Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Zumbrota exhibit explores water during this year of extreme drought October 19, 2012


And I expect part of that passion comes from the lack of arts in my life when I was growing up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, out there in “the middle of nowhere,” as some would say, life focused more on survival than anything.

By survival I mean my father earning enough money to support his wife and six children on a modest crop and dairy farm.

So much depended on the weather, on the rain or lack thereof. Enough rain meant a bountiful crop to feed the cattle and/or sell grain on the market. Too little rain meant scrimping on feed and less money to pay the bills, buy the groceries, clothe the family.

But let’s circle back to my original statement about loving the arts and connect that to water.

Recently I entered, and successfully competed in, an “It’s All One Water” poetry competition sponsored by the Zumbro Watershed Partnership and Crossings at Carnegie, a privately-owned art center in Zumbrota.

This evening a public reception will be held at Crossings, 320 East Avenue, beginning at 6:30 p.m. It is an opportunity to view works by 56 writers and photographers who “explored the aspects of water which fascinate them and created their own artistic expression of this most basic foundation for life,” according to promo info for the event.

At 7:30 p.m., writers, photographers and guests will move down the block to the historic Zumbrota State Theatre where writers will read their works while the water-themed photographs are projected onto a screen.

I will read my “In which Autumn searches for Water.”

My poetic expression about water traces back to my farm roots, to that constant and undeniable link between the land and the sky.

That connection is so much a part of my fiber that I cannot think about water in recreational terms—I can’t swim, don’t like being on the water and grew up in a Minnesota county without a natural lake. Rather, for me, water has always been about sustaining life, about growing a crop, about watering the cows or watering plants or measuring rainfall.

So when I learned of the “It’s All One Water” poetry competition shortly after an autumn walk at the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, where I found dry ponds, I knew exactly what I would write. I personified Autumn, creating a thirsty woman in search of an also personified Water. It works and I think well, especially given the current historic drought conditions throughout our country.

About a third of Minnesota is suffering from extreme drought. On Thursday the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued a news release urging Minnesotans to adopt water conservation measures (no washing vehicles, watering lawns and trees, etc.) as drought conditions are straining our state’s water resources.

Here’s a snippet of my drought-related water poem, verse three of five:

But she finds there, at the pond site, the absence of Water,
only thin reeds of cattails and defiant weeds in the cracked soil,
deep varicose veins crisscrossing Earth.

You can hear me read “In which Autumn searches for Water” this evening or view the entire exhibit from now until the end of October at Crossings. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thursdays; or from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturdays. A limited number of chapbooks are available. Monies from Minnesota’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund helped to fund the “It’s All One Water” exhibit.

CLICK HERE to reach the Crossings at Carnegie website.

CLICK HERE to link to the Zumbro Watershed Partnership website.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW drought conditions in the U.S.


5 Responses to “Zumbrota exhibit explores water during this year of extreme drought”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    Hope all went well for your reading. I saw the news article about MN’s water situation in the Winona Daily News this morning. Really liked the few lines you included in your post. Sounds like a really great exhibit!!! You are one talented gal!!!! Hugs, D

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      The poetry reading is tonight and I’ve been practicing. Getting in front of a crowd is not my favorite thing to do, so this takes effort on my part. I much prefer the role of writer to performer. I’ll likely share the entire poem here later, but did not want to reveal too much before this evening’s event.

      So glad you enjoy my writing as it is my absolute passion.

  2. I lOVE that snippet of the poem you gave us!!

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