THE CITY OF NORTHFIELD, about a 20-minute drive northeast of my Faribault home, has long-rated as one of my favorite Minnesota communities. For many reasons.
It’s situated along the banks of the Cannon River, making for a picturesque setting.
Homegrown businesses fill the historic downtown, which edges the river. Here you’ll still find an independent bookstore plus antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, an arts center, the public library and much more.
And, in the heart of Northfield’s business district you’ll also find a community gathering spot. Bridge Square. Here you can buy popcorn from a vintage wagon in the summer, take the kids or grandkids to visit Santa during the holiday season. You can rest here on a bench and engage in conversation. Watch the river flow by or the water fall over the fountain sculpture or the nearby dam.
But Bridge Square is so much more than a Norman Rockwell-like place to meet, gather and relax. It’s also a spot where opinions are expressed. Students from St. Olaf and Carleton, two noted private liberal arts colleges based in Northfield, use this space to gather and voice their concerns. And, even though I may not always agree with their views, I appreciate that they share them. To see young people concerned enough about an issue to publicly express their thoughts gives me hope.
For the first time in a long time, I feel hope. Out of all the chalked messages I read on Sunday while at Bridge Square, I found one that really spoke to me. Peace vs division. Oh, how we need that. Peace. Not division.
That stop at Northfield’s town square, with so many issues printed in chalk on cement, could easily have overwhelmed me. I could have despaired at all the problems that need fixing. But rather, I choose to see this as an acknowledgment of concerns. Of the possibilities. Of the solutions. Of choices which can bring peace rather than division.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Poetry in sidewalks starts my day with hope for a new start!
I appreciate poetry in sidewalks also.
I choose peace. 😉
You radiate peace.
I love this story. It does indeed offer hope when we stumble across messages of peace right under our feet. Love the town of Northfield and look forward to shopping there post-pandemic. It’s a nice little field trip from the Twin Cities.
These are truly the moments that hold deep meaning, when they happen, unexpectedly, in every day life. We didn’t enter any shops downtown Northfield, simply walked along the river walk, through Bridge Square and then on the sidewalk along Division Street. The encouraging thing about Northfield is that people downtown are wearing masks. They are respectful. I feel relatively safe. But, unfortunately, that is not happening in way too many places. Today Rice County recorded 58 new COVID cases. I am thankful the governor is announcing new restrictions this afternoon. They can’t come soon enough. Really, we just need people to take COVID seriously, adhere to mask mandates and follow health and safety guidelines. Sorry, I got off topic. But I’m so incredibly frustrated by all the people I see in Faribault who are not masked.
Thanks for this. I moved back to Northfield in 2004 (graduated from St. Olaf in 1968) and have since written five books about this community (the Lyceum Building, Historic Happenings in Northfield, at St. Olaf and Carleton and the St. Olaf Band history with Jeff Sauve). The James-Younger gang robbed the bank in 1876 but there is so much more history than that!
You are welcome, Susan. I’ve read your writing, published in the entertainment guide. I’ve always enjoyed learning more about Northfield through your well-researched and well-written pieces. Congratulations on publishing five books on Northfield. That’s quite an accomplishment. And welcome to Minnesota Prairie Roots. I’m happy to have you here.
Thanks for your kind words, Audrey. As it turns out, when The Entertainment Guide expanded beyond Northfield I began to also write columns about other towns, including Faribault and Cannon Falls. The Guide recently has made all 119 of my columns from 2007-2016 (plus one on the St. Olaf Band book in 2019) available online. https://entertainmentguidemn.com/historic-happenings/ I look forward to seeing your future entries. We both know history matters!
Thanks for sharing that info about your columns, Susan. Yes, history matters.