Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Vikings fan for a day plus January 15, 2018

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Chilling beer Minnesota style in the snow. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I CAN’T RECALL the last time I watched a professional football game on TV.

But there I was Sunday afternoon, hunkered down on the couch watching the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Yes, I suppose you might term me a fair weather fan, if that. Until yesterday, I didn’t know any of the players’ names. And until several days ago, I knew nothing of SKOL, the Vikings’ fan chant.

 

Vikings pride displayed atop a home in Waterville. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

After a smashing first half, the home team seemed poised to easily win the play-off game. So Randy and I broke for supper, only to return to a stalled game and then an upset lead by the Saints. About that time I could barely bear to watch, diverting my attention instead to a John Sandford mystery.

 

The car of a Vikings fan photographed in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Randy, though, insisted the Vikes could still win. I didn’t believe him. Then it happened, in the last play of the game. Quarterback Case Keenum fired the ball to Stefon Diggs who nearly slipped, then regained his footing and ran in for the winning touchdown. And, yes, I saw the game winning play.

 

US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, in downtown Minneapolis and site of Super Bowl 2018. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2016.

 

With a Vikings win of 29-24, the team is now one game from competing in the Super Bowl right here in Minnesota.

 

My snow boots. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

After a bit of whooping and hollering, I launched myself from my reclining spot, grabbed by winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves, laced my boots, and stepped outside. To shovel snow.

TELL ME: Did you watch the game? Do you think the Vikings will make it into the Super Bowl?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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The power of words at the highest level January 12, 2018

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LAST EVENING I FINISHED reading 365 Days of Wonder, Mr. Browne’s Precepts: A Quote for Every Day of the Year About Courage, Friendship, Love, and Kindness by R. J. Palacio. The book packs powerful quotes that inspire, uplift and, most of all, cause readers to pause and think. Exactly what we need. Especially this morning in the light of President Donald Trump’s latest reported vulgar comment on immigrants and his subsequent denial.

While reading those precepts, I simultaneously started reading The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess the President by Bandy Lee. I’m only 60 pages into this book. But nothing—bullying, narcissism, racism—I’ve read thus far, and tagged to the President, surprises me. Nothing.

What will come out of this man’s mouth next? When you’re a powerful world leader like the President, especially, words matter. As they do with all of us.

I realize that in writing this post, I’m not exactly being Minnesota Nice. While I respect the Office of the Presidency, I don’t respect this President.

Perhaps Mr. Trump should read 365 Days of Wonder, Mr. Browne’s Precepts: A Quote for Every Day of the Year About Courage, Friendship, Love, and Kindness. I’m returning the book to my library tomorrow…so it’s available for check out.

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NOTE: All comments are moderated. You can disagree with me. But please keep comments civil, considering that words do matter.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

January grief January 11, 2018

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I TRAILED MY HUSBAND as he wheeled his dad through double doors and across door mats, guiding him between a duo line of young men waiting outside the care center.

Just moments earlier the group carried their grandmother’s casket, grey as the January skies that matched the mood of this Wednesday afternoon in central Minnesota.

Randy veered his dad’s wheelchair to the left, behind the coffin, behind the hearse that would carry my father-in-law’s wife two hours west to her burial plot in Montevideo. There she would be laid to rest in the cold soil beside her first husband.

Earlier we gathered inside the care center chapel to remember Jan and to seek comfort in words of Scripture, song, prayer and memories. I learned of my step mother-in-law’s fondness for Tator Tot Hotdish and doughnuts as my own memories surfaced of a woman who always looked lovely with nails painted, hair done, and clothes and jewelry just so. Twenty-two years ago I photographed her marriage to Tom, Randy standing beside him then just as he was now.

Now, with her family preparing for the 100-mile funeral processional westward, my wheelchair bound father-in-law had his final moments with his second wife. It took one heave of Tom’s shoulders for Randy to place his hand upon his dad’s shoulder in a loving and tender act of comfort. I did likewise as the funeral director slid the grey casket, brightened by a lovely spray of red flowers, inside the hearse, then shut the doors.

In that act of finality, grief for my father-in-law surged through me. To see him lose a second wife 24 years after losing his beloved Betty hurt my heart.

Yet, we are people of faith, confident that Jan, like Betty, is now in heaven, and no longer suffering. That comforted us as we headed back inside the care center to sip coffee and to eat ham sandwiches (made with homemade buns), chips and bars (baked by the hands of those who loved Jan). Absent, though, were my step mother-in-law’s favorite doughnuts and Tator Tot Hotdish.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Defying winter in Minnesota January 10, 2018

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WITH SNOW MELTING from rooftops and sidewalks under a bold January sun, I lugged a laundry basket of thermal long john tops outdoors to hang on the clothesline.

The visual contrast of those shirts on the line against the backdrop of a snow-filled backyard imprinted by rabbit, squirrel and other animal tracks nearly made me laugh aloud. I was taunting Winter, daring her to keep me from a task I enjoy, although less often in the cold and snow than in other seasons.

But with a respite from sub-zero temps here in Minnesota, I grabbed the opportunity to trump Winter, to prove that, yes, if I want to hang out laundry in January, I will find a day warm enough to do so. There’s something to be said for defying Winter.

As the cold of 20-degree temps numbed my fingers, I felt a sense of satisfaction in this methodical task of hanging laundry. Clip, clip, clip. And then, after the dozen shirts dangled from the line, I stepped back inside to brew myself a mug of coffee, to thaw my hands and to delight in my momentary triumph over Winter.

TELL ME: If you live in a cold weather state, do you hang laundry outdoors in winter?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Artistry along Minnesota State Highway 68 January 9, 2018

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STATE HIGHWAY 68 slices diagonally across rich Minnesota farmland southeast of Morgan.

 

 

I often travel this section of roadway until it intersects with Brown County Road 29 when I return to my roots in Redwood County. The angle of the highway in a place where roads typically run in a straight gridded pattern confuses my sense of direction. I must use the sun as my compass. Or remind my mind that highway 68 does not run true north or south, east or west.

Other than the directional issue, I delight in this roadway for the visuals. My photographer’s eye appreciates the power poles that stretch along the highway. Wires loop between poles reinforcing the horizontal lay of this land. There’s just something about the repeating line of poles and wire that artistically pleases me.

 

 

And then there are the sunsets which, in this exposed plain, prove spectacular, even in layers of clouds. Everything—trees, barns, fields—seems insignificant beneath a fiery sun suspended above the land, my native land.

NOTE: These photos were taken several weeks ago.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Yes, I eat ice cream in winter & here’s my new favorite in name & taste January 5, 2018

 

AS A WORDSMITH, I appreciate creative marketing. And that defines a new line of ice cream sold at Fareway Foods, a Midwest grocer with a store in my community.

Fareway is unique among grocers. The business is closed on Sundays, following the company philosophy that Sunday should be a day of rest and a time for families to be together.

That business value explains the name Cookie Doughn’t Work on Sundays, a cookie dough flavor in the new Fareway Premium Ice Cream made by Blue Bunny. How clever is that doughn’t?

Other names include You Had Me At Cheesecake, Better Choco-late Than Never, my favorite (in taste, that is) Truffle Shuffle Salty Caramel and more. The salty caramel pairs perfectly with apple crisp.

Winter isn’t exactly prime ice cream season in cold Minnesota. But that doesn’t stop me from grabbing a carton of Fareway’s new, since May, branded ice cream. The names got me initially. Kudos, marketing team. But the taste and price have made me a repeat customer.

TELL ME: Have you come across an especially memorable marketing name for a food product? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Writing in Minnesota in January January 4, 2018

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SIX-THIRTY a.m. and the furnace flutters, taking wing in the morning cold.

I stir, too, beneath a layer of blankets topped by an extra fleece throw. I’m in no hurry to exit my warm bed, even if I am a morning person. The dark and cold of a Minnesota winter hold me there, pressed between flannel sheets rough as sandpaper.

Outside traffic rushes by in sub zero temps, drivers shivering inside vehicles warming on the way to work. I’m lucky. My office is only a room away.

Soon enough I rise, dress in jeans and a t-shirt layered by flannel and a zip-up sweatshirt during this Minnesota cold snap. Banana-laced oatmeal and a coffee fuel my body. I settle at my desktop computer to write.

The beginning of the year launches submission season. I focus on writing poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction for numerous regional contests. Submission guidelines roll into my email as I note details and push myself to meet deadlines. Every year I doubt myself. But then the ideas come and the words emerge from my fingertips, pulled from the bank of experiences and memories and places that shape my writing. Even in fiction some truth prevails.

And so I write, not because anyone makes me write. But because I must write words that flutter, take wing, rise in the cold of a January morning in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling