Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

June 05, 2004

Visitors from Ohio

Yesterday, a couple from Dayton, OH introduced themselves to me at the nursery. She is a reader of this weblog. Always surprising to see who is checking in here! They were visiting relatives in Gardner, ND. Thanks for saying hi!

Perfect day

There would be no way to improve on the weather today. Perfect. A feeling of summer. Rich, June greens. Lilacs in bloom.

TONIGHT, I went over to Erskine to sing and play at the Water Carnival talent show. I was supposed to kill time after the final act while the judges tallied their results.

Difficult. They had a good sound system, but the piano was a tiny Baldwin. It made little impact in the huge gym. Playing it was like getting milk out of a turnip. Or something like that.

It was steamy in the gym, and people were eager to get home. So, I just played and sang my tunes and the people visited, etc., then went home.

The drive to Erskine is one of my favorites. Roads curving around lakes and through woods. A thunderstorm had just passed over. Twin rainbows shown to the east. On the way home, the sun set in the clear west while the billowy thunderstorms loomed to the east--fading orange with deep purple crevasses. Beautiful.

THE PASSING OF RONALD REAGAN is the big news today, of course. I think I will write a column about it tomorrow, but don't know what angle to take. Reagan has always intrigued me, both at times when I was gung ho for his politics and gung ho against. I remember the first time I heard his voice on the radio--I was in sixth grade. I plowed "REAGAN" in our stubble field in 1980. I was dead set against him while in college. Later, I have come to appreciate his political skills. Last winter, I visited his presidential library, soon to be his burial site, in Simi Valley, CA.

I think I would like to have met him more than most politicians. I would have liked to witness Reagan's legendary charm firsthand. I did see him give a speech in Grand Forks in 1986. He was in the downswing of his presidency at the time, mired in the Iran-Contra scandal. I wrote a pretty sarcastic column in the student paper welcoming him to the UND campus.

So, I will just have to ruminate for the next day and see if I can come up with some angle for the column.

June 04, 2004

Clearing brush

Since I signed the papers to build a new house last week, I have been concentrating on clearing a spot in the woods. I am not a woodsman--yet, anyway. I started by clearing brush, and am proud to say I got up the gumption to fell some pretty big poplar.

I don't trust myself around power tools or machinery, so this is an adventure. Chain saws are very dangerous. And I have a poor sense of balance. So far, I have managed to set both feet solidly on the ground before sawing the next tree. That would seem to be a basic prerequisite, but I was not blessed with physical grace or even common sense.

Well, the results are starting to show. The driveway into the woods is taking shape, and I have nearly settled on a spot. Today, I took some of the ladies who work at the nursery out to the possible spot. Interesting to hear their feedback.

This should be a fun project. Tomorrow morning, a road grader is going to come to build up a road.

June 02, 2004

Aunt Olla calls

Last night, Aunt Olla called, just to see if I was "still alive." She saw how busy we were when she visited the nursery last week and she knows how constant contact with the public affects "us Bergesons."

True. Most on the Bergeson side became shy of crowds in their old age, finding it too much to bear. Yet, many of them led pretty public lives, whether in business or politics. My grandfather would disappear from the nursery for hours on end--fading into the labrynth of fields around the home place.

One former employee reported to me that when he disappeared, she used the opportunity to sort through Grandpa's wastebasket. He had a contempt for money which was expressed in many ways, including a tendency to keep letters which came in the mail while throwing the checks included in the letters in the trash. So, employees would fish them out without him knowing.

When Grandpa went out into the field, he would get tired and lay down for a nap right on the dirt, sometimes with his arms stretched over his head. Several times, new employees would run up to the place yelling, "Something's happened to Melvin!" only to be greeted with a knowing roll of the eyes by those with more experience.

Back to Olla. She's always on the go, yet she always bemoans the fact that she's just been overwhelmed with people lately. I have never know a time when she wasn't overwhelmed with visitors and the like--but to hear her tell it, it has been particularly bad in the past three weeks. It has always been particularly bad in the past three weeks. People, people, people. When it stops, I will get my life in order. All those old photos! It should end here in two weeks. That's when this or that event is over, and then Olla will have peace and quiet. An exception is Olla's friend Sybil who just seems to energize Olla. She just visited for a few days and Olla and she were constantly on the go. Memorial services. Visits.

I don't think she'd have it any other way. She keeps putting carrots on a stick in front of herself--if I can just live until...these photos are organized, or until we have another trip up the bluff, or until somebody's birthday--then I can die in peace. Now she's determined to live until my house is finished. That'll probably take a while!

William Manchester

Historian William Manchester died this week. He is best known for his biographies of General Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill and H. L. Mencken, as well as his account of the asassination of President Kennedy.

Manchester was a friend to my hero, H. L. Mencken during Mencken's sad last days when a stroke prevented the great critic and writer from reading and writing. Manchester read to Mencken several times per week before Mencken's death in the mid-1950s.

Oddly, Manchester suffered the same fate as Mencken: A stroke kept him from finishing his three volume biography of Churchill.

However, the preface to the first two volumes contains a character sketch of Churchill which I consider to be some of the finest historical writing I have ever read. It is filled with gossipy detail, yet gives a serious sketch of the man who rallied the Allies against Hitler in World War II.

I have always hoped that Manchester had somebody to read to him in recent years after he lost his ability to make sense of the words on the page.

Thanks to my Aunt Beth for calling my attention to Manchester's obituary in the New York Times today. As usual, the Times raises obituary writing to an art form.

June 01, 2004

The sunny side of the street

The sun stayed hidden for much of last month. I think the drear hampers people's mood. I know it does mine. A few times this month, I have felt almost giddy good--then I realize--the sun is shining. No wonder!

Its a struggle to get going in the morning if it is cloudy. If it is cold and wet, it is even more difficult. Somebody said yesterday that cloudy, wet weather affects all businesses, not just those directly dealing with the elements. I wouldn't doubt it.

Mood is powerful. Each day, hundreds of things happen to us both good and bad. Thousands of thoughts arise and fall. Mood as much as anything determines which thoughts stick and which ones fall away.

I try to pay attention to my mood. For example, on a sunny day when my mood is good, I can deal with an irritating phone call--for example, somebody complaining about a plant at length which, after questioning, turns out was purchased elsewhere--with equanimity. Hang up, forget about it.

On a cloudy day, that same call can stick in my craw. Even if I don't think about it all the time, the mood of irritation the phone call created can hang over into other areas without me even realizing it. Other people are then penalized for the sins of the complainer on the phone.

So, it is to be aware of one's moods and of events which irritate. Once I identify the root events which have created an agitated mood, the feeling of irritation sometimes subsides.

Sunshine makes it all easy. It is a good thing to walk on the sunny side of the street.

May 31, 2004

Dismal Weekend

More rain. More wind. The spring which never sprung continues.

The cold and wet put a damper on the weekend at the nursery, although business was still good. Thankfully, the cool weather has kept both the trees in the cold building and the plants in the greenhouse in good condition. We should have another two weeks of selling both.

Exhaustion hit this weekend. It has been about seven weeks of long days. Sorry to you regular visitors to this weblog! I haven't had much to report or say.

If the sun came out--and it has been out so rarely in this past month--all would be fine in a minute!

One good thing: Jennifer from Fertile brought out her homemade ice cream this weekend to sell in the greenhouse. A sunny weekend would have brought more sales, but she did pretty well anyway. Great flavors. Honey-raspberry is my favorite. Charlotte's Web, a coconut and chocolate ship concoction, is right behind.

AUNT OLLA and her friend Sybil came up on Friday with a big meal for all of us. Olla is well aware that our eating habits decline this time of year, so she and Sybil prepared an enormous hotdish as well as a bread pudding. We have gotten several meals out of both. Very good. Bread pudding is a favorite.

Sybil is a pianist, so she sat down and pounded out a few tunes. Joe played a little. I happened to be pretty busy at the time, so I will have to wait to have a decent visit with Olla. She and Sybil seemed to have a pretty good time, however.

Sybil's grandson Nick plays fiddle in Kenny Chesney's band, so Olla, at 92 years of age, has a pretty good idea of where Chesney is on his tours. She clipped some newspaper articles about Chesney which have shown pictures of Nick. Nick is a delightful person, although I haven't seen him for several years. He was sort of a prodigy on the violin, but loves playing piano and singing as well. It is good to see a musician fulfill his dreams.