Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter’s artistic beauty in southern Minnesota February 7, 2022

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Sunset as seen on the hillside behind my Faribault home. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

WINTER HOLDS STARK BEAUTY not seen in any other season. Sometimes seeing that takes extra effort, though, when thoughts center on Minnesota’s brutal cold and snow and ice.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

Yet, many days—often in the morning and as the day closes—winter paints loveliness into the landscape. Upon the sky.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

I live in the valley with a view to the east. When the sun rises, hues of golden yellow and rosy pink sometimes brush upon the heavens. Beautiful to behold. Occasionally Randy will text after arriving at work and alert me to the morning’s artistic arrival. I appreciate his thoughtfulness.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

In late afternoon, pressing toward evening when I am preparing supper, I find myself drawn to the south kitchen window. There I shift my eyes slightly right to the tree-covered hillside behind our home. There I behold bare black branches against a backdrop pink sky. The loveliness of it all, the contrast of dark and light, delights me. Oh, how lovely the dusk of day.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

Yes, even in the deep of winter, nature shows her creative side. Coloring the sky. Reminding me that in every single day beauty exists, even when it sometimes seems elusive.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

TELL ME: What brings beauty into your natural world in February?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The poetry of trees at sunset April 14, 2020

 

 

SUNSET. I FIND IT profoundly beautiful. Poetically beautiful.

 

 

Last week while walking a tree-lined trail in Faribault’s North Alexander Park, I stopped to appreciate the sunset through the trees.

 

 

I aimed my camera lens skyward, toward treetops. Branches, like lines drawn in wide chisel and felt tip markers, traced the sky. Sharp against backdrop canvases of blue, pink and orange. Lovely. The literary and visual work of an artist.

 

 

Scenes like this are so ordinary, yet extraordinary. Nature, when viewed in pause mode, seems even more stunning these days.

 

 

When I lift my camera and look through a viewfinder to frame a photo, I see so much. I notice details. Shapes. Colors. Patterns. Light.

 

 

It’s a process similar to writing poetry. I immerse myself in creating something beautiful. Poetry requires sparse, well-chosen words. Photography requires that, too, but in a visual way.

 

 

In this unprecedented time of social distancing, isolation and concern about COVID-19, I feel especially grateful for a quiet place to walk, to appreciate the art of nature and then create my own art via photography.

 

 

April is National Poetry Month. Celebrate by reading a poem, writing a poem or finding a poem in nature, like I did at North Alexander Park on a cold April evening with strong winds gusting from the northwest, sometimes shaking my camera lens.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winter photo poetry February 18, 2019

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A WINTER LANDSCAPE IN RURAL Minnesota can, at first glance, seem visually unappealing. White upon white upon white.

But then a moment happens. A curtain opens in the mind to reveal a scene that holds spectacular beauty.

Stubble pokes through snowy fields. A farm site stands isolated, yet strong, in all that winter vastness. And then, a layer of golden light slips between land and clouds.

The light. The textures. The immensity of the scene. All collide before my eyes, to create a winter photo poem. Beautiful in its complexity. Beautiful in its simplicity. Winter.

 

I photographed this scene along Interstate 35 somewhere north of Faribault around sunset Saturday.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Angels we have seen on high December 15, 2017

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YEARS HAVE PASSED since I thought about this observation: The angels are baking cookies.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

But when a family member recently noticed the gold and pink tinge of the evening sky, she suggested the cherubs were busy baking Christmas cookies.

Unless you’re a Helbling family member, you’ve likely never heard this comparison of the sunset, or sunrise, to angelic bakers. It’s an interpretation attributed to my late mother-in-law, passed on to her children and then to her grandchildren.

Many times while they were growing up, my three kids directed me to look outside, to see the fiery sky, to see the angels baking cookies. It is a sweet part of family lore passed from one generation to the next.

This time of year, traditions and stories seem more important than ever. What are some of your family stories and/or traditions? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, for the poetic beauty of sunrises & sunsets in Minnesota May 1, 2017

 

SOMETIMES I WONDER if nature can offer anything more beautiful than a sunrise or a sunset. But then I have not seen the mountains of the West or the deserts of the Southwest or the ocean other than the Atlantic once.

 

 

Still, the sunrise and sunset are universal. We all see the same sun, just in different places.

 

 

Farm fields and a wide sky backdropped my youthful vision of the sun. To this day, for me, there’s nothing quite like a prairie sunset, the blazing ball of the sun overwhelming the southwestern Minnesota landscape. Those childhood memories leave me grieving for the sunsets I’ve missed while living in a valley within a city for 33 years. Hillside and trees filter and block the sinking sun.

 

 

Still, living in Faribault, a southeastern Minnesota community situated along rivers and lake, gives me an opportunity to view the sunset waterside. And there is beauty in that, too, in the reflections that dance poetry across water backdropped by a day shifting from twilight to dusk to dark.

 

 

FYI: These images were taken in mid-March from the shores of Wells Lake at King Mill Park along the Cannon River in Faribault. Click here to see additional photos of the above sunset as I entered Faribault along Highway 60 from the east.

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Writing poetry as the sun rises

My fingertips linger within a mere whisper of the keyboard
as I pause, half-thought, words interrupted mid-phrase,
to tilt my head toward the window and the sunrise
spreading gold and pink across the sky like jam on toast.

In that morning moment, I desire nothing more
than to dip my fingers into the jar of dawn,
to sample her sweetness, to taste of her earthy goodness,
to delight in sunshine and rain and succulent fruit plucked from vines.

But language beckons me back to the keyboard,
to dip my fingers into the jar of words,
to choose and shape and share the poetry that rises within me,
in rhythm and verse upon the breaking day.

 

FYI: My poem about the sunrise published in Poetic Strokes, A Regional Anthology of Poetry From Southeastern Minnesota, 2012.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Artistry in a Minnesota sunset April 24, 2017

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The sun begins to set as we head west on Minnesota State Highway 60 toward Kenyon.

 

SUNRISE, SUNSET…so begin lyrics from a song in “Fiddler on the Roof.” I’ve always loved that musical and the song about the seasons of life. How quickly we progress from the sunrise of life to the sunset.

The setting and rising of the sun, while symbolic of life, are of themselves worthy of appreciation. There’s such beauty in the hues that break across the sky, weaving with clouds and sometimes water to produce spectacular visuals. Works of art, really.

 

A line of clouds divided the sky as we continued west.

 

On an early spring Saturday afternoon, returning from a day trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin, my husband and I aimed toward the setting sun, the sky layered in darkness and light.

 

Between Kenyon and Faribault, the sun silhouetted a farm site.

 

As we drove along Minnesota State Highway 60 west to Faribault from Kenyon, the sun slipped closer to the earth, blazing like a brilliant spotlight in our eyes.

 

 

 

 

Then, entering Faribault on the east side, cresting the Highway 60 hill before dipping toward the river valley, I saw before me hues of orange and yellow brushed across the sky like a watercolor painting. It was one of those moments of nearly indescribable, spectacular beauty. A gift at the end of the day.

Welcome home.

FYI: Please check back for photos of the sun setting over the Cannon River by the King Mill Dam. We headed there to watch the final moments of the sunset.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Minnesota prairie sunset May 5, 2014

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MY HUSBAND SCURRIED back to my mother’s house, told me to grab my camera and hurry.

And hasten we did.  Between her house and the neighbors, along the grass alley a block. Turn west at my uncle and aunt’s house. Fast-walk another block.

 

Prairie sunset 52

 

Focus on the setting sun, the sky colored in layered shades of orange and yellow, pink and purple.

 

Prairie sunset 54

 

Oh, how I love the sunset on my beloved prairie in my hometown of Vesta, Minnesota.

 

Prairie sunset 55

 

I can never get enough of it.

 

Prairie sunset 56

 

This moment when day transitions into evening with beauty unequal on a land that stretches flat into forever.

Spectacular sunset, like poetry sweeping across the prairie sky.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Reflections on a prairie sunset June 30, 2013

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Sunset on the prairie

WE STOOD ALONG THE EDGE of the gravel road Saturday evening, my 13-year-old nephew and I, mesmerized by the glorious golden sun pinking the sky above and below a layer of blue grey.

I raised my camera. He lifted his phone. We snapped several photos, compared, wished for better zooms to photograph the prairie sky north of Lamberton in southwestern Minnesota.

Sunset on the prairie 2

“It’s what I miss most about this place, the sunrise and the sunset,” I said.

“And the stars,” Stephen added.

Sun and stars.

He was right. The stars, too.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sunday sunset February 24, 2013

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ON THE WAY HOME from Montgomery, Minnesota, not Alabama, late this afternoon, the sun danced with the clouds:

Sunset - Copy

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Claiming a prairie sunset February 8, 2013

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MY HEART BELONGS to my native prairie. Always has, always will.

Even after three decades away from southwestern Minnesota, I remain connected to the sky and to the land, to the place that shaped me as a person, a writer, a photographer.

In an environment as stark as the prairie, you notice details.

Even in southeastern Minnesota, where I've lived for three decades, expanses of prairie exist like this sunset scene.

Even in southeastern Minnesota, where I’ve lived for three decades, expanses of prairie exist like this sunset scene.

And so, on a recent Saturday, as my husband and I traveled south and east from Cleveland to Kilkenny (that’s in southeastern Minnesota, not Ohio and Ireland), I observed daylight evolve into evening, the sun slipping in a slim band of rosy peach across the horizon.

In that moment my soul yearned for the land I left at age 17, the prairie, the place of my heart.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling