LINES AND LIGHT INTERSECT, layering the snowy landscape on a late afternoon in February.
I am following the Straight River Trail in Faribault from Fleckenstein Bluffs Park. Daylight presses towards early evening with sunlight slanting, shadowing, scripting as I take in the woods, the river, the dried vegetation, then the hard lines of metal and stone.
Birds chatter among the trees that border the trail, along the rambling river. I pause. Listen. Appreciate that these feathered creatures manage to survive winter in Minnesota. Even with temps reaching to 30 degrees on this day, I feel the cold.
I move initially at an unhurried pace. Walk too fast and I miss too much. Randy is well ahead of me, yet he also hears the birdsong, notices the robins, chickadees, a lone woodpecker.
Tracks mar the snow. Animal and human. I wonder about the wildlife that venture onto the river where snow meets ice, meets open water.
A pocked layer of thin ice nudges water which flows, rippling, curving with the topography. The creative in me reads poetry in the way the water wends. I am lost in the moment, in the scene, in the setting, in the wildness.
I press on, toward the aged limestone building hugging the trail. Diagonal lines—power and shadows—cross the stone on the boarded building with a misplaced modern garage door. This 1903 building originally housed Faribault Gas & Electric Company, supplier of power to Faribault via the Cannon Falls hydroelectric plant. Every time I view this building, I wish it could be restored, used in a way that celebrates its history.
My thoughts meander here along the Straight River Trail. Focusing on history and nature and introspective observation.
But then a dog draws me back to reality. A massive canine, fluffy and white, leashed. His owner stops, allows me to pet his Great Pyrenees with the friendly face, and gorgeous long fur. Ducky. I assess that keeping him clean must be challenging. Ducky’s owner confirms, then continues on.
Cold bites at my exposed fingers as I retrace my path, heading back toward the park. I notice a sagging wire fence like graph paper gridding a snowy hillside. Single family homes and an apartment complex rise high above the trail, backyards revealing much in the nakedness of winter.
Soon a shrill whistle cuts through the bluffs. I race to reach an opening in the woods where I can photograph a train as it crosses a trestle over the river. I miss the locomotive, focusing instead on the moving canvases of art created by transient artists.
I see art, too, in the fenced lines of a river overlook in the park, a space packed with snow and inaccessible in the winter.
Then I curve along the sidewalk that rounds the playground before aiming back to the parking lot. I notice reflections of trees in puddles of melting snow. The bold blue sky. The way light bounces off the segmented walkway. I feel invigorated by all I’ve seen, by the sharp cold air, by the essence of time outdoors on a February afternoon in southern Minnesota.
TELL ME: Where do you walk outdoors in February?
© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling