Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Aliens over Willow Street? September 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:30 AM

Based on a letter to the editor that I read today in The Faribault Daily News, I fear that one of my greatest childhood fears may be coming to fruition.

Val of Faribault wrote: “I thought I was seeing things, but I am sure I saw something in the sky last Saturday that looked like an orange flame. This was about 9 p.m., and I was driving south on Willow. After a few minutes it disappeared behind the clouds, and it never reappeared. Did anyone else see this, or am I slowly losing it?”

Could this, I wonder, be a UFO with green aliens aboard, sent from Mars to scoop up unsuspecting earthlings?

That image of UFOs run amok in the night skies remains vividly imprinted upon my memory. I recall riding in the backseat of the car after a visit to my grandpa’s house in Redwood Falls, looking out the window at the pitch black sky, wondering exactly what I might see.

This came at the height of the UFO craze and talk of aliens and little green men.

Val saw none of this. But I still have to wonder if…

And my fear seems somewhat justified, since I live along Willow Street.


Henna tattoos and body art by a “gypsy woman”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:29 AM
Judy Ostrowski applies henna art at Depot Park in Kenyon.

Judy Ostrowski applies henna art at Depot Park in Kenyon.

My earliest knowledge of tattoos traces back to Easter, when my siblings and I stamped our arms with the temporary tattoos found in egg dying kits. My mom warned us not to tattoo ourselves before Easter morning church services. But we didn’t always listen.

My earliest contact with gypsies came one childhood Halloween, when I chose a gypsy face mask at the Ben Franklin store for my costume. Dressed in a peasant blouse and a colorful old skirt and with the alluring plastic face of a gypsy woman, I felt transformed.

All those past experiences flitted through my thoughts when I saw Judy Ostrowski of Minneapolis in her traveling (in my mind) tent at the Kenyon Rose Fest. She looked quite exotic in her vibrant dress and wrap-around golden head wear. Rather like a gypsy, I concluded.

So I stopped at her Mehndi Moon tent to see what wares this gypsy woman had brought to town. Judy was peddling Judy O’s hats. “Everyone in Minnesota needs a hat,” she tells me.

And she had come with jewelry.

And tattoos. Judy is a henna tattoo and body art artist.

So while my husband stood in line for turtle donuts, mini-donuts drizzled with caramel and chocolate and sprinkled with nuts, I circled the gypsy woman’s tent, photographing her as reddish-brown dye flowed from a small bottle onto the forearm of a young woman.

Her art, Judy tells me, is intuitive.

I should have asked more questions of this artist who had come to a small southeastern Minnesota town with her tent and talents. But turtle donuts beckoned.

Some of Judy's work, created intuitively.

Some of Judy's work, created intuitively.

Judy O's hats, in my opinion, speak to the gypsy spirit.

Judy O's hats, in my opinion, speak to the gypsy spirit.

To learn more about henna tattoos, read “Mehndi: The Art of Henna,” by my writer/friend Lisa M. Bolt Simons of Faribault and published in the fall issue of Midwest Mix Magazine. Lisa actually got henna tattoos.

You can download this free-distribution southern Minnesota arts magazine from the website.

I had the privilege of writing two stories for the debut issue this summer and several more pieces for the fall issue. Those include two book reviews, a feature on the release of my favorite Betsy-Tacy books (the high school ones) as Harper Perennial Modern Classics and a brief piece on a northern Minnesota-based writing opportunity.

You’ll find plenty of other interesting stories and photos in Midwest Mix Magazine that focus on the arts in southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling