Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A country drive to see fall colors northwest of Faribault October 6, 2022

A view of the colorful foliage along Seventh Street in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

ON THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE DAY of viewing fall colors in southern Minnesota, Randy and I headed northwest of Faribault to area lakes. But even before we got out of town, we drove along two city streets—Second Avenue by Bethlehem Academy north to Seventh Street and then Seventh Street—which are particularly beautiful in autumn. There’s no need to leave Faribault to see stunning trees of orange, red and yellow mixed with brown and green.

A sweeping view of Kelly Lake and the colorful treeline. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Yet, there’s something about a colorful lakeshore treeline against the October sky that is particularly lovely. Thus I suggest a country drive. Perhaps my favorite area autumn color viewing spot is at the public boat landing on Kelly Lake. We return there each fall and Randy joked that I could just use the same photos taken last year. I didn’t.

Belview Trail just outside Faribault winds past farm sites. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Hay bales line a hillside along CR 64. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)
A well-kept barn near Roberds Lake. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

We edged Roberds Lake after trailing a winding gravel road past farm sites. Country drives are, by definition, about immersing ourselves in the country. Appreciating ripening corn and soybean fields, stately barns, ginormous round hay bales staged in a field… And then hugging the side of the road upon meeting a massive combine.

Sun and clouds mix over colorful woods near Roberds Lake. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Mostly, I take in the landscape, this October day set against moody clouds on blue sky. Clouds create interest, depth, interesting patterns to backdrop fields and trees.

Shoreline and lake merge to create a “painting” of Kelly Lake. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

I see curves and lines and the way everything flows, first with my eyes, then through the viewfinder of my aged Canon EOS 20-D camera. Water flows into trees, trees into sky. It all comes together to create this scene, this autumn.

A view of Lake Mazaska through the shoreline grasses. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

At the west-side boat landing in Shieldsville, Randy noted the low water level of Lake Mazaska. It would be impossible to launch a boat here. I photographed the lake through a stand of grass, perhaps bulrushes. A peeling, aged sign a block away landmarked Bulrush Bay.

Brilliant sumac by Kelly Lake. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Individual leaves and stems of grass don’t go unnoticed. The singleness merges into the whole. This whole of autumn in Rice County.

A picturesque creek along County Road 64/Irwin Trail. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

We lunched at McCullough County Park on Shields Lake, swatting bees and beetles, before continuing our drive along County Road 64/Irwin Trail. An especially picturesque creek cutting through the land called for a stop, a photo.

One of many winding gravel roads we followed through the countryside, around lakes… (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

And then onward we drove, up and down and all around on gravel roads, the van kicking dust.

Among the many wooded hillside ablaze in color. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Traveling at a slower pace allows for taking in the unfolding landscape. Cornfield nudging a clump of colored trees. So much to see if only we look.

The historic Czech church and surrounding cemetery in Shieldsville Township. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

And then a stop, an opportunity to stretch our legs and explore Trebon Cemetery surrounding an historic Czech church, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, established in 1886. We discovered this sacred place at the intersection of County Road 63/Kanabec Avenue and County Road 37/160th Street West several years ago. Like last visit, I wished I could get inside the church, but had to settle for peering through windows. The view of the countryside from the cemetery grounds is stunning.

This smiley face is a local landmark along Roberds Lake Boulevard. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Aiming back toward Faribault, we passed the smiley face painted on the side of a building at the intersection of Roberds Lake Boulevard and County Road 37/West 185th Street. It’s been there forever, a rural landmark that makes me smile every time I see that happiness icon.

I appreciate homemade signage, including this well-worn sign by Lake Mazaska. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Several hours in the rural Rice County countryside filled my spirit with happiness. Autumn has a way of weaving joy into my life with her color, her last hurrah before winter arrives. So I say, get out there. Take a country drive. Slow down. Pause. Delight in these October days.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A commentary: Called to help others

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:14 AM
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Seeking help in Monticello. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

THIS MORNING IN READING one of two daily devotionals, I was reminded of the need to help others. The referenced scripture, Leviticus 25: 35-37, published with the October 6 Our Daily Bread devotion, brought back a scene which unfolded recently in Monticello.

On our way home from a short stay at a family member’s central Minnesota lake cabin, I spotted a woman holding a sign along State Highway 25 just before the Interstate 94 overpass. She stood in a center island, at a stoplight, traffic swarming around her. Her sign, with many misspellings, requested help for her and her three children. Help to pay for food and rent. Basic needs.

I felt in that moment a sense of compassion, yet an inability to aid this woman. And, I admit, I also felt a bit of uncertainty, a hesitancy, a questioning of whether she truly was in need. That reaction bothers me. Why couldn’t I simply trust the truthfulness of her request?

That brings me back to Leviticus, chapter 25, verse 35:

If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.

That’s a powerful directive. Help him, or in the case of the woman in Monticello, her. Whether you are a person of faith or not, the Bible holds important messages that today fit the definition of “social justice.” Compassion. Mercy. Grace.

Not all of us are in a financial position to assist with gifts of money. But there are many other ways to help our friends, family, neighbors and, yes, even strangers. Encourage via kind and supportive words—written or spoken. I like to send uplifting cards with handwritten notes of encouragement. Pray. Engage in conversation, mostly listening. It’s about taking the focus off ourselves and placing it on others. Educate yourself via reading, attending community events that enlighten and more. Volunteer.

The woman in Monticello, even though I couldn’t aid her, gives me pause to reflect. So many people are struggling. With health issues, relationships, finances, simply trying to meet basic needs. Throw in the current divisiveness in this country, an ongoing pandemic, worldwide threats and conflicts, and the situation can feel overwhelming. Yet, we are all capable of doing something. Of reaching out with compassion and care. Of connecting. Of encouraging, supporting, uplifting in some way, large or small, that shows our humanity.

TELL ME: In what ways have you helped others, whether family, friends or strangers? Specifics are especially welcome.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling