Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Finding peace immersed in nature at River Bend April 29, 2020

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Sunset at the prairie pond, River Bend Nature Center, Faribault, Minnesota.

 

THIS EARLY INTO SPRING here in southern Minnesota, everything seems amplified. Colors. Sound. Even the air temperature.

 

Into the woods at River Bend Nature Center.

 

You can almost see the grass growing, its green especially vivid in the still mostly monotone landscape. The greyness of woods reminds us that winter only just exited, and could return. Yes, we’ve experienced measurable snowfalls in May.

 

Beauty in birch tree bark under blue skies.

 

But for now, the weather has proven mostly glorious with shirt-sleeve temps and lots of sunshine, although on Tuesday much-needed rain watered the earth.

 

Rock signage marks Honor Point inside River Bend Nature Center.

 

One evening last week, Randy and I headed to River Bend Nature Center for a walk in the woods and along the prairie to the pond. The incessant peeping of frogs created a symphony as we drove into the center, van windows rolled down to hear the music. I always wonder why we can never see these musicians, only hear them.

 

Looking over the river valley from Honor Point.

 

Once parked, we entered the woods, crossed the Turtle Pond, wound through the trees, paused to scan the river valley, then looped back through the woods, eventually reaching woods’ edge.

 

The grazing geese I opted to avoid.

 

I especially enjoy the section of our hike which leads us onto the prairie, a place of dried grasses in April. My eyes welcome the openness. But on this evening, we detoured from our usual route. A cluster of geese grazed the land and I wasn’t about to get too close. Their protesting honks as we drew near proved deterrent enough.

 

The bird that’s not real atop the martin house.

 

I paused momentarily to photograph a martin house, thrilled to see a bird perched on the edge of the apartment complex…until I realized the bird wasn’t real.

 

Cattails…love them any season.

 

Onward to the pond, a favorite spot to photograph cattails, which have always intrigued me. They are especially lovely in the filtered light of sunset.

 

This birdhouse hangs on a branch over the Turtle Pond.

 

By then my ears ached from the cold of the evening air. The din of frogs continued as we headed back to the parking lot and our van.

 

On the way out, one last stop along the road to photograph this nesting goose.

 

We had, for an hour, immersed ourselves in nature. Listened. Observed. Retreated from reality, if only for awhile. And sometimes an hour is all you need to find peace.

 

RELATED, SORT OF: I invite you to check out my nature-themed blog post, “Praise God for His Glorious Creation,” published on the Warner Press website, by clicking here.

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work as the Warner Press blog coordinator and blogger.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lean on me or let me lean on you April 28, 2020

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A portrait I took of my mom during my last visit with her in early March. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.

 

I HIT A WALL late yesterday afternoon. Maybe you’ve reached that point. Maybe not. But, after weeks of shelter-in-place and concern for loved ones, I felt overwhelmed.

A health update on my mom, who is in hospice in a care center 120 miles distant, caused sadness to sweep over me. I long to see her, to be there for her in the final stages of her life. But I can’t. And that breaks my heart. Then, I thought, how selfish of me. She is the one without family surrounding her. Not me. She is the one who is alone. Not me. So I re-framed my thinking, feeling gratitude for the last time I visited her, the weekend prior to care centers closing to visitors. What a gift.

 

I love this message in the Second Street pocket garden in downtown Faribault. It’s a wonderful reminder to love one another. I photographed this just the other day.

 

And then I called my uncle and updated him on his sister and talked to him about my aunt, his wife, who is undergoing chemo for terminal cancer. We discussed the challenges of this situation during COVID-19. And, in that conversation, we talked also about Zoom and mashed potatoes and gravy, and phoning his cousin, a pork producer. Laughter mingled with near tears.

I thought of his hog farmer cousin and all the other farmers facing unprecedented challenges now with regional meat processing plants shutting down and no place to send animals. And I considered my friend and her family in Worthington, a community in southwestern Minnesota hard hit by COVID-19. Nobles County, with a population of some 22,000, had 399 confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, most traced to a local meatpacking plant. No place is exempt. I worry about my friend…

We are all dealing with something, right? Missing family. Job loss. Concern about loved ones living in care centers with diagnosed cases of COVID. Grieving, like friends who last week lost a sister/sister-in-law to COVID and an uncle to a farm accident. It’s a lot.

 

My prayer list, written on a whiteboard propped against the entertainment center in my living room. This photo is from a few weeks ago. I update this list nearly daily with some names/concerns removed, others added.

 

In all of this, the need to support and love one another seems more important than ever. I’ve found myself reaching out and connecting every day with friends and family dealing with situations that are difficult any time, but even more so now. Mental illness. Cancer. Unemployment. I try to listen and encourage. And I continue to pray, updating my whiteboard daily by adding new names of those in need of prayer.

We’ll all get through this. I know we will. But there are days when we will struggle, when we will feel overwhelmed, when we will grieve and even feel angry. On those days, especially those days, I reach out to others. Not for sympathy, but to be that person they can lean on.

TELL ME: Are you struggling at times? How do you handle those moments? And how are you helping others? I’d like to hear, because we can all learn from one another as we continue to deal with this global pandemic and the resulting challenges.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sunday inspiration from Burkhartzmeyer Shoes April 26, 2020

 

BY NOW I EXPECT YOU’VE all seen them—paper hearts decorating windows as a way to show love for one another during the COVID-19 pandemic. I smile every time I see those hearts. In a world that has been too often divided, I feel a sense of unity in efforts like #aworldofhearts.

 

One of many windows filled with hearts.

 

In downtown Faribault numerous businesses have joined the movement, including local icon and third-generation family-owned business Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. I love this shop, run by a family with an incredibly kind, giving and loving spirit. Second-generation owner Buck. Cousins Bruce and Brian. And their employees. I consider them more than people who peddle and repair shoes. I consider them part of my faith family, my community family. And they serve the wider community via their services as certified pedorthists, filling prescriptions and providing orthopedic shoes.

 

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes is open from 11-5 Monday-Saturday. Those are temporary hours during the COVID crisis.

 

And then there’s that extra care, a care of the spirit exemplified in the many paper hearts taped to windows in this Central Avenue store. I’ve passed by several times and noticed writing on some of those hearts. On a recent evening, I stopped for a closer look and found exactly what I expected. Inspirational bible verses hand-printed on select hearts.

 

One of the bible verses posted in the window.

 

I snapped a few photos to share that scripture with you.

 

From Isaiah…

 

I also want to share my latest Sunday series blog post at Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publisher. I lead the blogging ministry there and we started this series as a way to uplift and encourage people during the COVID-19 crisis. Please click here to read today’s post, “Scripture to Uplift You, From Your Warner Press Family.”

 

From John 16…

 

Have a beautiful Sunday, my friends, and be blessed.

 

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work with Warner Press.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Welcoming spring in southern Minnesota April 24, 2020

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Photographed in Faribault’s North Alexander Park, along the shore of the Cannon River.

 

THIS TIME OF YEAR in Minnesota, after six-plus months of cold and grey, we welcome the greening of the land.

 

A patch of green in the woods along a recreational trail in Faribault.

 

Slowly, on those days when the sun shines with warmth and strength, dormant grasses and plants push through the earth.

 

Singled out in the woods.

 

Buds form.

 

A duck swims at Two Rivers Park in Faribault, where the Cannon and Straight Rivers join.

 

Rivers, now free of ice, flow. And waterfowl paddle the waters, hug the shorelines. Nesting.

 

Photographed recently from the Rice County Courthouse lawn, bikers on Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60.

 

People, too, are breaking free of winter constraints with motorcycles pulled from storage and now roaring down streets and highways.

 

Here the Straight River Trail in Faribault crosses the Cannon River.

 

Recreational trails offer a natural respite from everything. A place to walk or jog or bike. A place to just get away from it all for awhile. To take a mental break and renew one’s spirit.

 

A scene in North Alexander Park, near the Cannon River.

 

Quieter spots exist, too, to sit for awhile. Not to contemplate that which we’ve lost. But to embrace that which we still have—a world greening with spring in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

More kindness, this time from Holland April 23, 2020

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WHEN I SPOTTED THE FED EX truck parked on the corner by my house and the driver leaping back inside, I decided to check my front steps, even though I wasn’t expecting a package. I rarely order online.

 

 

But there, on my steps, sat a cardboard box with an imprinted arrow pointing skyward next to the word UP. So I carried the box inside, washed my hands and slit the tape. Inside I found a pot of tulip bulbs erupting through a layer of moss. And this message:

Tulips from Holland!!! I told you I would do it! The Cedar Journal blog friend.

How sweet is that? Paula, a native of northern Minnesota who now lives in Holland with her husband, gifted me with these springing-to-life tulip bulbs after I commented on her post, “Spring Time in the Netherlands 2020,” and asked her to pretty please, send flowers to Minnesota. However, I missed her reply to send my address so she could send me tulips. She sleuthed my address on her own.

 

 

And now I have these Holland tulip bulbs that, in a few weeks, should bloom bright colors and remind me of Paula and her kindness. Isn’t that lovely? In these days when our worlds are turned upside down, this blogger friend, whom I’ve never met, reaches out to me with a simple act of kindness.

But it’s more than that. Paula gifted me with a spot of joy during these difficult days. She uplifted me and reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people—just like Penny in sending face masks and Paul in sending a watercolor print last week. There are so many caring people in this world. Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to be kind.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo taken at LARK Toys, Kellogg, Minnesota.

 

I invite you to share today recent acts of kindness extended to you or which you have extended to others. You may just spark an idea that ripples more kind acts. Thank you, my friends. And Paula, especially, thank you for your gift of spring-in-a-box shipped from Holland to Minnesota. I am grateful.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valuing art now, more than ever April 22, 2020

 

“Peace” art created by Aseneth, 12th grade, Faribault Alternative Learning Center.

 

ART HOLDS SUCH POWER. Through art we express our emotions, unleash our imaginations, re-create the world, make statements, create beauty…the list seems endless.

 

Art from the Faribault Area Student Art Exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

 

Whether a professional artist or a student creating art for a classroom assignment, artists make a difference.

 

Adna, Faribault Middle School seventh grader, created this piece of art.

 

Their work causes us to think, to reflect, to look inside, and outside, ourselves.

 

Student art covered hallway and gallery walls on the second floor of the Paradise Center for the Arts.

 

Each year students from Faribault area schools exhibit their work at the Paradise Center for the Arts. I photographed selected pieces from that show in mid-March, showcasing some in a blog post on Monday. Today I bring you more of that student art.

 

Lincoln Elementary School fourth grader Yasmin created this bright combo of daisies and oak leaves.

 

The level of talent impresses me. I didn’t possess these skills at this age. Nor do I now. But then my elementary school didn’t offer art classes and choices were limited during junior and senior high school. It was the reality of rural Minnesota in the 1960s and 1970s. Partially because of that art deficit, I deeply value the arts today.

 

Sand art created by Brianna from the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind in Faribault.

 

Yet, I recognize that my exposure to the arts remains limited. For many reasons, including financial. So I am thankful for local access to the arts.

 

A sampling of the student art displayed.

 

I fear for the future of the arts with the current economic crisis in this global pandemic. But I try not to dwell on that because we’re all dealing with a lot right now within our families, businesses and communities. Our top concern needs to be our health—protecting one another from COVID-19 and keeping ourselves safe and healthy.

 

This art by Belle, Faribault Middle School sixth grader, simply makes me happy.

 

Art rates as a welcome diversion from reality, from unproductive mind-wandering to dark places. Art brings sunshine and beauty and bursts of joy.

 

Posted in the front window of the Paradise Center for the Arts, a message of togetherness and strength.

 

Now, more than ever, we are feeling the power of connection via art. Sidewalk chalk art. Paper hearts in windows. Music sung from balconies. Concerts that bring musicians from all over the world together. Dancing in hospital corridors and in living rooms.

 

These snow people make me think of the world coming together. Art by Leighton, Jefferson Elementary School second grader.

 

Art brings us together as people. From Italy to Spain to New York to Minnesota. Now, more than ever, we need art.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, glorious April afternoon in southern Minnesota April 21, 2020

Windsurfing on Cannon Lake, rural Faribault, Minnesota, on Saturday afternoon, April 18. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

APRIL IS A FICKLE month in Minnesota. Sunshine and warmth one day and clouds and brisk temps the next.

 

A wind turbine and solar panels are part of the Faribault Energy Park with the power plant in the distance. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

This past Saturday marked a glorious day here with the temp near 60 under sunny skies. I needed to get out of town, yet honor and respect the Governor’s Stay at Home order. So Randy and I set off, first, for the Faribault Energy Park, where we had the entire place to ourselves. I love that about this mostly undiscovered park. No need to concern ourselves about social distancing or, on this day, loose dogs.

 

Oh, the vibrant hues of red and blue on a sunny April afternoon in the Faribault Energy Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

While walking the dirt paths that wind around wetland ponds, we heard birds above the steady drone of traffic from adjacent Interstate 35. It looked to be a typical busy weekend of travel for folks on the interstate.

 

Greenery is beginning to erupt in the landscape. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Everywhere, people were out and about. When you’ve been cooped up inside during the winter and under the Stay at Home order, which I fully support, there’s a real psychological need to get outdoors on a day as beautiful as Saturday.

 

I couldn’t get enough of the trees set against that amazing blue sky. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Love the hue and texture of dogwood. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

I took my time, noticing and appreciating the signs of spring in the landscape. Brilliant red berries against blue, not grey, skies. Green burst of buds. Twigs of mahogany dogwood flagging paths. Creek running. Path muddied by puddles floating oak leaves of autumn. The reflection of the sky in ponds of blue. It was lovely. All of it.

 

Cannon Lake west of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

After walking in the park, we headed out to the Faribault lakes area west of town for a drive in the country. Pleasure driving, near home, is allowed under the state executive order.

 

Fishing in one of the many area lakes. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

An American flag flies from a dock. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

A beautiful afternoon to be out on the pontoon. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

During our lakes tour, we observed people fishing, pleasure boating, wind surfing and riding motorcycles. At a public boat landing, we met a grandpa out for a motorcycle ride with his granddaughter. Their “wind therapy,” he called it. He sees his granddaughter daily so there was no need to social distance from her.

 

The cloud deck was building as we drove into the countryside late Saturday afternoon. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

I even got my barn fix as we turned onto a gravel road. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

A decaying corn crib. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

I felt a sense of peace as we drove along back county and gravel roads in the countryside. Past barns and past fields awaiting planting. Through rural land that, for a brief moment of time on a lovely April afternoon, provided a respite from reality.

TELL ME: How are you getting away without really getting away?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling