Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Embracing nature, seeking peace in chaos October 7, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:00 AM
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Posted near the amphitheater at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault, Minnesota.

IN EVERY WALK with nature one receives far more than he seeks—John Muir.

A scene at River Bend, looking from the swamp across the prairie to the distant treeline on Sunday afternoon.

Those words, imprinted upon a memorial plaque at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, hold a depth of meaning worth pondering. To think that every walk outdoors gives us more than we expect, or search out, seems valid. Especially now, during COVID-19, when many of us are rediscovering the beauty and healing power of the natural world.

Even the drying swamp grasses prove beautiful against the autumn sky.

Are you among the many embracing the outdoors with renewed enthusiasm and appreciation? I certainly am.

This is an example of the many beautiful tree-lined streets in Faribault. I shot this along Second Avenue, with Central Park on the left and The Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior on the right.
To the northeast of Cannon City, we stopped along a back gravel road so I could photograph this distant, colorful hillside across acres of ripening corn.
Northbound along Interstate 35 just north of Faribault, leaves are changing color.

Whether walking at a local park or hiking through a nature center or following a city street or driving along a back country road or even traveling along a busy interstate, I feel a heightened sense of gratitude for the sky, the trees, the land, all that surrounds me.

Wildflowers still bloom at River Bend as autumn wanes.

And as autumn presses on toward winter, I also feel an urgency to get outside. On foot before ice and snow pack trails and I feel less secure in my footing. Maybe this will be the winter I buy metal grippers that clamp onto my boots. Maybe this will be the winter I reclaim my youthful enthusiasm for the season.

A prairie plaque honors a volunteer at River Bend.

Many days I long to get away. Away from traffic and noise and busyness and people to the quiet of woods, the silence of the prairie, the peace that nature offers.

Autumn colors trees at River Bend.

There’s so much turmoil now. Too much hatred. Too much dissent and too much untruth and too much of everything that’s mean and unkind and disrespectful of others. I yearn for a world where we all hold genuine compassion and care for one another.

The hole, the decay, in this tree reminds me in some ways of our country right now.

I’ve never, in my sixty-plus decades on this earth, witnessed such chaos, discord, selfishness…

Like these bold berries pop color into the River Bend landscape, we can pop positivity into the world. We can choose to be bold, to stand for decency and the common good.

I have within me the power to act with decency, with empathy, with understanding. With kindness.

North of Faribault along I-35.

To settle my mind into a frame of peacefulness, I embrace prayer and nature. To do so is to receive more than I seek.

Currently, I am reading The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness, and Happiness Through the Power of Sisu. A friend, who recently moved to the lakes region of central Minnesota, gifted Katja Pantzar’s book to me. I’m only 58 pages into the read. But already the words written therein about the Finns’ resilience and close connection to nature resonate. In two more chapters, I’ll be into “Nature Therapy, The Benefits of a Walk in the Woods.”

In the woods at River Bend…

I don’t expect the contents of that chapter to surprise me. Whether walking in the woods or through a city park, we can benefit from simply being in nature. To feel the warmth of sunshine, to hear the rush of wind through trees, to watch water tumble over rocks, to smell the scent of autumn…all calm the spirit, restore peace, and lift moods. What a gift.

TELL ME: Are you rediscovering nature during COVID-19? If so, in what ways has this helped you deal with the pandemic? What’s your favorite nature spot?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “Embracing nature, seeking peace in chaos”

  1. lisasimons12 Says:

    I got Wi-Fi on the plane, so that I could work as I return to MN from WA after spending a week in Seattle with my family for my brother’s 50th birthday. We are flying over mountains as I type this (we took off as the sun rose, and we had a clear view of Mt. Rainier), and I am always in awe as I fly over the country: it’s stunning. It doesn’t show what you wrote, Audrey, the hatred, the untruth, the chaos, the decay, the disrespect, the selfishness. I, too, hope we get decency and the goal of common good back.

    • Thank you, Lisa, for your observations from above. It’s reassuring to read this perspective, which gives me hope. Hope that we can work through this, that we can work for the common good, that decency and respect and much more can be restored. It starts with each of us. Individually. Thank you, Lisa, for caring and for always working to bring people together, to close the gaps that divide us. I appreciate you.

  2. Larry Gavin Says:

    Found my outdoor walks went deeper when they had a purpose centered in active things. Your camera is probably what does it for you. A good bird book, prairie grass I.d. Guide can add to the experience too.

    That led to collecting mushrooms for me.

    I doubt you will be sitting in a tree stand with a bow, but the power of the outdoors is peaked when observing for the purpose of collecting sustenance. Enjoy the posts!

    • Larry, I always appreciate hearing from you and reading your thoughtful and insightful comments. You are correct. My camera connects me with nature by causing me to pause and notice the details. That said, I’ve always been detail-oriented. I attribute some of that to my prairie upbringing, which I expect you understand given your time living there.

      Your other notations about a good bird book, a prairie grass i.d. guide and even bow hunting as ways to connect seem spot on. You’re right, you won’t find me hunting, bow or otherwise.

      Congratulations to you on your continued publishing successes (Lost Lake Folk Opera, for example). I consider you an incredibly gifted poet and I love listening to you read your work in your rich voice. I expect you’re fully enjoying retirement.

  3. Beautiful post 🙂 There was a special visitor the other day in the work back parking lot; a Bald Eagle and amazing to see up closer than normal. I am a nature and outdoors lover and nothing better than a few hours out walking around with camera in hand like you do. Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • Oh, wow, I would have been quite excited to see that bald eagle that close. Fortunately for me, our family member’s lake property includes resident bald eagles. So whenever we stay in the guest cabin, I have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the eagles. Sometimes with my camera, but sometimes without.

      Happy Day to you also as you are out in nature, camera or not.

  4. We have definitely been outside as much as we possibly can be during the past 8 months and it has been marvelous. Even if it is just sitting on our back deck, looking at the lake and all the great wildlife, it fills my soul up. There is just nothing like being outdoors in my humble opinion. And fortunately we live in a place that allows for that for most of the year with a month or two being a little colder and a chance of snow but sometimes that is also a welcome change. Enjoy your fall, Audrey.

  5. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    My favorite spot is the cabin, plenty right here to soothe my senses! No media access to hear the negative day-to-day political crud and all the unrest going on in our country. I’m as happy as a lark to just “BE”. The rustling leaves, changing colors right before my eyes, the water dancing and lapping against the shoreline, and the smell of autumn. As I type I just spotted a deer walking through our next-door neighbors yard, that was unexpected but fun to see.

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