Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The woods are… April 6, 2022

Inside the woods at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault, MN. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

FOR SOMEONE LIKE ME who grew up on the prairie, woods are not a natural fit. I’ve always felt a bit out of place in the density of trees. Uncomfortable even. But time and distance from a landscape of big sky and wide open spaces have eased me into the woods.

A view of the Straight River from Honor Point. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I appreciate woods, as long as there aren’t “too many” trees. I need to see glimpses, even vistas, of openness. River Bend Nature Center in Faribault offers both. Prairie and woods.

Love this quote on a memorial sign at River Bend. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

On a recent visit, I followed trails into the woods. And, as always, I noticed the beauty therein. I view the natural world through many lenses. Close-up. From afar. With an artsy perspective. But mostly with a deep appreciation.

This mottling on a tree trunk looks like art to me. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

It doesn’t take much to catch my eye, to cause me to pause and reflect. Photograph. Delight. Savor the moment, the scene.

I’m always drawn to leaves in water, here in a melting snow puddle along a trail. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
Loved spotting this patch of green in mid-March. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)
Tangled branches and blue sky. Beautiful. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

If you walk with me into the woods, you won’t fast track from Point A to Point B. Sometimes I go at a rapid pace. But most of the time, I can’t. Because I simply see too much. Poetry in puddled leaves. Spring in a patch of green grass. Abstract art in a mottled tree trunk. Dancers in twisted branches.

It took me awhile to get this focused shot with my zoom lens of a flitting cardinal. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Sights and sounds draw me to linger in the woods. The shrill call of a cardinal and a flash of red cause me to pause. I wait. Listen. Photograph.

The sign pointing to the Turtle Pond, where the turtles had not yet emerged on my March 19 visit. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

I feel such a sense of wonderment in it all. A peace, too, that comes only from immersing one’s self in the natural world. In the chaos and noises of life, the woods are on this day, indeed, my sanctuary.

TELL ME: How do you react to the natural world?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “The woods are…”

  1. beth Says:

    I love to wander through the woods, I always discover something and leave somehow better than when I entered. I can understand what a big adjustment that must be for you, having grown up in wide open spaces

  2. Great Capture of the Cardinal 🙂 Birds rarely stop moving so hard to get a good pic of them at times. You know me and my love of nature. I am so lucky to be up on the 3rd floor at work and have my own Nat Geo out the window plus a beautiful campus to walk with fauna and flora and birds and turtles. I have a natural sanctuary at home and love sharing that with the birds, bees, butterflies, etc. Love getting out into the great outdoors or out on the water in my kayak. Happy Exploring – Happy Escaping to Our Happy Places – Enjoy!

    • Thank you. That was actually my first shot of the cardinal, although I took many more, just to be sure I had a good one. Yes, birds are difficult to photograph.

      It sounds like you work and live in a wonderful natural environment and enjoy every minute of that.

    • I grew up in Florida on the Fort Lauderdale/Miami side. When we started looking for places to move to we did not know it would take 2 years and many States and Countries to decide where to land. While on vacation to the Tampa side within 3 days we knew this was “the place”. We are happy and making a home here – best decision!

      • I’m thankful you found your “happy place.” I thought you grew up in Minnesota???

      • My home base was MN, however; throughout my childhood I spent time with my grandma who had a place in Michigan as well as Florida. She was a retired educator and I would revert to homeschooling when with her. I know to a degree that inspired the gypsy in me – ha!

      • Ah, OK, now it makes sense. I do recall you using that term “gypsy” in the past. It seems to fit. I love that word. My paternal grandma used to mention gypsies in her storytelling.

  3. Valerie Says:

    I love being outdoors,,,in the woods, near water, on the prairie. Riverbend offers it all. It’s a great place.

  4. Carolyn Says:

    Living on the edge of 20 acres of woods, I can relate to finding peace walking in the woods. A favorite quotation comes from John Muir, “in every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” “Time spent among trees is never wasted time.” Is another favorite. Enjoyed your photos, subjects look familiar, as I live just miles from you.

  5. I am opposite to you, growing up in the Northern Minnesota woods I feel lost on a wide open prairie. I need trees, lots of them!
    Nature of all sorts is a healer for the human soul. It connects us to the circle of life, minds us to look for a deeper connection. Shows us the wonder and miracles of life and death. Much we all can learn from listening and connecting with nature.

  6. Caryl Larson Says:

    I agree with you. I like to visit Northern Minnesota, it’s beautiful, but too many trees. I’m a flat-lander. I need to see the horizon, see the weather moving in.

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