Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thoughts & thanks as 2022 begins January 1, 2022

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As we begin 2022, please remember this, that you are loved. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo; image taken along a recreational trail in the Atwood Neighborhood of Madison, Wisconsin)

HERE WE ARE, on the first day of a new year. Days and weeks and months unfolding before us. Full of unknowns, possibilities, whatever life brings. Happiness. Sorrow. Sickness. Health. Joy. Sadness. To be human is to experience all. Sometimes alone. Sometimes together.

I expect that, without much thought, you can recall particularly challenging times/events in your life. In those difficult days, you likely felt overwhelmed, wondered whether you would make it to the other side. To the days when the pain and stress and anguish would lift. And light would shine again.

And I expect also that you did not go it alone. Perhaps faith carried you. Family and/or friends, too. Maybe professionals. And your inner strength. It often amazes me just how strong and resilient we humans can be. Even in the toughest of circumstances.

The support and friendships I’ve formed via blogging amaze me, too. I’ve connected with some really kind, caring and compassionate individuals. Some friendships remain virtual. But others developed in to in-person friendships. Regardless, these individuals are now part of my circle, part of my life. Their generosity of spirit has uplifted me countless times.

Me behind my first Canon EOS 20D. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo)

Most recently, a blogger friend asked what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted/needed only one thing. A camera. Just like the one I’ve used for the past decade plus. A Canon EOS 20D. I’m on my second 20D and it was failing, just like the first. Locking up. I knew its days were numbered and I would need a different camera. The 20D is an older camera. But I’m comfortable and familiar with it. I checked two camera shops online in the Twin Cities metro to find only a few used cameras, none of them a 20D. No surprise there. A new camera was not an option. Have you looked at camera prices lately? Then came my blogger friend’s email asking what I would like for Christmas. She hoped to send me something after the holidays.

Days later, a package landed on my front steps. I hadn’t ordered anything. Wasn’t expecting anything. But when I slit the box, I found a camera body inside. A Canon EOS 20D. I actually shrieked, nearly cried with joy at this most thoughtful gift which allows me to continue to create. I’m delighted to have my third 20D in my hands. I’ve always believed that good photography is more about the skills of the person creating with a camera than about the equipment. I couldn’t believe my blogger friend found this coveted aged camera, and so quickly. I am beyond grateful.

Now, entering into another year of creativity, I fully intend to use my talents to share, in images and words, the world I discover. I will continue to take you into small towns. Along gravel roads. Into woods and along rivers and lakes. To community events. I will show you art and natural beauty, the places I go, the things I see and do. And I hope that in doing so, I bring you joy, expand your world, perhaps uplift you.

Thank you, dear readers, for following Minnesota Prairie Roots. Thank you for supporting my creativity. For recognizing that creativity connects all of us. And that creativity matters.

Happy New Year!

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Long-time patron leaves up to $2.7 million to Faribault library October 22, 2021

Robert Crandall. (Photo source: Parker Kohl Funeral Home)

HE LIKED HIKING and biking. John Wayne movies. Bacon. Collecting stamps. Vacationing in Mexico. Playing cards.

Robert L. Crandall, as described in his January 2021 obituary, seems a man of many interests. He also spoke Spanish fluently. He watched CNBC to stay updated on the stock market. And, also worth noting in the Parker Kohl Funeral Home summary of his life, Bob “spent many hours at the Buckham Memorial Library studying and reading books on investing.”

Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault, Minnesota.(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

It is that final notation of his interests which today holds great significance. This week my community of Faribault learned that Bob left a financial gift of $2.5-$2.7 million to Buckham Memorial Library. The place where he found books that helped him make sound, and lucrative, financial investments.

His is a remarkable gift. Not due only to the mega amount of millions of dollars, but also because of Bob’s appreciation for library resources housed in his beloved local library. He directed that his gift be used specifically for public library purposes in Faribault.

Library books and magazines I’ve read. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Like Bob, I’ve long valued libraries given my love of books and reading. However, unlike Bob, I’ve never read a single volume on investments. But, via reading, I’ve learned much about the craft of writing. My son, too, learned the basics of software coding by studying thick books checked out from Buckham Library. Today he is pursuing his PhD in computer science.

Clearly, Bob recognized the importance of public libraries. I’d like to think he understood that libraries make knowledge accessible to all of us. No matter our education, our income, our anything. As a child living near a rural southwestern Minnesota community without a public library, I longed for a library. Today I live blocks away from Buckham Library and frequent it often. My daughters worked there as pages while in high school.

Bob attended high schools in Anoka (his birthplace) and Elk River, eventually landing in southern Minnesota to work at the former Faribault Regional Center. His obit mentions nothing of family, only that his parents preceded him in death. He died in January at age 93 with graveside services and burial at Maple Lawn Cemetery.

The obituary describing Bob reveals a man with multiple interests and with many friends at his final home, Milestone Senior Living in Faribault. His obit hints of financial wealth through the lens of hindsight. I expect, though, that Bob counted his wealth not primarily via the success of his investments, but by the wealth of his interests and by the wealth of words printed in books shelved at his local library.

Through his generous gift to Buckham Memorial Library, Bob inspires us to learn, to read, to discover how books can enlighten and change our lives, grow our knowledge. And that, too, is his legacy.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Source credits: Parker Kohl Funeral Home & the Faribault Daily News

 

Sisterhood in bloom on May Day May 1, 2020

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The tulip bulbs arrived in a pot and covered by moss.

 

THE RATE AT WHICH THE TULIP bulbs erupted, then bloomed, surprised even me.

 

The bulbs, once exposed to light, grew at a rapid pace.

 

A week after receiving a surprise cluster of bulbs from my blogger friend Paula in the Netherlands, I now have a flower pot of wine-hued tulips in bloom and yellow ones about to open. I’d wondered at the color and that proved part of the fun, waiting to see.

 

Just beginning to bloom…

 

What a delight this gift of flowers from someone I’ve never met but to whom I’m connected via writing and being home-grown Minnesotans. But even more, there’s the connection of spirit, of understanding how supporting one another, especially now, is so important.

I can tell you that Paula, who blogs at The Cedar Journal, loves the outdoors, especially canoeing in her cedar strip canoe. She returns to Minnesota often to paddle and explore. She’s a military veteran. Strong. Opinionated. Resilient. Respectful of the natural world and appreciative of its beauty. She’s compassionate and kind.

I’ve never talked to Paula. But I feel like I know her via her blog and the comments she posts on my blog. There’s a sisterhood that comes from a shared love of Minnesota and of blogging and of the simple beauties in life. So when I see those lovely tulips in bloom, I think of Paula so distant, yet so close.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

More kindness, this time from Holland April 23, 2020

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WHEN I SPOTTED THE FED EX truck parked on the corner by my house and the driver leaping back inside, I decided to check my front steps, even though I wasn’t expecting a package. I rarely order online.

 

 

But there, on my steps, sat a cardboard box with an imprinted arrow pointing skyward next to the word UP. So I carried the box inside, washed my hands and slit the tape. Inside I found a pot of tulip bulbs erupting through a layer of moss. And this message:

Tulips from Holland!!! I told you I would do it! The Cedar Journal blog friend.

How sweet is that? Paula, a native of northern Minnesota who now lives in Holland with her husband, gifted me with these springing-to-life tulip bulbs after I commented on her post, “Spring Time in the Netherlands 2020,” and asked her to pretty please, send flowers to Minnesota. However, I missed her reply to send my address so she could send me tulips. She sleuthed my address on her own.

 

 

And now I have these Holland tulip bulbs that, in a few weeks, should bloom bright colors and remind me of Paula and her kindness. Isn’t that lovely? In these days when our worlds are turned upside down, this blogger friend, whom I’ve never met, reaches out to me with a simple act of kindness.

But it’s more than that. Paula gifted me with a spot of joy during these difficult days. She uplifted me and reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people—just like Penny in sending face masks and Paul in sending a watercolor print last week. There are so many caring people in this world. Now, more than ever, we need to find ways to be kind.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo taken at LARK Toys, Kellogg, Minnesota.

 

I invite you to share today recent acts of kindness extended to you or which you have extended to others. You may just spark an idea that ripples more kind acts. Thank you, my friends. And Paula, especially, thank you for your gift of spring-in-a-box shipped from Holland to Minnesota. I am grateful.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Christmas gratitude, Part II December 24, 2019

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A handmade ornament for sale at Fleur de Lis in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

“YOU GOT A LARGE PACKAGE,” Randy said. “From Amazon.”

“I’m not expecting anything,” I answered from our bed where I was layered in sweats, a tee, flannel shirt, and heavy sweater under a flannel sheet, two blankets, a comforter and a denim/fleece blanket. With a fever, I simply could not get warm.

I awakened this morning to a full-blown case of crud that caused us to cancel a planned trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to celebrate Christmas with our second daughter, her husband and our son. I felt more than a bit down. Then that unexpected package arrived.

Randy wrestled the huge box inside the front door just as I emerged from the bedroom to see what this was all about. He slit the taped box to reveal an Instant Pot, an item included on my wish list in Saturday’s “Dear Santa” post.

I was stunned, overwhelmed by the kindness of the anonymous blog reader who was moved to give me an item on that list. I found a sweet note inside, signed by Your Ms. Santa.

I also received a copy of Amanda in Spain—The Girl in the Painting by Darlene Foster. That arrived in a separate package so I’m uncertain whether the two items are from the same giver.

It matters not. What matters is how grateful I am for these gifts, for the thoughtfulness of Ms. Santa, for experiencing, for the second day in a row, the true spirit of Christmas. Yesterday I received a cash gift from an anonymous individual.

In these days when so much unkindness exists, these individuals exemplify goodness, kindness and the giving spirit of Christmas. I am blessed. Again.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering with gratitude Todd Bol, founder of the Little Free Library October 18, 2018

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The Redwood Falls Gazette editor Troy Krause, right, interviews Todd Bol, co-founder of the Little Free Library in Vesta in early July 2012.  Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

TODD BOL DIED ON THURSDAY from pancreatic cancer.

 

The beautiful handcrafted LFL donated to my hometown of Vesta. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

I met him briefly in July 2012 when he drove three hours from Hudson, Wisconsin, to my hometown on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. He delivered a Little Free Library, fulfilling my life-long dream for a library in Vesta.

 

The team that worked to bring a Little Free Library to Vesta includes Dorothy Marquardt, left, and Karen Lemcke, representing the sponsoring Vesta Commercial Club, LFL co-founder Todd Bol and me (holding a copy of a poetry anthology I donated). Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012 by Randy Helbling.

 

I shall be forever grateful to this visionary’s gift of a mini library and books. My mom used that LFL. So did extended family and others in and around the small farming community. Folks operating the Vesta Cafe expanded the library, placing shelves inside the restaurant for more books. Locals tended the outdoor library Bol installed near the cafe entrance.

 

The LFL Todd and Susan Bol installed outside the community owned Vesta Cafe. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

Now, all these years later, the founder of the Little Free Library leaves a world-wide legacy of literacy with 75,000-plus officially registered libraries in 88 countries.

 

The books Todd Bol and I placed inside Vesta’s LFL on July 1, 2012. He brought books donated by several Twin Cities publishers and I brought books from my personal collection. I have since collected and donated an additional 40 books. A retired librarian from nearby Wabasso donated eight bags of books, primarily mysteries and the cafe managers also donated books. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

And one of those is in my hometown because one man cared enough about a small town in the middle of nowhere to deliver the seed plant for the Small Towns Minnesota LFL Movement. Because of Todd’s generosity, his kindness, his love of books, my hometown has a library. As a lover of books, of the written word, I am grateful.

 

One of many Little Free Libraries in Faribault, where I’ve lived since 1982. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

TELL ME: Are there Little Free Libraries in your community? I’d like to hear your LFL stories in honor of Todd Bol.

FYI: Click here to read the original post I wrote about Todd’s visit to my hometown to install the LFL.

PLEASE CHECK BACK to see a memorable LFL I spotted recently in Waseca.

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sweet love June 24, 2018

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HE TOLD ME TO EXPECT a package. Next week. But the priority mail box arrived from Massachusetts on Saturday. I was almost certain the techie son had shipped a one-handed keyboard, even though I told him I didn’t need one. I don’t as I can manage with one-handed typing until I recover from my broken left arm.

 

 

But I was wrong. Inside I found a surprise so sweet that I cried. I cried at the thoughtfulness of Caleb and his girlfriend, who had baked chocolate chunk cookies for me. Thick cookies with dark chocolate, my favorite chocolate. The best chocolate (chip) cookies I have ever eaten.

Turns out Caleb messaged his oldest sister earlier in the week for my cookie recipe. She didn’t have it and sent another recipe instead. I love these cookies.

Even more, I love that Caleb and Sunny thought of me and took the time to bake this gift. It was perfect. Such love and care cannot be bought, only given in an act of love.

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TO MY MANY FAITHFUL READERS (friends), thank you for your prayers, encouragement and well wishes as I deal with this injury and pending surgery. Your words are a gift. I am grateful.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An unexpected package from Santa December 6, 2017

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WHEN A SMALL PACKAGE arrived in my mailbox on Tuesday with a Merry Christmas! From: Santa Faribault, MN 55021 return address, I had no clue what I would find therein.

But, oh, the sweetness of this surprise moved me to tears at the thoughtfulness of the mysterious Santa who clearly read my recent post, “Passing a love of books onto the next generation.” In that post I reference a favorite childhood storybook, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and my regret at not purchasing a copy spotted at a Pequot Lakes antique shop.

 

 

That reader took my post to heart and sent me a vintage copy of Three Billy Goats Gruff. See why I’m thrilled with this unexpected gift. This individual gifted me with a book that I hold dear.

 

 

Now, rereading this story as an adult, I like it even more:

I’m not afraid,” said Little Billy. And up onto the bridge he ran—trip-trippety-trip!

 

 

This fairy tale of three billy goats attempting to cross a bridge under which a mean troll lives inspires bravery. The trio outwits the troll and gets safely to the other side and a hillside of lush grass. The empowering message of strength and courage proves as applicable for children as for adults.

 

 

As to the identity of Santa, I have only a few clues—the name NANCY ANN OLSON stamped inside and that Faribault postmark and return address. I don’t know any Nancy Olsons. The giver could be someone other than an Olson. Or it could be Nancy. I have no idea.

But to you, dear anonymous Santa reader, please know that your gift of Three Billy Goats Gruff touched me deeply. I am grateful for your kindness, which truly exemplifies the spirit of giving. Thank you. And Merry Christmas!

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A sister’s love, more precious than jewels December 27, 2012

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ONCE UPON A TIME, in the land of Prairieville, an aging princess (in name only) arrived at the country estate of her middle brother just days before Christmas.

Unbeknownst to the princess, her middle sister, who is nothing like Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters and who also had journeyed from a yonder land, planned for the princess the most splendid surprise.

The princess had just shrugged off her pea coat and greeted her family when Sir Stephen stepped forward to present a present to the stunned princess. Thinking perhaps that her fun-loving nephew was about to play a prank upon her, as family members are sometimes wont to do, the princess accepted the gift with trepidation.

The first gift package, from Nixie, Fairy of Water.

The first gift package, from Nixie, Fairy of Water.

She pulled a dainty tissue-wrapped package from a gift envelope, allowing the tiny package to fall onto the floor for fear of what she may discover inside. With great care, she soon retrieved and unwrapped the gift. A lovely ring fell into her palm.

Before the princess could even slip the jewel onto her finger, another family member stepped forward with a present, followed by nine more packages into which child-size rings had been tucked.

By that time, the princess had determined that her kind-hearted sister, Lanae, had hatched the entire marvelous scheme to write a happily-ever-after ending to a story which began decades earlier on a Prairieville farm.

Many years ago, when the princess was much younger, she lost an emerald ring (not a “real” emerald, of course) gifted to her by her godmother. Despite a frantic search of the family farm, the precious jewel was never found. The princess was overcome with inconsolable sadness and never forgot that lost ring.

A sampling of the rings gifted to me by 11 fairies. These will be passed along to some sweet little girls I know.

A sampling of the rings gifted to me by 11 fairies. These will be passed along to some sweet little girls I know.

Because all fairy tales should end happily, the princess’s loving sister, Lanae, gathered, from various fairies of the world, a collection of fine jewels. Nixie, Fairy of Water; the White, Frost, Tooth, Sugar Plum, Woodland, Snowflake and Ice fairies; the Queen of the Fairies; The Little Fairy Fayette; and Tinkerbell all contributed gems to the cause.

The final ring, an "emerald," to replace the one I lost nearly 50 years ago.

The final ring, an “emerald,” to replace the one I lost nearly 50 years ago.

After the princess had unwrapped 11 packages of child-sized rings, a final box was presented to her from the Fairy Godmother. Inside, the princess found a sparkling imitation emerald, even more beautiful than the one she had lost on her childhood farm nearly 50 years earlier.

The aging princess was overcome with joy as she slipped the emerald ring onto her finger and raced to embrace her sister whose kind heart overflows with goodness and love.

THE END

THANK YOU, LANAE, for blessing me with this wonderful gift. I appreciate the thought, time and effort you put into pulling off this royal surprise. You made me feel like a real princess and I shall always cherish this gift of the heart from you to me.

TO READ my first posting about the lost ring of my youth, click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling