Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thoughts on the pandemic, from sleep to reality June 16, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Dreams roil storms into my sleep. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2011.


EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote this post several weeks ago and kept it in-draft. So, when you read this, remember that as I have not updated this from the original writing. My feelings about the need to take this pandemic seriously and to think beyond ourselves remain unchanged.


FOR THE FIRST TIME since the COVID-19 crisis broke, I dreamed about the pandemic.

I expect my turbulent emotions of that day and the day prior prompted the dream. Anger and disappointment framed my thoughts as did a converged weariness over a pervasive attitude of self-centeredness in this pandemic.


Our face masks. Please, people, wear masks. And if you already do, thank you.


And so I dreamed of a long-dead neighbor and of extended family converging on our property, no one wearing face masks, none social-distancing. They got too close, in my face. And when I told them they would need to leave, some turned on me. And then I awoke from my nightmare. Or did I really?


On one occasion, I left the house without my hand sanitizer. The planned trip inside a local convenience store did not happen as a result.


Life, some days, can play like an ongoing bad dream. If I let it thread that direction. It depends on the day. Trips to the grocery store frustrate me. Employees are now wearing masks—finally—in the local places I shop for food. But too many customers still are not and I don’t get it. I skirt those people (if possible) in the too-narrow aisles.

While shopping at a big box store, I thanked the masked cashier for the store’s requirement that all customers and employees wear masks. I could see her eyes smiling. “All we hear are complaints,” she said. I’m not surprised.

Recently I stopped for ice cream at a favorite independent shop in a neighboring town. The teen behind the walk-up window was not masked. The same for curbside food pick-up at a favorite local restaurant. The woman who handed me my bagged and boxed food was unmasked. I was masked. Both situations surprised me and made me feel uncomfortable. Health and government officials recommend we wear masks. And in some cities, like Minneapolis, masks in public places are now mandatory. And when restaurants re-open, servers will need to don masks. Why not now, during walk-up or curbside pick-up?


A message posted on the marquee of the Paradise Center for the Arts at the start of the pandemic. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo edited.


I’m not sharing these stories to call people or businesses out. Rather, I’m frustrated by the “me” mentality. This pandemic is not about us individually. This is about us collectively. Decisions we make affect others. We can unknowingly carry this virus, perhaps give it to someone who is in the vulnerable demographic. There’s no guarantee either that, if we become infected, we won’t get really sick. We just do not know.

Our thoughts need to stretch beyond ourselves, to thinking of others. And then acting and choosing behaviors that show we truly and deeply care about our families, our friends, our neighbors, even the people we encounter at the grocery store.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “Thoughts on the pandemic, from sleep to reality”

  1. There is an interesting article about Mrs. Merkel and how she handled the pandemic in her Germany. Perhaps this interests you?


  2. Washe Koda Says:

    we got to be careful out there 😉 I miss Ice Cream, haven’t had any in 4months 🍦

  3. I’m with ya. Don’t get it. Maybe it isn’t the most fun but lives are at stake.

  4. Liz Says:

    I so agree with you about the need to wear masks, and being frustrated that people are not. We were at the A & W drive in last night. Servers all wearing masks, as were we, but two carloads of young people parked near us were socializing and not wearing masks. Very frustrating to see. Male clerk in the Northfield liquor store not wearing mask either. What it says to me is that they are selfish.
    Finally got a haircut at Great Clips which is doing a good job of requiring masks and staff all wearing them.
    Stay well.

    • Liz, thanks for sharing your observations. I agree with your assessment. This pandemic is about ALL of us, not some of us.

      I was especially frustrated a few weeks ago when two Faribault police officers were not wearing masks while interacting with our elderly neighbor. Randy and I went over to check on her after we saw a squad car at her home. She had just been involved in a minor fender bender at a fast food place, we learned, and was quite rattled. We went over there, masked, to offer our support and help in any way we could. But then those officers arrived without masks. I was not happy. Even though this encounter happened outdoors, it was not an emergency situation and they should have worn masks and social-distanced to protect this vulnerable woman and her also two vulnerable neighbors (yup, us, due to age). And, when the young male officer commented that he had been working the protests in the Twin Cities, I was even more bothered by his failure to wear a mask. My venting for the day.

      • Liz Says:

        Wow, that sounds like something to be reported to the police department. Especially with the comment about working the protests. Yikes!

      • I thought about reporting it and may still do so. But, at the time, I knew the police were preoccupied with everything related to the unrest.

        Did you report the municipal liquor store employee who wasn’t masked? I’m not surprised by the behavior of the young people at A & W. I don’t like it. At all. But I’m not surprised.

      • Liz W Says:

        Audrey, yes I did report it. Got a vague answer.

      • That’s interesting, a vague response. Sigh.

  5. valeriebollinger Says:

    I wear masks in stores. I wish everyone did.

  6. Hi Audrey, I just had an experience that made me think about the way people are so focused on “me” rather than “all of us”, some of which I wrote about on my own blog today. It was when we visited the farmers market in St. Paul over the weekend and noticed so many customers ignoring the one-way aisle directions to help with social distancing. It’s so disappointing when people are so self-focused that they fail to grasp how the smallest consideration affects the spread of this virus. Thank you for keeping this conversation going, reminding people that masks are important, social distancing is important, and selfish behaviors are not going to shorten this pandemic. They are only going to make it last longer, contribute to more deaths.

    • I appreciated your post, Kathleen, and am so sorry you observed the same selfish behavior at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market. I just do not understand and I fully agree with you that this type of indifference is only going to make this last longer.

  7. Neil Says:

    While I agree that there are many out there who are “selfish” in that they refuse to wear a mask, I tend to think that is more thoughtlessness. If these people were to actually spend a few minutes and think through the potential impact of their actions to themselves and others, they would probably be more likely to wear one.

  8. I Agree with you wholeheartedly! People think “they” won’t get it. Or they think it’s not real, or a number of other selfish preconceived notions! This has not and will not go away anytime soon. I wear a mask to protect those around me, I wish they would have the same courtesy. Well stated, Audrey. Be safe and well my Dear Friend. ❤ ❤

  9. Littlesundog Says:

    I guess I try not to wonder about other people – what they think or what they’re guilty of. We have no control over other’s actions and there is no way to know their thoughts or what their capabilities are because we haven’t walked their life in their shoes. We get every experience we’re supposed to in life, and we really don’t have any control anyway. I just do the best I can. Having expectations of others usually only brings disappointment.

    That said, I quit going to farmer’s markets years ago when I was at a local FM and overheard a conversation between two producers selling goods. One man was commenting on the other fella’s beautiful, perfectly-shaped tomatoes. “How is it your’s are perfectly round and not blemished”? And the answer was, “Oh, I use Tempo – best insecticide on the market. I never have any insect damage”. I always just trusted farmer’s markets. So pick your poison I guess… COVID-19 or maybe toxic vegetables? All we can do is make the best choices in life that we know how.

    • Those are good points. I am more sensitive, though, to the actions of others as it relates to COVID-19 because what they do, or don’t do, affects others. That’s why I really struggle with people who refuse to wear masks, who don’t social distance and who do not understand the seriousness of this virus.

      Your farmers’ market experience would be enough for me to stop buying there also.

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