburs on a scorching summer day.

The comfort of memories in a farm yard.

The comfort of memories in a farm yard.

At the sight of a farmyard, I hear my buckle overshoes crunch upon hard-packed snow as I follow the path from house to barn.

I imagine this field seeded in corn or soybeans.

An ocean of snow-washed land.

Memories unleash in this landscape, in the view of farmyards anchored into hillsides within an ocean of snow-washed fields.

A remnant of yesteryear in an old corn crib.

A remnant of yesteryear in an old corn crib.

I am happy here. Content. At peace.

Splashes of red jolt the blue and white landscape.

Splashes of red jolt the blue and white landscape.

Yes, even in this winter of too much cold and too many snowy days, I find solace in blue skies and sunshine, barns and white-washed fields.

The punctuation of a red wagon and its shadow stretching across the snow draw my attention.

The punctuation of a red wagon and its shadow stretching across the snow draw my attention.

FYI: To read my previous post featuring photos from this Sunday afternoon drive, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

What Minnesotans do on a balmy winter day January 20, 2014

SUNDAY BROUGHT A WELCOME change in weather with an abundance of sunshine and temps reaching nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit here in southeastern Minnesota.

It was a glorious day.

Following a country road Sunday afternoon somewhere northwest of Faribault.

Following a country road Sunday afternoon somewhere northwest of Faribault.

So after my husband had finished repairing a friend’s dad’s snowblower, we set out on a Sunday afternoon drive along back country roads northwest of Faribault. Oh, how I love a drive in the country, camera in hand, shooting scenes from the passenger side of the car.

And, yes, prior to departure I cleaned the salt-grimed car windows, a futile effort as the windshield was soon spotted with road spray. Temps weren’t quite warm enough to roll down the front passenger side window to take photos. No, we can’t always stop for photo ops or we would never get anywhere.

Anywhere was our destination. We both are suffering from cabin fever, the trapped feeling that afflicts Minnesotans when the winter gets too cold and too snowy for too long. Such is this winter. Today, after a one-day reprieve, we are sliding back into the deep freeze.

But we had yesterday, a gloriously warm and sunny Sunday. For that I am grateful.

Sunday proved a perfect day for this family to ride their horses.

Sunday proved a perfect day for this family to ride their horses.

These Minnesotans preferred driving their snowmobiles in the ditch along a Rice County Road.

These Minnesotans snowmobiled in the ditch along a Rice County Road.

A few miles further north, other snowmobilers

A few miles further north, other snowmobilers parked next to the old school in Millersburg and walked across the street to Boonie’s Bar & Grill.

While some played, others worked. This guy prepares to saw wood along a rural roadway.

While some played, others worked. This guy prepares to saw wood along a rural roadway.

Back in Faribault, another man cut wood.

Back in Faribault, another man cut wood.

And we ended our drive with a walk along the snowy trails at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

And we ended our drive with a walk along the snowy trails at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

Fresh tracks showed us that others snowshoed and skied through the nature center.

Fresh tracks showed us that others snowshoed and skied through the nature center.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Benson Family Singers: “To you, O Lord, I will make music” January 19, 2014

Benson Family Singers Rachelle, left,

The Benson Family Singers Rachelle, left, Aaron, Pete and David. Luke is also a member of the group, but did not perform in this song.

MIXING HUMOR AND SERIOUSNESS with music ranging from foot-stomping bluegrass to gospel, barbershop style and even rap, The Benson Family Singers of Faribault presented a wholesome family concert Saturday evening that has me singing their praises.

Posted on the bulletin board inside the church entry.

Posted on the bulletin board inside the church entry.

This family—Pete and Rachelle and sons David, 13; Aaron, 11; and Luke, 9—performed at St. Luke’s Church, Faribault, to raise awareness and funds for the Pregnancy Options LifeCare Center. Paul, 2, has yet to make his stage debut.

But if he’s anything like his brothers and parents, his musical talents, enthusiasm and confidence will shine during shows at churches, festivals and elsewhere.

The family will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 1, at the Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault, in what is billed as “the perfect family entertainment experience.” That it should be.

In today’s world, it’s truly refreshing to listen to musicians like the Bensons. You needn’t worry that they’ll say or sing anything remotely offensive. They are genuine, Christ-loving and family-focused with their music as their family ministry.

Their purpose, says Pete, is “preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go. It’s the most important thing we can do in this life.”

So, in a break between songs, this father of four sons shared his faith with the audience at St. Luke’s.

The family balances its serious message with humor as Luke role-played Lars and Pete his counterpart, Ole, in several Norwegian jokes. Not too worry. All of their jokes are kid-friendly funny.

A rapt audience at St. Luke's.

A rapt audience at St. Luke’s.

The Bensons definitely reach out to kids with Sunday School songs like “This Little Light of Mine” and other selections that have young and old alike clapping in time to the music. Think a bluegrass tune from The Andy Griffith Show.

Listening to their barbershop style a cappella singing is an absolute auditory pleasure.

I especially enjoyed the old familiar hymns such as “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

The Benson "boys" presented a rap version of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

The Benson “boys” present a rap version of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

But, by far, the hit of the evening for me, and I expect many in the audience, were the family’s numerous versions of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” The family pulled out barbershop hats, sunglasses and other props to sing “Leaning” in styles from Johann Sebastian Bach to barbershop to doo-wop, Beach Boys, “clean rap” and music from the hills of Tennessee or Kentucky.

It felt good to laugh.

And it felt good, in the closing song, to join this talented family in singing the chorus of “There Is Power in the Blood.”

FYI: To learn more about the Benson Family Singers, click here. To learn more about their upcoming performance at the Paradise Center for the Arts, click here.

Information about the Pregnancy Options LifeCare Center was available at the concert.

Information about the Pregnancy Options LifeCare Center was available at the concert.

For info about the Pregnancy Options LifeCare Center, a pro-life organization dedicated to providing physical, emotional, social support and assistance to women by empowering them to make healthy, life-affirming choices, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hunkering down during Minnesota’s extreme cold January 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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FOX 9 morning news on Monday shows temps and windchiills predicted for Monday evening.

FOX 9 morning news on Monday shows temps and windchills predicted for Monday evening in the Twin Cities.

I’M ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES. I don’t have to venture outside, into the frigid cold which is gripping Minnesota and many other parts of the country.

Rather, I can hunker down inside, working from my home office.

When I arose Monday morning and switched on the radio, the temperature registered at a negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill of 47 degrees below zero. That’s cold, people, darned cold.

Starting a cold winter morning off with a bowl of banana-laced oatmeal.

Starting a cold winter morning off with a bowl of banana-laced oatmeal.

The television weatherman reported the same brutal temps before I turned off the TV and enjoyed my usual morning bowl of oatmeal.

We have an abundance of fleece and wool throws at the ready.

I have an abundance of fleece and wool throws at the ready.

On mornings like this, the house feels colder than normal. So I’ll notch up the thermostat a degree, to 68, and grab a fleece throw from the couch to toss across my lap while I write.

A cup of instant cappuccino set atop a stash of books.

A cup of instant cappuccino to kickstart me on an exceptionally cold winter morning.

And although I’m not a big coffee drinker, I typically have a single mug of instant French vanilla cappuccino each morning. I can almost hear all of you serious coffee drinkers out there cringing at the idea of me drinking instant coffee.

Every January the regional library system implements its reading incentive, appropriately named "Hot Reads for Cold Nights." My mom gave me this mug, which she got from her library system.

Every January the regional library system implements its reading incentive, appropriately named “Hot Reads for Cold Nights.” My mom gave me this mug, which she got from her library system. That’s my stash of books and magazines from the library.

Saturday I stopped at the local library to stock up on books and magazines, but didn’t read much until Monday evening as I attended a wedding on Saturday and then Sunday evening was riveted to the two-hour premiere of Downton Abbey. Much to my husband’s dismay, I recently discovered this Public Broadcasting Service Masterpiece Theatre show.

Ice rings created by my husband and in the backyard.

Ice rings created by my husband and now in the backyard.

My spouse entertained himself on Sunday by watching the chilly football game in Green Bay and later making ice candle holders. He froze water in ice cream buckets on our patio. I darted outside Monday morning to view and photograph his ice art.

The furnace vents into my backyard.

The furnace vents through a pipe into my backyard.

And then I photographed the exhaust venting from the furnace, enveloping the lawn chairs in a visual contrast of seasons.

A reminder that, yes, spring will come and this fern will once again grace my backyard.

A reminder that, yes, spring will come and this fern will once again grace my backyard.

Back indoors, I aimed my camera lens at a fern (temporarily displaced by the Christmas tree) and at a pineapple on my kitchen counter.

The closest I am to anything tropical.

The closest I am to anything tropical.

If you live in Minnesota, you understand why I photographed both. Right?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Dreading our next Arctic blast here in Minnesota January 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I’VE EVOLVED INTO A WINTER weather wimp. Truly.

I photographed these winter enthusiasts heading up the hill to the park to go sledding.

I photographed these winter enthusiasts across the street from my home a few days ago as they headed up the hill to the park to go sledding. And, yes, I shot this image through a window so I didn’t have to step outside.

There was a time, many decades ago, when I actually thrilled in snow and cold—tunneling into snowbanks, building snow forts, packing snowballs, sledding, running up and down the mounds of snow Dad pushed from the driveway and farmyard into make-believe mountains.

I role-played a Canadian Mountie driving a dogsled across those mountains and across rock-hard snowdrifts.

I battled against my brothers with stockpiled snowballs.

I gripped the baler twine handle of the old runner sled as I raced across the yard.

I loved to skate upon patches of ice in the field or at the ice pond in town.

Those were the days.

Later, when I had my own kids, I played outside in the snow with them, slid down the hill at the nearby park, even ice skated occasionally and once snowshoed with my family at the local nature center.

On New Year’s Day, I suggested to my husband that we take a walk at River Bend Nature Center. But then I stepped outside to shake out a rug.

“Uh, I’ve changed my mind about that walk,” I said. “It’s too cold.” Temps were in the sub-zero to slightly above zero Fahrenheit range. Too cold. Way too cold.

The low temp in Embarrass, 90 miles north of Duluth on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, plunged to 46 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Thursday. That’s cold. Way too cold.

Winter no longer appeals to me. Rather, it rates as mostly an unpleasant season to endure with snow to shovel, icy/snowy surfaces to traverse and travel, and frigid cold to withstand, although beauty does exist in a snowy landscape.

The upcoming days will surely test my winter endurance. The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, Minnesota, is forecasting the following:

SOME OF THE COLDEST WEATHER IN THE PAST 20 YEARS IS EXPECTED ON
SUNDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR 40 TO 60
DEGREE BELOW ZERO WIND CHILLS. WIND CHILL WARNINGS APPEAR VERY
LIKELY TO BE NEEDED.

Now doesn’t that sound fabulous?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Words to ponder upon beginning the new year December 31, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Sign at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church

THIS MESSAGE GRABBED my attention recently at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault, Minnesota.

Definitely words to ponder as 2013 draws to a close and we look ahead, with hopefulness and resolution, to the new year.

What opportunities will you seize in 2014?

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The ever-present shepherd December 29, 2013

Snow shovels in church

EVEN WHEN PASTURES are not green, the Lord stands steadfast as our shepherd.

Pastures currently are not green, in the literal sense, here in Minnesota, although on Saturday we enjoyed a balmy 46 degrees.

Today we’ve been thrust back into winter’s hold, with an Arctic air mass gripping the state. Air temps are hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit with the windchill at minus 25 –  minus 34 degrees F.

Consider that yesterday I didn’t wear a coat; my long-sleeved flannel shirt proved sufficient to keep me warm while outdoors.

This morning I pulled a sweater over my shirt and bundled into my wool coat, scarf and gloves to head out for church services.

What a difference between yesterday and today.

Just like our lives. One day brings comfortable walking through green and sunny pastures. The next day brings challenges along a cold and snowy path.

No matter the route, I am assured that the Lord is my shepherd, there to guide me on this journey through life.

He gives me the tools—prayer, loving family and friends, His promises and love, and more—to help me clear and navigate the path when the going gets rough.

What a blessing to have the assurance of His presence.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photo taken at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault, Minnesota

 

 
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