Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How a winter drive refocuses thoughts & inspires creativity March 7, 2019

An abandoned building near Nerstrand, Minnesota.


IT IS THE ABSENCE of color. White. Pervasive now in the Minnesota landscape, as one would expect in March.

The whiteness of the southern Minnesota countryside overwhelms vision. Snow layers the land, rooftops, roadways, seemingly every surface. It takes effort to focus on something, anything, beyond the white.



A much-needed Sunday afternoon drive through rural Rice County provided an opportunity to shift my thinking away from this interminable winter of too much brutal cold and too much snow. Yet, my thoughts never really drifted away from winter. How could they when wind swept snow across the roadway, sometimes finger-drifting drifts?

How could my thoughts wander to spring when everywhere I saw winter?

How could I escape winter when I observed ditches filled with snow to road level?

This drive wasn’t accomplishing what I’d hoped—a temporary alleviation of cabin fever. Who was I fooling? Only a vacation to a warmer climate or a weekend get-away to a hotel could deliver that. Neither will happen.


East of Northfield, Minnesota.


Realizing that, I tried harder to embrace the winter scenery. My camera allows me to reshape my thinking, to view the world through a different lens. To see beyond the colorless to the color. A red barn.



A flash of yellow in a road sign.


Blue sky backdrops a farm site near Nerstrand, Minnesota.


A blue sky.


Mailboxes protrude from banked snow in Dundas, Minnesota.


With camera in hand, I began to notice the details—to see art-wrapped mailboxes embedded in a snow bank,


Snowmobiling near Nerstrand.


a snowmobiler powering through winter,



power poles penciling horizontal lines over blank fields.

And when I saw all of that, the poetry of winter overwrote the absence of light, of all that white.


Note: All images have been edited with an artsy editing tool.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


23 Responses to “How a winter drive refocuses thoughts & inspires creativity”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    So much white everywhere. I am glad you were able to see some color on your drive.

    • Those red barns really pop in a white landscape. More snow coming with 6 – 10 inches predicted for Saturday – Sunday. I hope our snowblower works. Currently there’s an issue with a belt. Again. No way do I want to shovel all that heavy, wet snow.

  2. I think the mailboxes tell the deep tale of your winter. I love the barn with the white field of snow, maybe a good place to x country ski in 2 weeks? LOL I get the feeling I won’t be kayaking! I have serious doubts now about a fly fishing class at Whitewater State Park in mid April… hummm

  3. Margit Says:

    I appreciate your beautiful photography and poetic words. Both transform the long winter landscape into something even more lovely.

  4. Gunny Says:

    Winter Drives. I just got back from one in the Southwest west of where I live. San Antonio has trees, though not as big as those of the Great North. While driving, what I found next to the highway was a headstone marking a single grave. Headstone was weather worn and the dates of that person’s life were etched on it. The grave was between the pavement of the roadway and the property fence. The land is about as flat as an ironing board and about as desolate a place as one can find on the face of the planet. Keep in mind, the sky was unobstructed and went from horizon to horizon in any direction. Aside from the fences, the pavement, there was and is no signs of civilization. Years etched on the headstone were something like 1836 to 1907. The name on the headstone is irrelevant but the man’s name is important. Seems that he served in the Virginia Confederate Cavalry (I did some research). After the war, he evidently migrated west to an area totally unlike his boyhood home. While I do not think he was the “Outlaw Josey Wales”, I think there were probably some similarities.

    Love your pictures, particularly the long lonesome (cold) roadways. Been there, done that.

    May Spring be upon you all before you know it.

  5. These are lovely, Audrey. White everywhere is NOT desolate. You proved that. Beautiful! ❤

  6. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Love the mailboxes! Only a Minnesotan in winter would see the beauty and solitude of the telephone poles in a field. Good job! Como spring flower show opens Mar. 16th. Jane Teschke and I hope to take it in. I’ll drive.

    • Thank you, Sandra. My daughter and her family live near Como so I may need to suggest a stop there next time we visit her. Good for you to take Jane to Como. How wonderful that you two have reconnected since her move. Does she live near you or attend the same church?

      • Sandra Van Erp Says:

        Jane used to call on my mother who died in 1999. Our genealogy brought us together sometime in the early 2000’s. We share Germany travels. Her mother worked at SMH where I grew up, we also have found quasi relatives. Since she moved here, she’s in Roseville on hwy 36, has joined in with King of Kings close to her. I’m in Mahtomedi with St. Andrews now, 6 mi. from me. Basically I’m “just down the road” from her. Her medical concerns have continued. She thoroughly enjoys her new place. She misses Cardinal Pointe, Trinity and Faribault friends and long time connections. It was the right thing to do. She is such an inspiration here, as she was in Faribault. The Como spring show runs until Apr. 21st. Pray for a v-e-r-y, v-e-r-y slow thaw. Our association is reeling from a +$20K snow removal bill, I’m treasurer. The cities is reporting $500/hr costs for the pros. I know you really appreciate Randy!

      • So wonderful that you share that Faribault connection and more.

        I’m familiar with King of Kings, a church we pass en route to visit our eldest.

        Wow, that’s a mega snow removal bill. I bet lots of budgets will be busted this season by snow removal costs. I’m hoping the belt stays on our snowblower this weekend. No way do I want to shovel this heavy, wet snow.

  7. Yep, yep and yep…. Winter is beautiful everywhere I look. (But that’s just my take on it) 🙂

    • I appreciate your love of winter. Someone’s gotta love it lots. And that would be you.

      I was at the grocery store this evening. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the shelves completely cleared of bread. An employee told me they had double the business of a regular Friday as everyone was buying groceries before tomorrow’s storm hits.

      Stay safe. Stay warm. And enjoy the snow or rain or whatever we’re going to get.

  8. Bella Says:

    I liked how you were able to shift your lens focus and find some color and appreciate your new discoveries. And the mailbox photo is quite amazing!.

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