Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Beauty in the greying of Minnesota January 13, 2021

Rime ice coats an evergreen tree at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

FOG TRANSFORMS THE LANDSCAPE, sometimes in to an unfamiliar place that leaves us feeling disoriented, lost. But other times, like last week here in Minnesota, fog layered trees with rime ice, creating an enchanting, almost magical world. Despite the grey that pressed heavy upon the land day after day.

Set along Minnesota State Highway 3 between Faribault and Northfield, this barn looks lovely any time of year, even in winter. Love love love this weathered building.

Photographing a world covered in frozen fog droplets proved difficult for me. My camera cannot convey the beauty the human eye sees. Yet, I managed a few images that attempt to show the other worldly qualities of a rime ice shrouded landscape.

Even the ice edging water falling over the Cannon River dam by Father Slevin Park in Faribault possesses a distinct artistry.

I find that in winter here in southern Minnesota, I must look harder to notice nature’s beauty. It’s there, but toned down, converted to black-and-white. Grey. Colorless. Yet present.

A broader view of those iced evergreen trees.

Still, I take fewer photos. Not only because I see less to document, but because the very act of exposing my fingers to the cold is uncomfortable. (I’m thankful for mittens that open to fingerless gloves, a thoughtful gift from Randy many years ago.)

I’m also cautious about icy surfaces, lest I fall and break another bone. A broken shoulder and wrist in recent years, one of which resulted in surgery, fuel that cautiousness.

The snow and ice-shrouded Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf campus is a beautiful and quiet place to walk. I love the many aged buildings including Noyes Hall, pictured here. Some day, post COVID, I need an indoor tour.

And then there’s COVID, which has certainly affected my photographic opportunities. Still, if I determine to look closely at the world around me, decide that my fingers can handle brief cold exposure, I can continue to document, to create, to pursue my passion for photography.

This week brought sunshine to Minnesota, a welcome break from all that dreary grey. We, or at least I, needed it, if anything, as a symbol of hope during these truly difficult times in our country.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Beauty in the greying of Minnesota”

  1. jhc1218 Says:

    We’ve also been loving the rime ice on our early morning walks. The sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular lately. I was telling Jason this must be God’s way of showing everlasting love and beauty during these unsettling human times.

  2. I have to say there is beauty in the white stuff as well as the ice 🙂 Stay Warm, Be Safe and Take Care. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  3. Ken Wedding Says:

    Hope this all fits. Thought of your thoughts when I read this.

    From: The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, January 13, 2021

    Hoarfrost and Fog
    by Barton Sutter

    • Ken, thank you for directing us to Barton Sutter’s poem on The Writer’s Almanac. Because of copyright concerns, I am not republishing the poem here. But, dear readers, please follow through the find the poem if this interests you. Thank you, Ken.

  4. marc reigel Says:

    Dear Audrey – I so enjoy your posts as a kind of archival process of documentation. But also, they’re a reminder of the things I value about southern Minnesota. I grew up in Owatonna in the 50s and 60s, went to OHS when we were permitted to be called The Indians. Faribault, still The Falcons, I’m guessing – just 15 miles away, provided a wonderful main street for cruising back then, as did Owatonna – but what’s the fun in just seeing guys you know trolling the streets? And then I went to college at Carleton, and Northfield was home to my grandparents and a pair of aunts and uncles and seven cousins. So I know from the places you document.

    And so today, I read your post on “Finding beauty in the grey of winter,” featuring photos of fabulous barn and hoar frost clinging to pines. So, thank you for your blog.

    But, wait – there’s more! Right next to “Minnesota Prairie Roots” in my inbox queue is Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac,” the poem in which is entitled ‘Hoar Frost and Fog.’ The parallels in your photo graphs to his poem are numerous and powerful. The total effect, then, is a reminder to find beauty in the truth of winter, as Keats suggests in ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn.’ Thank you for this confluence to start my day, another gray one in January during the Winter of our Discontent.

    • Marc, thank you for your kind words about Minnesota Prairie Roots. I appreciate that you appreciate my documentation of life and place here in southern Minnesota. Thank you also for passing along Barton Sutter’s poem. Because of copyright concerns, I am not republishing it here. Hopefully readers will follow through and find it on their own. Reader Ken passed along the same poem. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. I appreciate you.

  5. Gunny Says:

    Marc made a comment on the “hoar frost” – a term not needed in South Texas and which few would know the meaning of. However, his comment brought to mind a Marine officer by the name of Hoar. Most people were embarrassed to call or be introduced to his wife “Mrs’ Hoar” (LOL)

    That aside, the scenes you capture are ones of poetic / natural beauty. Ah, I miss the days of walking by myself through fresh fallen snow during a soft snowfall giving me time to reflect, and ponder on past, present and future. My other half thrives on bright sunny days.

  6. I’ve missed getting out with my camera, life just get busy! You’ve given me a nudge with the beautiful photos you’ve posted. Hoping to finally get some snow tonight into Friday.

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