Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

LOVE blooms in Northfield mural September 18, 2020

The Northfield Arts and Culture Commission awarded $3,000 toward this mural project.

 

SUNFLOWERS. LILIES. DAISIES.

 

I love the bold hues of this mural mixed with grey and black.

 

Flowers bloom in bold colors painted onto an exterior block wall in the heart of downtown Northfield.

 

Mural on the Domino’s building.

 

Just a half block off Division Street, up the hill from Bridge Square, on the building housing Domino’s Pizza, a colorful mural stretches, drawing appreciative onlookers. Including me. During Northfield’s The Defeat of Jesse James Days celebration last Saturday, many a passerby posed for photos against the colorful and inspiring backdrop.

 

Outlined in blue, the word LOVE.

 

This mural commissioned by the owner of the building and created by Illinois artist Brett Whitacre features more than vibrant flowers. It highlights a single word: LOVE.

 

The signature of mural artist Brett Whitacre on a corner of the mural.

 

And perhaps that is the unconscious draw. We all need LOVE. More than ever right now. These are difficult days of dealing with a relentless and deadly virus, social unrest and injustices, and a country in turmoil.

 

I expect the LOVE mural will continue to be a popular photo backdrop, especially for couples holding their wedding receptions at The Grand Event Center just across the street.

 

To pause for a moment in the chaos and appreciate this beautiful example of uplifting public art is to take a respite. To choose for a moment to embrace LOVE. That one emotion we all need. That connects us. If we allow it to do so.

THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Northfield: Snapshots of an abbreviated Defeat of Jesse James Days September 17, 2020

The site of the 1876 attempted bank robbery, now the Northfield Historical Society.

 

TYPICALLY, THE DEFEAT OF JESSE JAMES DAYS in Northfield finds Randy and me avoiding this college town only 20 minutes from Faribault. Crowds and congestion keep us away as thousands converge on this southeastern Minnesota community to celebrate the defeat of the James-Younger Gang in a September 7, 1876, attempted robbery of the First National Bank.

 

Waiting for fair food at one of several stands.

 

But this year, because of COVID-19, the mega celebration scaled back, leaving Northfield busy, but not packed. And so we walked around downtown for a bit on Saturday afternoon, after we replenished our book supply at the local public library—our original reason for being in Northfield.

 

The LOVE mural painted on a pizza place in Northfield drew lots of fans taking photos, including me.

 

On our way to Bridge Square, a riverside community gathering spot in the heart of this historic downtown, I paused to photograph the latest public art project here—a floral mural painted on the side of the Domino’s Pizza building by Illinois artist Brett Whitacre. (More info and photos on that tomorrow.)

 

One of the many Sidewalk Poetry poems imprinted into cement in downtown Northfield.

 

Northfield’s appreciation of the arts—from visual to literary to performing—is one of the qualities I most value about this community. As a poet, I especially enjoy the poetry imprinted upon sidewalks.

 

An impromptu concert in Bridge Square.

 

A fountain, monument and the iconic popcorn wagon define Bridge Square in the warmer weather season.

 

Buying a corn dog…

 

I was delighted also to see and hear a guitarist quietly strumming music in the town square while people walked by, stopped at the iconic popcorn wagon or waited in line for corn dogs and cheese curds. Several food vendors lined a street by the park.

 

The Defeat of Jesse James Days royalty out and about.

 

Among fest-goers I spotted Defeat of Jesse James royalty in their denim attire, red bandanna masks, crowns and boots, the masks a reminder not of outlaws but of COVID-19.

 

Photographed through the bakery’s front window, the feet-shaped pastries.

 

Yet, in the throes of a global pandemic, some aspects of the celebration remained unchanged. At Quality Bakery a half a block away from Bridge Square, the western-themed window displays featured the bakery’s signature celebration pastry—De-Feet of Jesse James.

 

A sign outside a Division Street business fits the theme of the celebration.

 

For a bit of this Saturday, it felt good to embrace this long-running event, to experience a sense of community, to celebrate the defeat of the bad guys.

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Up close in the Atwood Neighborhood of Madison, Part II September 16, 2020

 

PLACE REVEALS ITSELF in the details.

 

Sunflowers brighten the Atwood Community Gardens.

 

Put me in a location, like the Atwood Neighborhood on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin, and I will focus on the nuances. The seemingly little things that, when connected, define this as a neighborhood rooted in art, in the outdoors, in a genuine care for one another.

 

This is one busy bike path, frequented by all ages.

 

All of this I surmised simply by walking along Atwood area residential streets and past businesses and by following the Capital City State Trail for several blocks.

 

Flowers, oh, so many flowers…

 

My post today takes you back to the bike path, to those details that caused me to pause with my camera as bikers zipped past me. To photograph the flowers.

 

An artsy sign in the community garden.

 

Inspiring graffiti.

 

Madison’s capitol is depicted in this manhole cover art.

 

And the signs—always the signs, the aged brick buildings and, yes, even the manhole covers.

 

A little seasonal fun added to the Atwood Community Gardens.

 

And resident garden skeleton.

 

Cow art by the Goodman Community Center and right next to the bike trail.

 

What I observed pleases me as a creative, as an appreciator of aged architecture, as a nature lover and as a human being who values respect for others.

 

Colorful flowers thrive, including this zinnia.

 

The natural beauty of the Atwood Neighborhood appeals to me.

 

Spotted in a window of a residence along the bike trail.

 

The spirit of the Atwood Neighborhood appeals to me, too. With its earthiness. Its embracing of differences. Its sense of neighborhood pride. Its art. I feel comfortable here. Welcome. And that, my friends, is more important than ever in these times of upheaval, discontent, frustration and disconnect.

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Note: Like anywhere, no place is utopia, and that includes the East Side of Madison. While visiting my son, who lives in the Atwood Neighborhood, I learned of a recent daytime “shots fired” along his street. He didn’t tell me about this, of course, not wanting to worry his mom. There have been other similar incidents. Does this concern me? Yes. But then I think of my neighborhood in Faribault, considered small town to many, but not to me. In the 36 years I’ve lived here, my section of town has seen violence also. In 1999, a young man was stabbed to death within blocks of my home. We’ve also experienced drive-by shootings only blocks away. Not recently. No matter where you live, no place is fully safe. But, of one thing I am certain. We each have within us the capacity to shine lights of hope in our neighborhoods, to be decent and kind and caring.

Please check back soon for more posts from this section of Madison, Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring Madison’s Atwood Neighborhood via the bike trail, minus the bike, Part I September 15, 2020

A colorful cow sculpture stands next to the bike trail by the Goodman Community Center in the Atwood Neighbohood of Madison, Wisconsin.

 

BUTTERFLIES. BOOKS. BIKES. Even a bovine. And a sign for burgers and brats.

 

The bike path teems with bikers of all ages, and some walkers.

 

All defined a Labor Day weekend walk along the Capital City State Trail on Madison’s east side while visiting family. This Wisconsin state capital fully embraces biking via a city-wide system of connecting trails. Walk the paved pathways rather than wheel them and you best remain vigilant. And to the side. Most bikers zoom by.

 

By the community center, a Little Free Library sits right next to the bike trail.

 

With that awareness, I fully enjoyed this opportunity to see more of the thriving and vibrant Atwood Neighborhood.

 

Next to the trail, an electric bike rental station.

 

I almost wished I had a bike, though, and I suppose I could have rented an electric one from a rental station positioned along the trail, just another way to get those without bikes out, moving and exploring.

 

Flowers fill yards and sections of community garden plots.

 

But, given I had my DSLR camera, walking worked better. I could stop when I wanted—which was often—to document my surroundings. My walking companions—the husband and the son—often paced yards ahead and I finally told them to continue without me. They did. And later returned with an ice cream treat from a trail-side shop.

 

The community gardens are popular and filled with fruit, vegetables and flowers.

 

Even in the gardens, you’ll find art in signage.

 

This fence panel/art graces a corner of a garden plot. The gardens stretch along the bike path.

 

While they pursued ice cream, I snapped photos in the Atwood Community Gardens next to the trail. There I chatted briefly with a woman harvesting kale. I shared my appreciation for the lovely neighborhood and she told me of the long waiting list to get a garden plot.

 

Environmental concerns shared in art painted on a sidewalk by the trail.

 

She also tipped me off to concerns about groundwater and soil contamination from a resident industry (which I later verified online at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources).

 

Murals stretch along the side of the historic Madison Kipp-Corporation building next to the bike trail. Sail East, Goodman Center Youth, Kipp employees and the Dane Arts Mural Arts worked together on the 2017 project. Please check back for a post focusing on this public art.

 

It was on that industrial building that I found art. Murals of laborers at work, a fitting discovery on Labor Day weekend. The portraits show the strength of those who work with their hands. I spent many minutes photographing those paintings of blue collar workers.

 

Wisconsin and brats are synonymous.

 

A colorful cow sculpture by the Goodman Community Center also drew my attention. It seems fitting given Wisconsin’s “Dairyland State” motto and affinity for cheese curds. In addition to brats and beer.

 

This is the first photo I took as we walked the bike trail. You’ll find reaffirming messages like this throughout the Atwood Neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

In many ways, my walk along the bike trail offered a mini snapshot of Madison in the context of the Atwood Neighborhood. I saw an appreciation for the arts, for the land, for the outdoors. And I felt, too, a strong sense of community grounded in caring for one another. And that, more than anything, makes me feel…hopeful.

 

Please check back for more posts from my recent visit to Madison, including a second one of images from this same section of the Capitol City Bike Path.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On the road to & from Wisconsin September 14, 2020

 

Eastbound traffic along Interstate 90/94 was particularly heavy in eastern Wisconsin on Labor Day. We were driving westbound back home to Minnesota.

 

IF UNSCIENTIFIC OBSERVATIONS hold any value, then I assess that media reports about more people traveling via vehicle on Labor Day weekend held true.

 

Electronic road signs in Wisconsin are often creative and humorous. I consider humor an effective way to convey a message.

 

Randy and I were among the thousands hitting the road on the long weekend. Our destination: Madison, Wisconsin, some 260 miles/four-plus hours south and east of our Minnesota home. We drove there to see our second daughter and her husband and our son. We realize there’s some risk of COVID-19 exposure involved given their jobs. But we can’t not see them. Well, I suppose we could, but…

Typically, we explore Madison’s art and food scene. But that last happened during a mid-February visit, pre-virus spread here in the Midwest. Or at least knowledge of the spread. We limit our exploration now to whatever we can do outdoors, like walking the city bike trails and exploring other natural areas.

 

This farm site near St. Charles, Minnesota, in the heart of Amish country, is particularly lovely.

 

The drive to and from Madison is an easy one with four-lane highway or interstate all the way, except for a short stretch in Minnesota east of Owatonna. We left mid Saturday morning and expected uncrowded roadways. Instead, traffic proved plentiful as people embraced summer’s final weekend. Lots of pick-ups pulling campers. Westbound traffic was especially heavy on Saturday, eastbound on Monday. The opposite directions we were aiming.

 

I love this stretch of valley east of La Crosse for its scenic farm sites and landscape.

 

The scenery en route is particularly lovely, especially along the Mississippi River bluffs nearing La Crosse, Wisconsin. East of that river city, picturesque farms define the valley.

 

In Monroe County, rock formations rise from the land.

 

And later, rock formations rise alongside Interstate 90 like ships upon the sea.

 

I never tire of seeing these unusual rocks.

 

And then the Wisconsin Dells, with equally intriguing rock formations and tree buffeted gorges, offer another visual respite from the traffic. Even with all the detracting-from-nature waterparks.

 

Crops are ripening in Minnesota. This was the scene Labor Day afternoon as we returned home.

 

One of the aspects I most appreciate about Madison is its closeness to the rural landscape. This barn sits atop a hill just outside the city along I-90/94.

 

Rural Wisconsin as photographed from I-90/94.

 

I always appreciate the rural landscape of fields and barns.

 

Near Madison, this sign from a cattle breeder wishes travelers well. This makes me laugh.

 

And the humorous signage in Wisconsin. When you’re living in the middle of a pandemic, humor helps. To break up the drive and to break away for a moment from the seriousness of life.

 

On the drive home on Labor Day weekend, we were concerned about possible Interstate closure in La Crosse due to a visit by Vice President Mike Pence. Thankfully his visit did not affect us and we noticed nothing unusual except this flag on an overpass and a few strategically placed law enforcement vehicles.

 

TELL ME: Have you “gotten away” recently? Close to home? Or more distant?

Please check back for more posts from Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflecting on September 11 in photos from NYC, thoughts from Minnesota September 11, 2020

My son drew this picture of a plane aimed for the twin towers a year after 9/11. He was a third grader in a Christian school and needed to think of a time when it was hard to trust God. To this day, this drawing by my boy illustrates to me how deeply 9/11 impacted even the youngest among us.

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. The date is forever seared into our memories as the day terrorists targeted the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a jetliner flying over Pennsylvania. When those planes crashed. When those towers fell. When fires raged. When thousands died, we grieved. Individually. And collectively as a nation.

 

On the campus of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, a plaque honors an alumni, Ann Nelson. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2019.

 

Yet, as a Minnesotan nearly 1,200 miles removed from New York City and D.C. and Pennsylvania, I did not experience the same depth of fear and grief as others much nearer to the target sites or with loved ones lost.

 

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the tower. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Sure, I remember where I was—at home with my kindergarten age son and another boy in my care. I remember how the boys stacked wooden toy blocks and then crashed toy airplanes into the two towers, copying the scenes played and replayed on television because I could not bring myself to shut off the TV.

I recall, too, the eeriness, the feelings of uncertainty and worry and disbelief.

 

The Faribault firefighters pay special tribute to the fallen New York firefighters on their memorial sign. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But none of this, none of this second-hand experience, compares to those who lived it and saw it. Like NYC photographer Keith Goldstein, a gifted creative whose work I follow on his blog, Far Earth Below. Keith excels in portrait photography. On the street, not the studio. Real. Everyday life. Raw and emotional and difficult sometimes to view. But honest in every way.

Keith was there on 9/11. He saw the devastation, destruction, death as he headed from his East Village home toward the towers. He found himself unable to photograph the horror unfolding before him. But several years later, as construction began on the Freedom Tower, he lifted his camera to undertake a project, “Looking On, Watching the Building of the Freedom Tower.”

The photos of people watching construction of the tower are signature Keith Goldstein. Honest. Emotional. Real. Every time I view Keith’s work, I wonder how he does it. How does he manage these focused, powerful images without his subjects noticing his presence? It’s a gift, a talent honed from years of experience.

That talent was recognized by Olympus Passion, which published a portion of his “Looking On” project in November 2018. Keith shared that publication on his blog today and I invite you to study his images and read the story he wrote about his 9/11 experiences. I expect you will be as impressed as I am by his work and the insights his photos provide.

I invite you also to continue following Keith’s photo blog. I appreciate how his images show me a world far removed from my Minnesota home. A world much different. Yet, a world I need to see because, even though my life and world are much different than his, we still live in this place called America.

Keith is as kind and decent and caring as they come. We’ve communicated occasionally via email, so I know this to be true. Several years ago he gifted me with a colorful print on aluminum of an immigrant vending t-shirts. My choice of photos. Choosing an image proved challenging. But I wanted a portrait. Signature Keith.

As different as we are, we are connected by our love of photography. And by our desire to share the world we view through our cameras.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My writing publishes in The Talking Stick, Volume 29

Two stories and a poem I wrote just published in the latest The Talking Stick literary anthology.

 

AS A WRITER, getting one’s work published always validates personal creativity.

I’m honored to once again have my writing selected for publication in The Talking Stick literary journal, an annual project of the Park Rapids area based Jackpine Writers’ Bloc.

This year my short story, “Josephine Holding Deloris,” earned honorable mention in creative nonfiction. The story connects a 1 ½-inch square vintage family photo to my life experiences.

 

The beginning of my award-winning story.

 

Nonfiction judge Jill Johnson, author of several books, including Little Minnesota: 100 Towns Around 100, praises my work. “Thank you for sharing your touching story about your grandmother and aunt. You connected the tiny size of the photo to the small moments of life. You allowed the reader a vivid description of mother and daughter and brought the connection full circle. Keep writing!”

My poem, “Final Harvest,” and second piece of creative nonfiction, “A Quick Guide to Practicing Minnesota Nice,” were also chosen for publication in Insights, The Talking Stick, Volume 29.

This year’s book features 139 poems and stories (selected from 300 submissions) by 92 Minnesota-connected writers. My writing has published many times in The Talking Stick and earned multiple honors.

Copies of the latest book and past volumes are available for purchase at jackpinewriters.com. On the back cover of Insights, the editors note, “In the midst of social distancing, in the midst of mask wearing and Plexiglas shields, we are all grieving the changes in our world. But let’s keep one thing the same—you can still curl up with a good book and read. You can open the pages of Talking Stick 29 and see what your fellow Minnesota writers have written, and some how, perhaps, we can all feel a little bit closer.”

I’d encourage you to order a copy of this collection featuring so many talented writers. That includes Bernadette Hondl Thomasy, a native of Owatonna and a reader of this blog. Her “Mother’s Mojo” also earned honorable mention in creative nonfiction. She co-authored the book, Under Minnesota Skies, with her sister Colleen Hondl Gengler. Minnesota, in my opinion, has produced many gifted writers in all genres. And you’ll find a fine sampling of those creatives in Insights, The Talking Stick, Volume 29.

Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A delightful discovery in Madison: Mini gardens in the Atwood Neighborhood September 10, 2020

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Through the twigs I spotted this mini rabbit by a tree in the Atwood Neighborhood of Madison, Wisconsin.

 

SOMETIMES IT’S THE SMALL THINGS in life that bring the most joy. And that adage can apply to gardening.

 

An apartment complex under construction in the Atwood area of Madison.

 

This view from my son’s apartment balcony shows the bike trail crossing the street and the residences alongside.

 

Inside the restored historic Garver Feed Mill complex, now a gathering spot for food, entertainment and more in the Atwood Neighborhood. This photo was taken from the second floor, in mid-February, pre-COVID. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2020.

 

On a July trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to see family, Randy and I explored a block square residential area near our son’s apartment in the Atwood Neighborhood. This east-side area offers an appealing mix of single family homes, apartments and multi-family housing mingling with home-grown businesses. Add in the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, bike trails and Lake Monona and this part of the city presents an attractive place to live, especially for young professionals.

 

A water feature at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, Wisconsin, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2018.

 

A pizza place located inside the historic Garver Feed Mill complex, photographed before COVID-19 related restrictions.. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2020.

 

With UW-Madison located in the heart of downtown, you’ll find plenty of statues of Bucky Badger, the university’s mascot. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

Typically, Randy and I would explore Madison with our son, daughter and her husband. The city has much to offer in the arts, architecture, food and beverage scene, and the thriving Dane County Farmers’ Market centered around the state capitol (except now). But, because of COVID-19, we have limited our activities to walking. The daughter also lives next to a recreational trail on the opposite side of the city. Madison seems a model for getting around by foot or on two wheels versus solely by vehicle. Plenty of green space also defines this city.

 

Lilies bloomed in one yard.

 

From our stroll around the block, I observed how residents value their neighborhood. That shows in well-kept homes and yards, with flowers aplenty replacing the typical lawn. I love that concept of filling one’s outdoor space with plants and flowers. It seems more environmentally friendly and artistically inviting than a manicured, chemical-laced lawn.

 

Among vibrant phlox at the base of a tree, a sweet mini garden.

 

Through the Dusty Miller, I spotted a rabbit gardener.

 

In a neighborhood where many homeowners post inclusive, welcoming signs, I found this mini garden with the sign that rabbits are not welcome.

 

While taking in the nuances of the neighborhood, I discovered a sweet surprise in one yard. Mini garden art. Tiny scenes created with miniature figurines. Mostly rabbits. The unexpected find made me giddy.

 

I love how this prairie dropseed grass rolls.

 

When I looked closely, I discovered Mother Goose and family in the spirals of grass next to a rock.

 

Together Randy and I scanned the yard, spotting these magical scenes among spiraling prairie dropseed grass, at the base of trees, upon and next to rocks. For a few moments I immersed myself in finding and then photographing the mini garden art, all the while almost squealing with delight.

 

I love this simple mini garden art.

 

Randy alerted me that the homeowner was watching through a window. I hope he understood, while watching, just how much I appreciated his efforts that brought joy into my summer afternoon.

 

This scene seemed especially fitting given the bike trail just across the street.

 

Sometimes that’s all it takes. A little effort. A little creativity. A little caring about your neighborhood and about others to make a difference.

 

The mini garden scenes in this Atwood Neighborhood yard provide a delightful moment of escape from reality.

 

Especially during a global pandemic.

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Please check back for more posts from a more recent trip to Madison.

 

Oh, so excited to see an Oscar Mayer wiener on wheels September 9, 2020

Heading into Madison, Wisconsin. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 14, 2020.

 

SO…WE’RE DRIVING along the interstate, entering Madison, Wisconsin, on a mid-July afternoon. Traffic is getting heavier. Drivers are weaving their vehicles in and out of traffic lanes. Trip after trip to this capital city we’ve noticed the increases in speed and aggressive driving as we near Madison.

But this time something other than the traffic chaos diverts our attention. Up ahead I spot a bright yellow vehicle with what looks like a hot dog atop the roof. Could this be…yes, it is, the Wienermobile.

Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener…

Remember that jingle? I expect you do. The catchy words and tune proved memorable, an advertising success in promoting hot dogs.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 14, 2020.

 

On this summer day, one of six Wienermobiles circulating throughout the US is here, perhaps for a stop in Madison or on its way to Milwaukee or even Chicago to the east. I don’t know. But I smile at the sight of this American icon.

 

In Dane County, Wisconsin, location of the state capital, Madison. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 14, 2020.

 

The sighting led me to research the 27-foot-long Wienermobile, first created in 1936. That includes one crafted in Madison in 1969, recently restored and now under ownership of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Too big for the Society’s museum, the iconic “Old Number 7” Wienermobile will be displayed outside the downtown Madison museum during special events and also shown elsewhere in the state.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 14, 2020.

 

Up until the closure of the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison in June 2017, that Wienermobile stood outside company headquarters. When Oscar Mayer’s parent company, Kraft, merged with H.J. Heinz Co., corporate restructuring resulted in closure of the Madison facility. A local business staple for more than 100 years as a producer of hot dogs and lunch meat, this was a big loss to the city. The Madison plant at one time employed 4,000 people, but by 2013, only 1,300. Still, that’s a lot of jobs.

But, at least Madison kept its Wienermobile.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

View from my office window September 8, 2020

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ON A RECENT AFTERNOON, I took a visual break from the computer, a mental break from writing, to glance out my office window.

The view isn’t particularly lovely. Lots of parked vehicles in my line of vision. Almost like a car lot, a repair shop, a junkyard.

And then there’s the street itself, a main artery through Faribault, heavy with traffic. The drone of vehicles and wail of sirens assures few moments of peace.

So, when I take a break from work, that is what I see. I often wish my office was located elsewhere in our house, with a view of the wooded hillside that rises to the south and west. But, unless we move the kitchen or demolish the garage and add on, I’m stuck with this spot, this scene.

But, amid all of this, there is a splash of beauty in the flowers that rise right outside my office window. Phlox in white and shades of pink and purple. And hydrangea that anchor each side of the front steps, their massive flowers so beautiful that people occasionally stop to inquire about them. That includes a neighbor, a trucker, and the last person I would think interested in flowers. I’ve promised him hydrangea roots in the spring. Maybe he’ll give me some of his lovely peonies in return.

 

An Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly feeds on my phlox.

 

My perennials provide the nature perspective I need when breaking briefly from work. And, on a recent summer afternoon, those phlox presented even more—three Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies swooping, hovering, landing among the blossoms.

I grabbed my camera, with no intention of hurrying outside to photograph the butterflies. I knew from experience that they would be gone before I grabbed my shoes, flew outside and rounded the house. So I opted to photograph through the screen window, filthy from all the passing traffic.

The results were not sharp images and I deleted most. But one stood out. Soft. Butterfly feeding upon vivid pink blossoms. Poetic. Exquisite. A natural respite from the clutter that typically defines the view from my office window.

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling