Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A tender moment honoring Justin August 31, 2017

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SHE HAD NO IDEA, this baby girl, that her endearing interaction with a garden sculpture would hold meaning beyond cuteness. But it did.



As my granddaughter, Isabelle, squatted to look at the boy with the jar of fireflies sitting on my patio, I photographed the scene. She looked, reached, waved, moved in closer, then touched. There was a poignant sweetness in Izzy’s connection with the garden art I call “Little Justin.”



I purchased the mass produced sculpture in 2012 after seeing the same piece in my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s Memory Garden honoring their son. Justin died on August 14, 2001, of Hodgkin’s disease. He was only 19. When his mom, Vivian, told me how much Justin loved light, especially that of fireflies, I felt moved to add this art to my yard.



Now, just days after the 16th anniversary of my nephew’s death, Izzy reached out to Little Justin with zero prompting from anyone. The moment held such sweetness, such tenderness that my heart ached with love for this darling little girl and for the cousin she would never know.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Part II, outside the Paine in Oshkosh: Ever-changing garden art June 20, 2017

A view of The Paine Art Center from the reflecting pond garden located behind the historic 1920s mansion.

A view of The Paine Art Center from the reflecting pond garden located behind the historic 1920s mansion.

KALEIDOSCOPE. Even the word seems to hold a certain mystique. Rotate a kaleidoscope in your hand and the magic unfolds, there, before your eyes.

I’ve always loved looking into these tubes of mirrors and color that present ever-changing designs like a shifting gallery of art.




I’d never known the kaleidoscope as anything but a kid’s toy. But then I toured the gardens at The Paine Art Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and discovered the garden variety of kaleidoscopes. These oversized and sturdy garden kaleidoscopes are comprised of a metal framework surrounding a bowl of plants and a ball. What a visual delight.




Robert C. Anderson, a Sturgeon Bay artist, crafted the garden kaleidoscopes at the Paine. These sculptures bring an interactive dimension to the gardens. I like that.

And because my daughter Miranda was able to photograph through the eye piece with her smartphone, you can see the art of a garden kaleidoscope:








Beautiful, isn’t it?

TELL ME: Have you ever seen a garden kaleidoscope or other interactive piece of garden art that especially intrigued you? Click here to see my blogger friend Valerie’s photos of these from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for one final post from The Paine as we further explore the gardens. Click here to read my first garden post. And click here to read my first post from inside The Paine Art Center.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Close-up kaleidoscope images by Miranda Boyd