Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What’s your line? January 31, 2012

WHAT LINES DEFINE your world? Horizontal or vertical?

Perhaps you’ve never considered that question. But ponder that for a minute.

Where do you live? Where do you work? What lines define your environment?

Do you live in the city, the country or a small town? Do you live on the prairie, in the mountains or somewhere in between?

My world has always been horizontal. I prefer it that way—flat and unbroken by vertical obstacles. Towering buildings overwhelm me; make me feel small, visually overpowered and uncomfortable.

Can you understand that? Perhaps if you grew up or live in a rural area, you do.

The sun sets on my native southwestern Minnesota prairie in this December 2010 image.

I traveled to Chicago once during college, and to New York. While touring the garment district in the Big Apple, I was nearly flattened by a vendor pushing a rack of clothing as I paused on the sidewalk to gawk at the skyscrapers. In Chicago, I struggled with sleeping in a hotel that stretched too far into the sky.

A view of the Minneapolis skyline from Interstate 35.

I can’t recall the last time I visited downtown Minneapolis, but I’m certain it’s been decades. I’ve never been to any other big cities and I have no desire to travel to them.

Some of you will say I am missing out on culture and shopping and so much more by staying out of the city. You would be right.

But to counter that, I will tell you many a big city resident fails to leave the confines of the city to explore the small towns and rural areas that offer grassroots culture and shopping and much, much more.

I am not trying to pit city against country, horizontal against vertical, here. Rather, I’d simply like you to think about your world from a visual perspective. Then, tell me, what lines define your landscape? Vertical or horizontal, or a mixture of both?

Even in rural Minnesota, vertical lines occasionally break the horizon, like this scene at Christensen Farms along U.S. Highway 14 east of Sleepy Eye in southwestern Minnesota.

The strong horizontal lines of railroad tracks and trains cross the flat prairie landscape of southwestern Minnesota. I shot this along U.S. Highway 14 between Springfield and Sleepy Eye as snow fell late on a March morning in 2011.

Railroad tracks and diggers slice precise horizontal lines across the landscape in this March 2011 image shot while traveling U.S. Highway 14 between Springfield and Sleepy Eye, in my native southwestern Minnesota.

I live in Faribault, an hour's drive south of Minneapolis along Interstate 35. While I certainly don't consider Faribault, with a population of around 22,000 to be a small town, it's definitely not urban. I shot this pastoral scene last spring several miles west of town near Roberds Lake.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “What’s your line?”

  1. ceciliag Says:

    Love the horizontal lines as you know.. this was a great post, your city scape was especially successful which is weird as you are writing about the lines out on the prairies, i did like the train too.. love c!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I expected this response from you, Cecilia, as your love of the prairie runs deep.

      I, too, am pleased with the cityscape, shot through the front window of the car. And, yes, the train image is also a favorite, again, shot from the window of the car.

  2. Amy Says:

    Both. I grew up in rural Minnesota (north of Bemidji), moved to the Twin Cities for college and confirmed that I really am a city girl at heart–but I do love exploring outside the metro area.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Interesting how that happens. Maybe I’ll need to have my Minneapolis-dwelling oldest daughter show me around town. Maybe not downtown. We can start with neighborhoods.

  3. hotlyspiced Says:

    Hi, I found your blog through Cecilia awarding you the Red Shoe. Congratulations! I love that last image of the lambs all grouped together, heads down, doing what they do. It looks picturesque.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. Getting that award from C is truly an honor as I so admire her storytelling/writing and photography.

      I love the sheep image too, for the lighting and the simplicity of the scene.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Love your first line…about lines! Great poetic image. As you know, I love the vertical lines but am stuck living in the horizontal. My husband tells me I need to learn to find beauty in shades of brown…I think I also need to find beauty in straight, flat lines!! Thanks for helping to open my eyes…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, your husband is right, Gretchen. If you are to live on the prairie, you must seek the beauty in straight lines. I’m quite certain you’ve already found it.

  5. Sartenada Says:

    I am living on countryside, about 30 miles to the North of Helsinki, Finland. So mine is horizontal. My favorite photos are the first and the fourth. Why the locomotive? Well, when being young, I worked on locomotive during five summer earning money. I love trains.

    Happy week-end!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      As always, it’s nice to have you stop by from Finland. How fortunate you are to live in the country.

      What type of work did you do on the locomotive and how old were you? I’m curious.

      I enjoy photographing trains. And there’s something about the dreamy quality of this particular image that appeals to me.

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