MILE AFTER MILE, westbound across Minnesota, the snow cover diminished.
Except for pockets of snow in the shade of trees or buildings, most yards lay bare, dormant grass exposed.
Road and drainage ditches, typically drifted full, gaped crevices in the land.
Fields normally layered white in February rolled out like a stubbled black carpet. Mile after endless mile the snow cover decreased as my husband and I journeyed from Rice County through Le Sueur, Blue Earth, Nicollet and Brown counties before reaching our destination in Redwood County.
Nearly all 120 miles, the wind shoved against the van, creeping inside, chilling my feet and legs, even snugged under a patchwork throw.
The farther west we drove, the more we felt the wind in the wide open spaces, the prairie, the place of my youth. There is no wind like a prairie wind. Ceaseless. Relentless. Fearsome.
On the drive back east later that day, we spotted a column of black in the distance and considered the source of the fire.
Except, as we drew nearer, we saw dust, not smoke. Rising like a super-sized dust devil, a wind-fueled dust storm swept across bare earth. It was almost frightening to witness this storm growing in size, eroding the soil as it raced across acres of farm land.
In that moment, I considered how beneficial snow is in curbing erosion, in supplying moisture to the land, in maintaining balance in the landscape.
FYI: These images were shot on the morning of February 21. Shortly thereafter, my camera stopped working. Therefore I have no photos of the dust storm or the landscape beyond Courtland to the west.
My community of Faribault is deep in snow. No exposed earth here.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling