Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Believe April 20, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
"The Risen Lord," painted in by my artist friend, Rhody Yule of Faribault, who dies in June 2011 at the age of 92.

“The Risen Lord,” painted in 1951 by my artist friend, Rhody Yule of Faribault, who died in June 2011 at the age of 92.

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene… She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.—  Mark 16: 9-11

 

Creative parenting: Let the painting & mud slinging begin August 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
The kids, Braxton, left, Jack and Nevaeh, were thrilled to paint blocks, unlike me.

The kids, Braxton, left, Jack and Nevaeh, were thrilled to paint blocks, unlike me.

I SWEAR SHE would have locked me in the basement.

The sheetrock wall canvas.

The sheetrock wall canvas.

Billie Jo, a former preschool teacher and the mother of two school-aged youngsters, insisted. “You need to paint a brick, Audrey.” She emphasized “Audrey.”

The paint comes from the county recycling center.

The paint comes from the county recycling center.

There was no wiggling my way out of her demand, even if my friend was preoccupied with opening paint cans, stirring paint, handing out brushes, washing kids’ hands and wiping paint spills from the concrete basement floor.

See, I really was busy taking photos, here of Hannah. She's quite the artist who not only paints, but also sews. Plus, she writes poetry.

See, I really was busy taking photos, here of Hannah. She’s quite the artist who not only paints, but also sews. Plus, she writes poetry. Oh, and she made that pony tail holder in her hair.

feet

Painting in bare feet.

Jack creating his masterpiece.

Jack creating his masterpiece.

My excuse of “I’m busy taking pictures” wasn’t sliding by Billie Jo. Nope.

My, ahem, masterpiece.

My, ahem, masterpiece.

So, eventually, I set down my camera and picked up paintbrushes to paint a clutch of lilac hued flowers, my name and the year onto an orange brick painted upon a sheetrock wall. I’ve never pretended to be an artist, except perhaps in photography.

Where the project started, on the cement walls.

Where the project started, on the cement walls.

Prior to the sheetrock dividing wall construction, visitors to Billie Jo and Neal’s south Faribault home created art (a record of their visits) on a cement block wall in a corner of the basement. That area is now covered by totes in a storage room stocked full of board games, art supplies and more.

“Garage sales are great,” Neal says.

Braxton, in near constant motion, took time to paint.

Braxton, in near constant motion, took time to paint.

And so are he and Billie Jo and their kids, Nevaeh (heaven spelled backwards) and Braxton.

They are loving and kind and fabulous and generous and in the paperwork process of adopting, hopefully, two children from Colombia. These will be blessed children to join this fun-loving family. (International adoptions are costly, so if you wish to donate to the cause, email me personally or at audrey at mnprairieroots.com)

I love how they parent, reminding me of bygone times. They have no television, instead choosing board games and crafts and bike rides and storytime at the library and such to define their family togetherness.

My friends stretched a wood plank between their deck and an outdoor play cube for the kids to jump and run and do whatever kids’ imaginations tell them to do. The plank was added when Braxton was in his pirate phase.

Fun times at Billie Jo and Neal's mud party.

Fun times  for Hannah at Billie Jo and Neal’s mud party. The event included mixing of “potions” at the picnic table. Photo courtesy of Billie Jo.

Recently, they hosted a mud party, as in purchasing black dirt, shoveling it into a kids’ swimming pool, mixing in water and letting Nevaeh and Braxton and friends muck around.

Billie Jo tells me that clean-up lasted longer than the party. Here Braxton and Nevaeh pose. Photo courtesy of Billie Jo.

Billie Jo tells me that clean-up lasted longer than the party. Here Braxton and Nevaeh pose. Photo courtesy of Billie Jo.

If I hadn’t been out of town, I would have been there photographing the event. But, if Billie Jo had insisted I join the fun…

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Recycling art in Faribault June 14, 2013

Just a snippet of the art at the Recycled Art Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, downtown Faribault.

Just a snippet of the art at the Recycled Art Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, downtown Faribault.

ORIGINAL ART at a fraction of the cost. Check.

One of many pieces of original art for sale.

One of many pieces of original art for sale.

Priced to sell. Check.

A section of the floral painting I purchased.

A section of the floral painting I purchased.

Original painting purchased for $15. Check.

Art of all types is available for purchase.

Art of all types is available for purchase.

If you live anywhere near Faribault and have not checked out the annual Recycled Art Sale at the Paradise Center for the Arts, race down to 321 Central Avenue between noon and 5 p.m. today or Saturday.

I look forward to this sale every year and have found some great pieces, including an original oil on burlap by Mexican artist Jose Maria de Servin and Theodore de Groot LathArt by Austin Productions.

This year I brought home a floral oil painting by P. Willis, whose identity is unknown to me. Pamela? Patricia? Paul? I have no idea. But of one fact I am certain. I love the painting.

Shopping for art.

Shopping for recycled art.

And that’s the type of reaction Gail Kielmeyer, who serves on the Paradise Gallery Committee and the Mural Society of Faribault—sponsors of the Recycled Art Sale—witnesses among many a shopper. “All of a sudden they fall in love with a piece and have to take it home,” she says.

I came very close to purchasing this painting of gladioli. May still buy it.

I came very close to purchasing this painting of gladioli. May still buy it.

I expect that’s exactly what Kielmeyer and co-volunteer Mary Niermann thought as they watched me peruse the Paradise gallery crammed with everything from original pieces to prints to pottery, sculptures, mirrors, ceramics, and even art books. Prices ranged from a quarter for a dish to $400 for four Vietnamese in-laid mother-of-pearl panels which sold on the first day of the sale on Thursday.

Art lovers were waiting in line outside the Paradise for the noon opening of the sixth annual sale. One enthusiast calls the event her “very favorite sale of the year.”

And part of the reason may be the incredibly affordable prices. “A lot of people think original art is expensive and for wealthy people,” Kielmeyer says. Not so at this sale. Prices are kept purposely “priced to sell,” giving art lovers who might not otherwise be able to afford original art (that would be me), the opportunity to own original art.

That de Servin purchased several years ago cost me $7. The de Groot LathArt, $10.

You will find a variety of art from stills to landscapes, abstracts and plenty more priced to sell, many for under $20. Yes. Incredible.

I contemplated buying this barn art.

Lovely rural art.

All of the pieces are donated by people who are downsizing, for example, or remodeling or have had a piece forever. Or the favorite explanation this year heard by Kielmeyer: “We’re pretending we’re moving.”

Some artists come to the sale and buy the art just for the frames.

Some artists come to the sale and buy the art just for the frames. Note the interesting original duo art from Africa, above the frame. Loved it.

So the art some no longer want, need or have space for is now recycled into the hands of happy art lovers like me.

And, as a bonus, the Paradise and the Mural Society make some money. This year organizers hope to bring in $4,000 from the sale, about $1,000 more than last year. The first sale six years ago brought in $800.

Art and more art.

Art and more art.

Interest grows as do the number of donations and the variety of art offered. This year an estimated 1,000 items are for sale. Many had already been sold when I shopped on Thursday evening.  But you could have fooled me. The gallery is still packed with incredible art priced to sell.

BONUS PHOTOS:

For the wildlife lover...

For the wildlife lover…

If you appreciate a still life.

If you appreciate a still life.

For the traveler or the dreamer...

For the traveler or the dreamer…

For those who want to learn more about creating art...books and magazines.

For those who want to learn more about creating art…books and magazines are among the estimated 1,000 items at the sale.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Margaret’s Monet garden June 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:07 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This overview shows you the size of Margaret’s sprawling flower garden on Faribault’s east side.

OH, WHAT AN ABSOLUTE JOY to be Margaret’s neighbor, to gaze across the street into her flower garden reminiscent of a Claude Monet painting.

But, alas, I live down the hill, over the river and into the valley across town from this eastside Faribault garden.

I happened upon Margaret’s sprawling, Impressionist style garden on a recent Saturday morning. And because I’m not at all shy, I popped out of the van and approached Margaret as she weeded her flowers.

She obliged my request to photograph her flowers (but not her) and also answered my questions like, “What is that?” or “Is that …?”

Low-lying fuchsia sedum add a jolt of brilliant color.

Loved these dainty, pale pink flowers. Gardeners, what are they? No, I couldn’t ask Margaret to identify every single plant.

Margaret didn’t tell me I couldn’t photograph her hand. She kept working while we talked, bucket of tools nearby. She had more gardening tools in the garage, she said.

Margaret knows her flowers and her passion for them is irrepressible. She simply loves to garden. That’s apparent as her flower garden stretches nearly the entire 180-foot length of her and her husband’s lot and then extends 30 – 40 feet from the edge of the sidewalk, down the slope and to the garage. She began planting the garden about five years ago, partially so her husband wouldn’t need to mow the slope of the lawn.

From daisies to bee balm, sedum to clematis, lamb’s ears to lilies and dozens of other perennials, Margaret’s garden is awash in color and blooms. Her pride and joy, though, are her 50 some rose bushes.

Margaret’s garden is a rose lover’s paradise.

“I just love roses,” Margaret says. “They just have beautiful flowers and smell wonderful.”

Roses and more abloom with pieces of art tucked in among the flowers.

One of the many English rose bushes, which are Margaret’s favorite for their thick layers of petals and scent.

I roamed the perimeter of the garden, snapping photos as rain pittered and hastened my photo shoot. Yet, I took time to inhale the heady perfume of Margaret’s beloved English roses. English and shrub rose bushes compromise most of the roses in her garden.

The most gorgeous clematis I’ve ever seen, in full bloom.

Just look at Margaret’s eye for color, pairing purple clematis and coral roses.

I noticed this gardener’s talent for pairing colors—especially the striking contrast of royal purple clematis next to coral-hued roses.

Who knew a rain gauge could also be a piece of garden art staked next to lilies?

I appreciated, too, how she tucks garden art among her flowers with the skills of a designer.

A snippet overview of a portion of Margaret’s Monet garden.

If Margaret’s garden was a painting, surely it would be a Monet.

Margaret mixes the jewel tones of raspberries with flowers. She’s also incorporated strawberries and tomatoes into her flower garden.

FYI: Margaret’s garden is located at 1325 11th Avenue Northeast, Faribault.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Feeling like a Grinch December 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:05 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

WITH LESS THAN three weeks until Christmas, I truly need to pull myself out of my pre-holiday funk.

Here’s the deal. I haven’t sent out a single Christmas card, although the annual holiday letter has been drafted and awaits final editing.

I haven’t baked Christmas cookies. I don’t need the sweets and the guys in the house don’t have a sweet tooth. Eventually I’ll bake the cream cheese roll-out cookies that have been part of my Christmas since childhood. And I’ll pull together some date pinwheels for my husband, part of his childhood tradition.

No presents in my sleigh yet.

As for shopping, the lists have been compiled. But since I dislike shopping, the task looms before me.

Decorations? If you count the holiday painting by my father-in-law hanging in the dining room, the six Christmas cards we’ve received and the peppermint candies in a dish, then, yes, I’ve started my decorating.

I’m not the type who goes all out with holiday decorating because, visually, I dislike clutter. I also live in a relatively small house.

Then there’s my husband, who worries about the Christmas tree drying out and creating a fire hazard (a legitimate concern) if we buy it “too early”. Once we waited so long to purchase a tree that we had five pathetic choices in the tree lot. We got a heckuva deal, though, by buying only days before Christmas. True story.

So there you have it. I am feeling more Grinch-like than holiday-ish. For me, the important part of Christmas lies in celebrating Christ’s birth and in gathering with family.

Gathering with family...one of the most important aspects of Christmas for me.

I expect therein exists the partial reason for my melancholy. My second daughter, who lives in eastern Wisconsin, will not be home for Christmas. She’s on-call both holiday weekends at her job as a Spanish medical interpreter. She has missed Christmas before, while living in Argentina. So I should be used to this. I am not.

I have no right to complain. None. Many families are separated by greater distances or war or illness or death, or even by choice.

Eventually I’ll pull myself out of my holiday blues. Perhaps I’ll start with addressing Christmas cards and work my way up to mixing cookie dough. The shopping, though, I never have been able to embrace no matter how hard I try.

Although I'm struggling right now to pull everything together for Christmas, I will. Here's the complete holiday painting by my father-in-law, Tom Helbling of St. Cloud, MN.

SO…WHERE ARE YOU at with your holiday preparations? Do you struggle with any aspect of preparing for Christmas? Submit a comment and share.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Presenting Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at a Minnesota church April 19, 2011

The parking lot at St. John's United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation's annual performance of The Last Supper Drama.

AS THE FINAL wisps of daylight dissipate into darkness, the church windows glow with the subtle warmth of welcome on this Palm Sunday evening.

Inside, worshippers are already gathering in the tightly-knit pews, eyes focused on the long table before them.

As I wait, seated in a pew tucked under the rim of the balcony, I study the stained glass windows, the suspended ceiling lights where lady bugs cling, the golden cross high above the altar.

Then, shortly after 8 p.m., after the hymn and the invitation and recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, the drama begins unfolding—for the 49th consecutive year.

St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is presenting its annual The Last Supper Drama.

The Rev. Lora Sturm provides brief historical background on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting, the visual basis for the evening’s drama.

Leonardo da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper inspired the dramatic presentation at St. John's. This print was donated to the church in memory of Arnold Keller.

And then the lights fade, slowly, until a spotlight shines only on the cross. Soon that light and the organ light are extinguished, plunging the sanctuary into near darkness save for the remnants of daylight filtering through the stained glass windows.

A quiet reverence, a sense of anticipation, falls upon the congregation in the moments of silence and darkness before the actors begin filing into the church. Small clusters of men, seemingly engaged in conversation, without words to be heard, walk toward the table set with bread and a chalice and a bag of silver, although I am not sure whether the betrayal money was there initially or was carried in by Judas, the betrayer.

In darkness, these actors, these 12 disciples, pose themselves, replicating the positions da Vinci painted into his famous The Last Supper painting. But no one plays the role of Jesus, represented instead by an empty chair draped in white cloth.

The actors position themselves to replicate da Vinci's The Last Supper, except for Jesus, who is represented by the empty white chair in the middle of the table setting.

When the lights flick on, the frozen scene catches me off guard, even though I’ve previously seen the performance. The stillness fills me with a certain sense of peace, yet uneasiness.

I know what is coming. Words from Scripture that will tell of Jesus’ forthcoming death. The accusation that one of the 12 will betray Christ. It is the moment da Vinci depicts in his art—that moment when the disciples learn that one of them will give up their Lord to death.

Yet, in this script penned by a St. John’s pastor, Walter Rasche, 49 years ago, it is the depth of faithfulness that causes me to pause and look inside. Would I be so faithful as to become a martyr, to die, like the disciples, by stoning or crucifixion or beheading?

In their monologues, each disciple speaks honestly of his struggles, his lack of faithfulness, his travels to preach the gospel, and, then, the blessed words of a better and more abundant life found in following Christ.

The actors freeze as they role-play the disciples.

Five of the six disciples sitting to Jesus right with Christ represented by the empty white chair.

The disciple/actors to Christ's left, including first-time actor, 13-year-old Kyle Keller, the youngest cast member.

Judas’ words—that he regrets betraying Christ with a kiss, turning him over to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver—sting.

Judas, front, betrays Jesus with a kiss and 30 pieces of silver.

But the pastor’s prayer afterward encourages and uplifts me: “…hear your voice calling us to follow you…you call us to simply follow…”

And then her benediction blesses me with peace: “The Lord bless thee and keep thee…”

As the actors exit, as the worshipers file out of the sanctuary, I linger, waiting for the opportunity to shoot photos, which weren’t allowed during the performance. The men return, pose at the table, some of them telling me how they watched this drama as boys and now role-play as men.

This year a boy-becoming-a-man, 13-year-old Kyle Keller, plays the part of Philip, standing behind his father, Keith, who has assumed the role of Matthew. The seventh grader is the youngest participant ever in the St. John’s re-enactment. He was talked into playing the part, but says now that he’ll be back.

With two casts, the actors (most of them) return every other year to assume the same character roles. Some travel from the Twin Cities back to this, their home church near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. They speak and gesture like seasoned actors, some growing beards for the occasion, others sporting fake, glued-on facial hair. Sharon Meyer jokes that she has the shaver charging at home, ready to shave off her dairy farmer husband’s beard. Alan Meyer has played the part of Andrew in the evening’s performance.

Occasionally, a new cast member like Kyle is recruited. He’s the grandson of Elsie Keller, who stands after the service next to a print of The Last Supper angled onto an easel in the church narthex. The Keller family gave the print to the church in memory of Elsie’s husband, Arnold, who died in 1999. On Palm Sunday the print is moved from its usual spot in the fellowship hall to this place of honor.

Elsie Keller, 85, stands next to The Last Supper painting given to St. John's in honor of her husband, Arnold.

The evening takes on special significance for this 85-year-old as she watches Thomas and thinks of her husband. Arnold played Thomas in the debut performance at St. John’s and continued with that role for many decades thereafter. Elsie, who was baptized, confirmed and married at St. John’s, as was her husband, hasn’t missed a single performance of The Last Supper Drama.

Her son, Craig Keller, the church organist, tells me that the drama originally was staged on a Wednesday during Lent. At one time there were two evening performances and even an afternoon presentation with the windows covered in black plastic to block out the light.

On this evening, some half-dozen church pews remain empty and I wonder why this place is not packed with a standing-room only crowd.

I’ve been deeply impressed with so many facets of the drama—by the level of commitment within this country congregation to continue a nearly 50-year tradition, by the professionalism of the actors, by the words they’ve shared that make the painting and Scripture and apostles come to life and, certainly, by the actors’ ability to freeze without barely an eye blink or a twitch. How do they do it?

The congregation's original chalice is used each year in the drama.

"Take eat, this is my body..." bread on the table during The Last Supper Drama.

FYI: Next year plan to attend the 50th presentation of The Last Supper at 8 p.m. on Palm Sunday. St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is located about a 15-minute drive east of Faribault on Minnesota Highway 60 and then north on Rice County Road 24. At this point, I expect organizers may add activities to commemorate the 2012 anniversary production.

Credit goes to the following for their parts in presenting this year’ production: directors Shirley Little and Kelly Dahl; co-director Pauline Wiegrefe; organist Craig Keller; narrator Don Katra; prompter Steve Wille; lighting, Ben Heil; greeters Steve and Deb Wille; the youth fellowship ushers; the church council coffee hour servers; pastor Lora Sturm; and actors Alan Meyer, Grant Meese, Craig Mueller, Kyle Keller, Todd Lien, Thad Monroe, Keith Keller, Doug Spike, Marty Budde, Brian Little, Randy Tatge and Paul Meyer.

Thank you all for this exceptional gift during Holy Week.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Last Supper at St. John’s April 14, 2011

Rhody Yule, a 92-year-old Faribault artist, painted this version of The Last Supper.

LIVING ART. A tribute to Christ. A contemplative event to mark the beginning of Holy Week.

However you view it, a dramatic presentation of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper by a rural church should be on your must-see list for the weekend if you live in my area of southeastern Minnesota.

For 49 years now, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, has presented Drama of the Last Supper in the old limestone church set among flat farm fields and scattered farm places near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in Rice County.

At 8 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 17, as darkness falls upon the land, the sanctuary too will darken and the spotlight will shift to 12 men seated at the front of the church. Alan, Grant, Craig, Kyle, Todd, Thad, Keith, Doug, Marty, Brian, Randy and Paul will assume the roles of the 12 disciples.

Christ, if I remember correctly from attending a previous performance, is not portrayed by an actor.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Matthew 26:20 – 21

The Betrayal, a painting by Faribault artist Rhody Yule.

So the scene unfolds with a monologue featuring each of the 12 disciples and their relationships with Christ.

“I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29

Enveloped in darkness, listening to the somber words of forthcoming betrayal, worshippers experience the tense emotions that marked The Last Supper, setting the mood for a week that leads to the crucifixion of Christ and then, on Easter morning, to his glorious resurrection.

It is a thoughtful, serious drama presented by the local men, many of whom are repeat performers.

It is worth seeing, worth hearing and worth contemplating as Holy Week begins.

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

St. Johns United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township

FYI: St. John’s is about a 15-minute drive from Faribault. Take Minnesota Highway 60 east and then turn north onto Rice County Road 24. The church is located at 19086 Jacobs Avenue.  A fellowship hour, with food, follows the presentation.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling