Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Five people, two dogs, no kids April 1, 2020


Ducks swim in the Cannon River at North Alexander Park, Faribault.


NOW, MORE THAN EVER, the desire to get outdoors, to stretch my legs, to connect with nature, to escape all things COVID-19 related intensifies. I need the mental break, the sense of calm that prevails when I distance myself from the current crisis.

I live in a city of some 24,000 with an extensive recreational trail and park system and a sprawling nature center. We can spread out within city limits or quickly drive into the countryside for a rural escape.


Walking the dog along the trail in North Alexander Park.


On Saturday morning, before a day of rain began, Randy and I drove to North Alexander Park on the other side of Faribault to walk the Northern Link Trail connecting with the Straight River Trail. The paved path hugs the Cannon River, curving past trees, playgrounds, picnic shelters, and clusters of ducks and geese.


A section of the trail passes through a space populated by trees, and birds.


I enjoy this section of trail for several reasons—the river, the waterfowl, the diversity in open and wooded spaces, and the minimal number of people walking or biking here. It’s always been that way, even pre-coronavirus. While the trail is typically uncrowded, the park itself is usually busy. Teens shoot hoops. Families picnic. Athletes play baseball and softball. Kids use the playgrounds. But not now. Not during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Fences block picnic shelters.


A broad view of the now off-limits playground.


Stay off the playground.


With a “Stay at Home MN” executive order and social distancing in effect, park amenities can no longer be used. Orange snow fences wrap picnic shelters and playgrounds. When I saw those, I stopped. Sadness swept over me to see these places, where families often gather, where kids swing and slide and climb, closed. This is our new reality. Intellectually, I understand. Mentally, I rebel.


In my mind’s eye, I see a little one swinging.


A playground near the Cannon River.


No sliding here…


I want to hear the laughter of children. I want to see kids run and slide. And swing sticks at pinatas during family celebrations, as I have during past walks here.


Geese line the bank of the Cannon River in North Alexander Park.


But on this Saturday I saw none of that. Heard none of that. Instead I observed only three other adults (besides Randy and me) and two dogs. And I heard the warning honks of nesting geese, breaking the morning silence.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


15 Responses to “Five people, two dogs, no kids”

  1. The birdlife that surrounds my work parking lot is loving and taking over the additional space that is usually crowded with vehicles and employees (there is a walking trail). Mama and Papa Mallard were out on patrol this morning – ha! It is sad to see the playground and picnic tables on lockdown. Be Safe and Take Care

  2. So sad. Last Saturday I took Rocket to a local park for a walk and the quiet was eerie. Although there were people there, it’s like everyone was afraid to talk and laugh. Be careful and stay safe, Audrey. ❤

  3. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Our early morning dog walks are an absolute necessity now – we see few others, just a couple of joggers and one other walker this morning. No other dogs today. The neighborhood pigeon flock swooped and circled overhead this morning. There was a duck on our neighbor’s roof. The sun still sent its light through the trees as the day began. Once back in my house, I exchanged messages with my granddaughter. That is how I start my days now, finding small things for which to be grateful and trying not to focus on what I miss. Some days, I’m better at that than others! Glad you have some natural areas nearby where you can take a breath.

    • Kathleen, I always appreciate your poetic comments and your appreciation for life. Your writing uplifts me.

      Exchanging messages with your granddaughter each morning seems a beautiful way to start your day. I zoomed with my eldest daughter and my grandchildren this morning, reading a book to them, playing peek-a-boo with the one-year-old and clapping for the almost four-year-old ballerina. It just made my day to spend this time with them.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    I’m thankful getting outside and exercise are deemed essential activities. So glad you got out in nature.

    • Me, too. Thankful. Last evening we walked at Faribault Energy Park, one of my favorite places and mostly undiscovered (although last evening a guy drove in, opened the door of his pick-up and let his two BIG dogs run untethered. We were not happy. The dog owner stayed inside his truck. We have a dog park in town. I’m not a fan of loose dogs and irresponsible pet owners. We also had to watch for dog poop. Sigh.

  5. jackie Says:

    It is so sad to see the play ground closed, but I get it! Last night we went up to the big open park near My daughters house and watched Carson fly his kite. There are things they can still do and be socially distanced. I miss the hugs!

    • I thought of kite-flying, something perhaps Randy and I can do this weekend. I’ve always loved the feel of the wind tugging at a kite string and then watching the kite soar.

      I miss the grandkids so so much. I’m glad you can see your Rochester grands in person. I can see mine via Zoom. I read to them this morning, played peek-a-boo and watched Izzy dance. It’s something.

  6. Missy’s Crafty Mess/Missy’s Handarbeid Says:

    The world seems too quiet. It’s good to turn off the news and get outside

  7. I can imagine that felt strange.

  8. Littlesundog Says:

    I can well imagine this “safe at home” time is vastly different than my life. It’s business as usual here, except maybe for egg deliveries now, People mostly call for pickup at our gate. For a few elderly neighbors I deliver to their front door. We don’t take money anymore, we’re just glad people can take the eggs off our hands. We get 28 to 36 a day generally. Other than that, I’m out and about on our little ranch with plenty to do, and FD is working out of our home indefinitely. I think it’s harder on him being cooped up in our small computer room. I notice he gets out to talk on the phone on the back porch or walk around the slope area.

    My washing machine went on the blink last week. I shopped online and purchased from the local appliance dealer. They delivered (gloved up) to the front walkway and we sanitized everything and set it up. I have to admit, the transaction was easy, and dealing with folks over the phone was fun and entertaining.Now it seems our spare refrigerator has issues. They say things happen in threes!

    Life may be very different for a long time to come. Change is difficult for many people. I am trying to be positive, and mindful of what our federal government, state and community officials are asking of us as a population. I can’t imagine the hours so many people are putting in to deal with this pandemic. My woes seem so minute compared to those at the front lines.

    • Lori, thank you for this glimpse into your life. Thank you for sharing those eggs at no cost.

      I’m sorry about the washing machine going out, but thankful for those wonderful local folks who delivered a new one to you.

      I pray Forrest continues to stay well. And you, too, my friend.

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