Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A winter walk at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault February 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:51 PM

A groomed skiing trail at River Bend.

WITH THE SUN FINALLY shining on Sunday, and I emphasize the words finally shining, I convince my husband to take a walk at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

I’m sure Randy would much rather be napping in the recliner, per a typical Sunday afternoon. But, perhaps, in a “if you’re happy, I’m happy” frame of mind, he obliges my request.

So, as we’re preparing to leave, Randy asks, “How long are we going to be there?”

“Not too long,” I respond, wondering why he’s asking. Maybe he wants to know how warmly to dress. Or perhaps he’s wondering whether he can fit in a nap after our walk.

In any case, he pulls on long johns and warm wool socks. “I don’t have any long johns,” I say, knowing full well that any good Minnesotan would own long johns or something to add another layer to the jeans. But I don’t. So, I’ll manage.

Camera in tow, I head out the door and then return moments later for a warm stocking cap to replace my headband. At least my head will stay warm.

Once at the nature center, we spot two guys leaning against a pickup truck, a sled dog in the truck bed. I walk over, ask them what they’re up to and they tell me they’ve just finished skijoring. Rats. If only we hadn’t stopped at the hardware store first before coming here.

So we head out to a trail, me with my camera slung over my neck and worried that I may lose my footing and tumble into the snow. Instead of surveying my environment, searching for good photo ops, I am looking down at my boots, at the uneven snowy path marred by ski tracks, rabbit prints and the deep indentations left by deer hooves.

Yet, I am determined. “Where are the red berries?” I ask, visualizing a photo contrasting red against the whiteness of snow. There are no red berries, no orange berries.

We see plenty of animal tracks, but no animals.

“Where are all the animals?” I ask. “Where do they go in the winter?” I am full of questions. My husband probably wishes I would just shut up.

Eventually, I realize that if I am to photograph anything, then the subject of my images will be the trees. My gaze turns upward. And I see there bare (or mostly bare) branches, stark and defined against the winter sky. In that moment, I understand that beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places, in the simplest forms, if we only see the trees in the forest.

Trees lean near the Nature Center's outdoor amphitheater.

A tree with character near a trail.

Behold the branches. Poetry in a tree.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling