Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter photo poetry February 18, 2019

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A WINTER LANDSCAPE IN RURAL Minnesota can, at first glance, seem visually unappealing. White upon white upon white.

But then a moment happens. A curtain opens in the mind to reveal a scene that holds spectacular beauty.

Stubble pokes through snowy fields. A farm site stands isolated, yet strong, in all that winter vastness. And then, a layer of golden light slips between land and clouds.

The light. The textures. The immensity of the scene. All collide before my eyes, to create a winter photo poem. Beautiful in its complexity. Beautiful in its simplicity. Winter.


I photographed this scene along Interstate 35 somewhere north of Faribault around sunset Saturday.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Abandoned November 10, 2014

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DO YOU EVER WONDER, as I do, about the history of a place?

Look at this old farm site in the area of Ellsworth in western Wisconsin:


Rural, old farmstead


Imagine the farmer who settled here, proud to own a piece of land. Consider how he labored to build a barn and a house and then erected a windmill.

The windmill once stood proud, fins catching the wind, providing energy to pump water from the well. An old pump remains dwarfed in the presence of the now bladeless windmill.

The barn, with numerous additions, seemingly defies age in her strong, straight rooflines. But her windows are boarded, her roof rusted.

Mismatch of fence panels askew presents a certain disconnected visual chaos.

Was it illness or lack of money or a non-caring attitude or none of the above that caused this farm site to fall into disrepair and apparent abandonment?

What happened to the house? Who drove the vintage car? Where are the horses? So many questions and no answers.

The place is for sale, or maybe it’s just the car and/or manure spreader.

What is the story of this farm? Every place, every person, writes a story.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


It’s in the details March 25, 2014

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Farm site 2

IN A FLASH, I’ve passed the farm site along Minnesota State Highway 60 between Faribault and Kenyon.

But I’ve clicked the shutter button, preserving this rural scene, a moment frozen in time. Many times, for whatever reason, I have photographed this place.

Later, viewing this most recent image on a computer screen, I notice the details that escaped my eyes during that drive-by. And I wonder how, all too often, we miss the details.

Farm site 3

Details comprise the whole, define our lives in ways we never realize. A look. An intonation. A reflex. Puzzle them together and you have life.

A snapshot. An album. A collection of minutes, hours and days that collectively become weeks and months and years. And suddenly you are, like me, past middle age, a generation away from death.

You wonder about the details, whether you’ve noticed and embraced and lived them.

Farm site 1

Have you swung in a tire swing?

Or have you simply viewed tires as a necessity to carry you along the highway of life? Too busy to notice details.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling