Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflecting on Earth Day April 21, 2023

A retro tray I purchased at a second-hand shop. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

I AM OF THAT AGE, not quite old enough to have once considered myself a hippie, an anti-war activist or a rebellious, anti-establishment young person coming of age. But I did embrace the peace symbol and embroider flowers on my home-sewn gauzy shirts accenting lime green bell bottoms. I wore a prisoner of war bracelet and Earth Shoes, a marketing gimmick more than anything.

Golden light slices across the sky above Mother Earth at King Mill Dam in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2018)

I was on the edge of a generation that no longer accepted the status quo. The generation that latched onto causes, the generation weary of war and wanting to effect change. That applied also to the early 1970s growing awareness of environmental issues and an earth which needed, still needs, protecting, nurturing, care.

A banner marks the 2022 Earth Day Celebration at Bridge Square in Northfield. This year’s event has been moved indoors to First United Church of Christ. For a complete listing of 2023 events, click here. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2022)

In 1970, the first celebration of Earth Day happened. Now here we are 53 years later and still trying to deal with issues affecting our planet. A lot of good has happened in those five decades, especially in creating awareness. Sometimes that has led to action. But a lot has also deteriorated.

I thought about that, specifically, “What do I do in my everyday life that reflects care for the world in which I live?”

Topping my list is buying used rather than new. It helps that I really don’t like to shop and that I don’t even care about stuff all that much. No one will ever view me as fashion conscious. I simply don’t care.

This peace-themed art painted on burlap by Jose Maria de Servin, is one of my favorite artworks. I purchased it at a recycled art sale at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Nearly all of the furniture in my house has come from family, garage sales or thrift shops. The same for art. I love art. It is admittedly my one indulgence. But the art I own—and it’s a lot, enough so that I rotate it off and on my walls—has come from second-hand sources. The dishes in my cupboard were my mom’s. Drinking glasses are vintage. Serving pieces and bowls were passed down or purchased second-hand.

Hanging laundry on the line has been around forever. I photographed this clothespin bag in an exhibit, “Making Lyon County Home,” at the Lyon County Historical Society Museum in Marshall. And, yes, I have a clothespin bag. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2022)

Then there’s laundry. For decades I’ve dried laundry outside on a clothesline. I love the task of rhythmically clipping clothing to line. It’s therapeutic in connecting me with nature. I feel the sun, if it’s shining. Or I feel the nip of frosty weather numbing my fingers. I feel the wind, hear the birds, notice the shift of seasons. I am attune to Earth.

In the winter, I layer laundry over a drying rack. Seldom do I use my electric dryer. I’m trying to conserve energy, do my part.

A reminder at last year’s Northfield Earth Day to stop using plastic bags. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2022)

I also use cloth bags. But only sometimes. I take my boomer-rang cloth bag to bag books at the library. At least I’m consistent with that. But I need to use cloth all the time at all the grocery stores I shop, not just the one that requires bringing your own bags.

I recycle wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbon, bows and gift bags to the point that my extended family ridicules me for that behavior. I learned this from my mom, who did the same, but for economic reasons. I don’t care if my siblings laugh. I’m doing what’s environmentally right.

Admittedly, I can do more. But it’s a start. Every single effort, big or small, matters. We only have one Earth and we all need to care, and do our part.

Chalked onto the sidewalk at Northfield’s Bridge Square during the 2022 Earth Day Celebration. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2022)

TELL ME: What are you doing in an effort to protect and care for our planet?

FYI: Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day. Celebrations are planned locally in Northfield and also at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “Reflecting on Earth Day”

  1. Happy Earth Day, Audrey! ❤

  2. Ida Fetterer Says:

    Audrey, I think we were twins in a earlier life. Ditto to nearly everything you said, the same here.
    I had to laugh about the recycling the gift wrap and tissue paper and bows……my kids laugh at me over that, but I am just fine with how I operate my own home and how I was raised. I had a good Mom and Dad and have no regrets about the frugal we were raised.

    • Ida, it seems we do have a lot in common in values and how we were raised. Keep recycling those gift wrap items.

      Did I ever tell you that my paternal grandma’s name was Ida? Loved her so much. She quilted, shared stories, just loved on me, even with 40 some grandchildren.

      • Ida Fetterer Says:

        That is so sweet to hear that you have such wonderful memories of your Grandma Ida.
        I was named after my Grandma Ida, but I was 5 when she went onto heaven. I have a very few memories of her, but everyone that knew her said what a “lamb” she was. A Norwegian with blue eyes and a sweet soul. I have a clothes line and a cloth clothes pin bag as well, but it was nearly falling apart and had to put it up and store it with some of my more memorable things. I learned everything from a Mom who was a farmer’s daughter, shall I say.

      • I would have loved your grandma Ida. And your mom, too, like mine, a farmer’s daughter. Yes, you and I are very much alike.

  3. Judith Rowe Says:

    Interesting reading Audrey, thank you. My mother grew up during the depression, soon followed by WWII, with severe rationing of food & clothes. Make do and mend was the motto, as well as waste not, want not, and I still follow her example. The new slogans of re-use, repurpose, recycle are now for the planet, as well as thrift. I think people are learning again not to be reckless with the earth’s finite resources. And I save gift wrapping too!

  4. Good for you! I always use reusable grocery bags and recycle as much as possible. It takes all of us!

  5. I totally reuse bows and ribbon and tissue paper. Wrapping paper doesn’t seem to save as well but yeah- why buy new of that when it totally still looks nice and works?!

  6. Valerie Says:

    I do a lot of the same things as you…except hang my laundry on the line. I do occasionally in the summer, but it is not the norm for me. It makes me happy that you do!

  7. beth Says:

    all of your initiatives are wonderful and I wish everyone was as diligent as you, our world would certainly be in a much better place. I’m not much for things either, and have a treasured kitchen table, with the top made from one piece of wood, rickety and old, nick and bumps on it, that my daughters bought for me at a resale shop many years ago for $7 and it is one of my most prized possessions.

    • Your $7 kitchen table sounds like a treasure. What a deal.

      My table came from a neighbor back home, bought it at his farm auction and love every single nick, dent, scratch…my favorite piece of furniture.

      • beth Says:

        I do treasure it and your table sounds a lot like mine)

      • Mine is a large dining room table that comes with four leaves, so it’s expansive if all are put in place. It’s oval-shaped with curved legs, made of dark stained wood. The nicks and scratches have come since we bought, refinished and used the table for the past 40 years. Lots of memories connected to that table purchased from neighbor George’s farm auction.

  8. Sandra Says:

    When one marries in the 60s, furniture is laminate yucky, one loves all things oak/maple/walnut, one buys used. Still own the folks 1933 bedroom set and one off a 1920s estate sale. I’m getting with the plastics programs, but the clothesline has passed me by. As a nation, we’re doing much better, but about that electric bill! You are a shining example, Xcel should pay you.

  9. Just sat down to write my Hummmm…Earth Day Reflections and read your blog. Audrey, you do more than most people I know as far as recycle, reuse, repurpose. If each of us ALL HUMANs did these easy and simple things the Earth would start to repair the damage we are doing. If each of us stopped before we opened our wallets and asked “do we really need this product?” We all could be part of the solution and not the problem.

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