Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

This has to stop, these shootings July 19, 2017

Positive words posted near a garden in the heart of downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

SOMETIMES I COME across an article and accompanying video so profound that I am moved not to tears, but to sobbing.

Often I read those stories in Minnesota Public Radio blogger Bob Collins’ NewsCut column. He rates as one of my favorite writers for his ability to ferret out those stories that touch human emotions. You won’t necessarily see top news stories of the day featured online in NewsCut. But you will read stories that are deeply human, that elicit thought and emotions.

Sometimes Bob makes me laugh. Sometimes cry. Sometimes shake my head. And, almost always, he makes me think. His stories prompt plenty of reader interaction. Whether I agree with comments or not, I always find them interesting.

On Monday Bob published a story and linked to a video in a piece titled A wellness check by police ends with a son dead. The headline grabbed my attention. But it was the video of a grieving father that twisted my gut and made me cry in the deep sort of painful way that heaves your shoulders and unleashes primeval wailing.

In summary, the Massachusetts man’s 26-year-old son, despondent over a break-up with his girlfriend, holed himself up in his room with his dog and a gun. Police were called as was the SWAT Team. The parents were ushered from their home, the father pleading with police to just let his son sleep and to not over-react. I would encourage you to read the entire story and watch the video by clicking here.

 

I purchased this retro tray at an antique/vintage shop in St. Charles for its simple message. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Admittedly, I came to this story with emotions on edge after the police shooting of Justine Damond, 40, in an affluent south Minneapolis neighborhood late Saturday evening. She called 911 to report a suspected assault in an alley by her home, her family says. The death of this Australian woman, who moved to Minnesota several years ago to be nearer her fiance’, has triggered outrage and world-wide attention. And rightly so. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is now investigating the shooting of the unarmed, pajama clad Justine. Few details have been released. The police officer who shot Justine in the abdomen has thus far refused to be interviewed. Justine’s death continues to top the news in Twin Cities media.

Nearly every evening I turn on the 10 o’clock TV news to hear of another shooting in the Twin Cities. A drive-by, a targeted victim, a domestic and, yes, more and more, a fatal shooting by a police officer.

All of this leaves me wondering. Why? Why so much gun violence? Why the increase in fatal shootings by law enforcement officers?

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Repeatedly, I hear of the need for more officer training. A recently-passed Minnesota state law requires police officers to receive specialized de-escalation, mental health and implicit bias training beginning in July 2018. In my county, that training is already happening and may have factored into a positive outcome for a 61-year-old local man who last week threatened suicide. He survived his crisis when police responded.

With increased societal awareness and openness, we’re seeing an attitude shift in handling of suicide threats and other mental health related calls to police like the one in Massachusetts. Common sense should tell you not to roll in with an excessive show of force and upset an already struggling individual. Lights, sound, action may work in Hollywood, but not necessarily in reality.

 

Sidewalk poetry in downtown Northfield, Minnesota, carries a powerful message. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

We can choose to remain calm, to listen to one another, to be compassionate and caring, whether we are a neighbor, a family member, a police officer or a stranger. I know that’s not always easy in a fluid and tense situation.

But something has to change. Too many people are dying due to gun violence in their homes, in alleys, along city streets, on sidewalks…from Minnesota to Massachusetts.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Yes, I hang laundry on a clothesline May 3, 2017

Vintage tablecloths, clothes and towels hang on my backyard clothesline in this November 2009 photo.

 

Clothespins? Who uses a clothes line anymore?

Minnesota Public Radio writer Bob Collins posed that question yesterday in a NewsCut column about a Cloquet matchstick and toothpick manufacturer that is closing. The plant also made wooden clothespins at one time.

 

I hang laundry out in all seasons. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

 

My immediate reaction to Bob’s question was to raise my hand high. I am a devoted user of an outdoor clothesline and a drying rack, when Minnesota weather necessitates indoor usage. Several readers commented on Bob’s column that they use clothespins. For laundry and for clipping shut snack bags.

Why do I hang laundry on the line when I could just throw everything into the dryer?

 

Snow does not stop me from hanging laundry outside. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2015.

 

I enjoy hanging wash on the line. Yes, even in the winter, if the sun is shining bright and the patio (where my clothesline is stretched) is cleared of snow and ice.

 

The clothespins I use are weathered from years of exposure to the elements. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

There’s something comforting about the rhythm of clipping wet clothing, sheets and towels to the line. Grab two or more clothespins, choose a piece of damp laundry, then clip. Grab, choose, clip. Grab, choose, clip.

 

Laundry on my clothesline. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

There’s a certain pleasure in slowing down, in ignoring the busyness of life to do this simple act of hanging out the laundry. I’ve learned to appreciate the crispness of the morning air, the sharpness of a cardinal’s trill, the nuances of a breaking day. And I’ve learned, too, to appreciate more the warmth of my home as I step back inside, fingers stiff from hanging out laundry in 30-some degree temps.

 

In my opinion, nothing beats line-dried laundry. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

When I hang laundry, I am, in those minutes, free of life’s worries, calmed by simply being outdoors, separated from stressors, focused solely on the methodical and therapeutic task at hand. By habit I hang the heaviest items, such as socks and jeans, in the full morning sun for maximum drying exposure.

 

Laundry drapes over a chain link fence on a balcony along Third Street N.E. in downtown Faribault, just across the alley from the post office. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2015.

 

Hanging laundry outside offers the benefit also of fabric that smells of the outdoors—of sunshine and fresh air woven within the fibers. There’s the satisfaction, too, of saving money via solar power.

 

Monday wash day in the Amish community of Eden Hollow, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

Who uses a clothes line anymore?

 

I cannot imagine so many grasshoppers that they obliterated everything, including clothing hung out to dry. I photographed this info at a Minnesota Historical Society exhibit on disasters in April 2016 at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna.

 

I do. And I have no intention of discontinuing that practice any time soon…unless Minnesota experiences another Grasshopper Plague.

TELL ME: Do you hang laundry outdoors? If yes, why?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating four years of blogging at Minnesota Prairie Roots July 15, 2013

Me and my camera, a tool in the writing profession I love.

Me and my camera, a tool in the writing profession I love.

FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY, I launched Minnesota Prairie Roots.

As the adage goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” After writing more than 1,400 posts, I’m still passionate about blogging.

My approach to blogging hasn’t changed since publishing that initial post on July 15, 2009. I pledged then to write from the heart—about everyday life, about places I visit, things I do, observations I make about the world around me.

I told you then, and I’ll repeat now, that my writing reflects my down-to-earth personality and my appreciation for the simple things in life. I am the real deal. I really do like small towns and gravel roads, the prairie and sunsets and endless skies.

I’m the woman who hangs clothes on the line, relishes a good book, shops garage sales, savors the tang of rhubarb crisp, breathes in the intoxicating scent of freshly-cut alfalfa and appreciates Minnesota, the place I’ve called home for nearly 57 years.

Via my posts, I strive to show you those ordinary, yet extraordinary, people and places often overlooked.

To you, my readers, thank you for supporting Minnesota Prairie Roots via your readership and your comments. Some of you have become my real life friends, an unexpected blessing along this blogging journey.

I am also grateful to individuals like Bob Collins at Minnesota Public Radio for featuring my work in his online NewsCut column and to the folks at MinnPost for often choosing my posts for Minnesota Blog Cabin. Both have introduced my work to wider audiences.

Twice my work has been Freshly Pressed, meaning my posts have been selected as among the best in the world for a single day on WordPress.com.

Four years ago I was averaging about 50 daily views. Today that number is close to 700.

I also owe deep thanks to my dear husband, Randy, without whom I could not continue to pursue my passions of writing and photography. He has always been my strongest supporter and I am grateful for his encouragement.

My goal remains to someday earn money from blogging. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But a writer and photographer can dream. I’ve already sold quite a number of photos through my blog. So if you need/want a photo for professional or personal use or need a proofreader, editor or writer, contact me. You’ll find my email on my “About” page.

In all I write, photograph and do, and how I live my life,  I remain true to my values and upbringing rooted deep in my native Minnesota prairie.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling