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