Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Independence Day 2018 July 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:35 AM
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I WANTED TO WRITE an uplifting post focusing on the celebration of Independence Day. Freedom, and all that means in the USA.

But, instead, I find my mind shifting to the challenges this country currently faces. These are difficult times. Violence. Hatred. Anger. Attacks on peoples. The press. Policies and statements and actions that, in my opinion, do not fit a democracy.

I love this country. I value my freedom. But never in my sixty-plus years have I feared so for our nation.

Yet, I hold hope. I hold hope in the rising of voices. I hold hope in the humanity of Americans, that we still care enough about one another, about freedom, to stand strong. To rise. To seek truth and do what is right.

A happy and safe Fourth to each of you, my dear Americans.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Take two: A second look at the film “Sweet Land” & immigration issues February 6, 2017

sweet-land-envelope-copy

The letter Inge received from Olaf, in the fictional film Sweet Land.

She is not one of us. We speak a common language. We have a common background, a common culture. She is not one of us.
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We have to be careful about this sort of thing…German nationals. German nationals engage in prostitution. They harbor dangerous political convictions. Are you aware of the Espionage Act of 1916?
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English only in the church. English.
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You’re German. It’s a bad influence. You’re German. It’s a disruption to my community. You make coffee that’s too black.

She makes good coffee, not like the women in church.
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I was fearful of her differences, but I was hopeful she could join us on our path….Do not allow your good lives to be poisoned by these two.
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This is German food?

No, just food.
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You don’t have the papers.

sweetlandposter_mini

Promotional from Sweet Land website.

LAST WEEK I REWATCHED Sweet Land, an award-winning independent film released in 2005. The movie, based on Minnesota writer Will Weaver’s short story, “A Gravestone Made of Wheat,” and filmed on my native southwestern Minnesota prairie, rates as a favorite of mine.

sweet-land-farmhouse-copy

Olaf Torvik’s home on the prairie. The film was shot in and around Montevideo, Minnesota.

I appreciate the early 1920s setting, the music, the story and, now, its relevancy to today. The above dialogue comes from Sweet Land, which focuses on the challenges faced by Inge Altenberg, summoned to America by Norwegian farmer Olaf Torvik. He expects a Norwegian mail order bride as do others in the community. But Inge is not Norwegian; she is German.

Thereafter, the conflict begins with “She is not one of us.”

The land and love shape the story.

The land and love weave into this story. Here Inge and Olaf dance on the prairie.

I won’t give away the plot, which includes a love story. But I will tell you that I watched the movie this time from a much different perspective, in the context of current day immigration issues in our country. Sadness swept over me.

Please watch this thought-provoking, conversation-starting film. It’s a must-see whether you make coffee that’s good, judged as too black or you don’t brew coffee at all. It’s still coffee.

FYI: Sweet Land, the musical opens April 29 at History Theatre in St. Paul. It runs for five weeks, Thursday – Sunday, until May 28. Will I go? I’d love to…

RELATED: Saturday afternoon a sizable crowd gathered on the Rice County Courthouse grounds in my community for a peaceful protest. Please click here to watch the video, Faribault, Minnesota Immigration Ban Protest 2-4-17, posted by Terry Pounds. Faribault is home to many immigrants and refugees, including from Somalia.

A photographic exhibit of refugee children who fled Syria, leaving everything behind, is showing at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Photos for Where the Children Sleep were taken by award-winning Swedish photojournalist Magnus Wennman. In order to increase community access to the exhibit, the ASI is providing free admission on Wednesdays in February. The exhibit runs through March 5. Where the Children Sleep launches the Institute’s 2017 “Migration, Identity and Belonging Programming.”

Review © Copyright 2017 by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Happy birthday, America July 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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THROUGH THE YEARS, I have photographed numerous patriotic scenes and American flags.

Today, in celebration of the birthday of the United States of America, I bring you American patriotism from…

 

Copy of Garage, Stars & Stripes 1

 

 

the Stars & Stripes Garage in Heidelberg, Minnesota;

 

Flags, Decorah house

 

an historic home in Decorah, Iowa,

 

Flags, Montgomery, Minnesota, edit 1

 

the Main Street of Montgomery, Minnesota,

 

American flag edited

 

and Anywhere, USA.

Happy Fourth, dear readers! Enjoy this holiday and thank God for the freedoms that come with being an American.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Marking the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination & reflecting on a Presidential quote November 22, 2013

Dallas, Texas, 12:30 P.M. November 22, 1963: The President has been shot!

American flag edited

TODAY, ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, we’ll be swamped with news coverage and memories recalled. Where were you when you heard the news?

I was inside a classroom at Vesta Elementary School in rural southwestern Minnesota. That’s it. I don’t remember my reaction or that of my teacher or my parents. But I had only recently turned seven, old enough to understand, but young enough that details did not imprint upon my memory.

My husband, though, remembers the phone ringing in the one-room country school he attended in North Dakota and the teacher’s announcement that the President had been shot.

On the day of Kennedy’s funeral, the Helbling family relocated to central Minnesota. I expect that for a 7-year-old, moving hundreds of miles away from extended family and friends was more emotionally gripping than the death of the President.

So, if I don’t have better memories than that to share, why am I writing anything at all today? Well, listening to the radio this morning, I heard this famous Kennedy quote: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

That got me thinking.

And then I read Bob Collins’ online NewsCut column over at Minnesota Public Radio (you really ought to read this daily if you don’t already). Collins also featured that quote in his morning 5×8 list.

That got me thinking even more.

It seems to me that today we expect our country to do too much for us. I don’t want to get into a heated political discussion here. But just consider how government, more and more, is intruding into our lives on so many levels with this law and that law, this government program and that government program. Frankly, it scares me.

Given the erosion of self-sufficiency in our society, it might do all of us some good to reflect today on Kennedy’s words and ask: What can I do for my country (or my community, church, neighbor, a stranger)?

I suppose that seems contrary to self-sufficiency. Allow me to clarify. I’m not anti-government or anti helping others. We need government assistance programs and laws that protect the vulnerable and those in need. We need nonprofits and charities and individuals to assist others.

But there seems to be a pervasive attitude, even expectation, among many Americans that government should solve all of our problems. And that just does not sit right with me.

Thoughts?

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering 9/11 from a mom’s perspective September 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the tower.

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the tower. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

THEY REPEATED THE ACTION: Build the towers. Fly the planes. Smash the towers. Build. Fly. Smash.

A dozen years ago today my then seven-year-old son, Caleb, not feeling well and home from school, played with his friend Sam.

I have never forgotten that scene unfolding on my living room floor. Two boys imitating what they saw on television. Me, shocked, unable to turn off the TV and shield them from the horrors of an attack on America.

What do you remember, from a personal perspective, of that day 12 years ago when so many innocent people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on our country? What were you thinking? How did you feel?

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Displaying the red, white & blue in small town America July 4, 2013

Flag buntings decorate an historic home in the beautiful river town of Decorah, Iowa.

Flag buntings decorate an historic home in the beautiful river town of Decorah, Iowa.

SIGNS OF U.S. PRIDE/patriotism/love of country are evident everywhere this week in small town Midwestern America.

Here are a few examples from a recent short trip into southeastern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa.

Enjoy.

And Happy Fourth of July, dear readers.

Chalk art at St. Feriole Island Gardens in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River.

Chalk art at St. Feriole Island Gardens in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River.

Snapped through the windshield of the van, this aged elevator and flag to the right, entering the Mississippi River town of Marquette, Iowa, from the north.

Snapped through the windshield of the van, this aged elevator and flag, to the right, entering the Mississippi River town of Marquette, Iowa, from the north.

A few miles to the south in McGregor, Iowa, I found this "God bless America" sticker and humorous welcome on the door of a bar.

A few miles to the south in McGregor, Iowa, I found this “God bless America” sticker and humorous welcome on the door of a bar.

I spotted plenty of American flags in the Mississippi River town of Lansing, Iowa.

I spotted plenty of American flags in the historic Mississippi River town of Lansing, Iowa.

Signs and a flag in Lansing, Iowa.

Signs and a flag in Lansing, Iowa.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Happy birthday, America

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:30 AM
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Photographed in downtown Henderson, Minnesota, in October 2012.

Photographed in downtown Henderson, Minnesota.

TODAY, WHILE YOU’RE picnicking, gathering with family, drinking beer or sipping lemonade, boating,  taking in fireworks… pause to consider the significance of this day.

Freedom.

Liberty.

The pursuit of happiness.

Even though the state of our nation may not always be as we would like, it’s still a pretty sweet country to call home.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling