Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

November 19, 2005

Krauthammer on ID

Charles Krauthammer weighs in on the notion of "intelligent design." Thanks to weblog reader Kay for the tip. Krauthammer is always worth reading.

November 18, 2005

More response

Wow, now some notes are coming in the mail about the column. This one must have touched a nerve. Two notes agreed with my column and warned me that I had better be ready for an onslaught of nastiness, and the third was--an onslaught of nastiness. Also, an emailer wrote that he and his wife were disappointed that I felt the need to subject them to my "political leanings."

The critical letter was from a gentleman I know who didn't feel I should question the legitimacy of conversations public figures have with God. He implied that my time in front of the judgement seat would be quite unpleasant if I didn't get my act together pretty soon. "Time is short," he added at the end. Despite the apocalyptic message, I knew his letter was written in a spririt of authentic concern, for that is the sort of guileless person he is.

His warnings were were an honest expression of his beliefs, and I have no problem with them. In fact, I have more respect for somebody who is willing to live out the implications of their religious beliefs than those who believe some of these things and then don't do a thing about it. This man is convinced that people who differ with Robertson and Bush's conception of religious matters are going to have trouble in the hereafter, and he was only right to warn me about it. Having done that, I know he will call it good.

November 17, 2005

Column response

I've never had so much immediate response to a column as I have to the last one. I am sure not everybody is happy with it, but the responses have all been positive thus far.

Positive, but with a troubling twist: most of the comments seem to imply that it took courage to publish the column. Maybe I am just foolish, but I don't think it took much courage at all. Now I am wondering if I should start waiting for the jackboots to come and haul me away!

They won't. There aren't any jackboots. We still have freedom of speech. And I believe in using it to the fullest. I also believe that political debate is harmless and should be lively. And no, I don't feel scared questioning the religious beliefs of our leaders--they are the ones who injected those beliefs into the political debate and used their faith to their electoral advantage. When that happens, those beliefs should be subject to scrutiny.

One lady wrote that the column reminded her of Mike Royko--now, that is a way to make my day! I miss Royko, and I think the country misses his voice. Some of the things which go on are so absurd that only satire can put them in proper perspective.

Naturally, this last column makes me sound like a staunch Democrat. Exactly one year ago this week I wrote a column on the election which led many people to think I was a staunch Bush supporter. I guess if I am going to dabble in politics, I might as well make everybody equally mad.

November 16, 2005

Nine degrees Fahrenheit

It didn't take long for winter to set in just as if it had been here for months. I always take the first storm as a personal insult. The comforts of the indoors don't do me any good. I get agitated and want to get out.

Last night, I was searching online for furnished apartments in Arizona. They all seemed too expensive. If this weather goes on long enough, they will look cheaper.

At least I know what is going on: I have always reacted poorly to winter, so this is no surprise. It goes way back into my childhood, exaggerated feelings of utter bleakness when the cold and snow first set in, and then again in February.

It isn't a problem unless one can't pull out of it by getting busy with something. If I am too agitated to settle on one project, then it really gets miserable. But today I worked on a writing project for several hours and didn't feel distracted once. So, perhaps fortification with Lexipro, the anti-depressant, is sufficient to make winter bearable.

Last night, I decided to watch some television. I landed on the Military Channel. It was a show about the Battle of Britain, the aerial attack by the Nazis on England in 1940. Fascinating. However, my feeling was that I was seeing a lot of stock film footage which may or may not have had any actual relevance to the topic. Men stuffing planes with bombs, running to their bombers, and so on. On top of the footage are noises I know darn well are done in a studio--bombs exploding, airplanes whirring, people screaming. They also colorized the black and white film, so in the end it seemed like I was watching many layers of fake.

But what keeps me watching is the few glimpses of the leaders in action, in this case Churchill, who was filmed signing an autograph with a cigar in his mouth, and the despicible Herman Goering, Hitler's second in command and head of the Luftwaffe. I never get sick of seeing film footage of the World War II leaders. What made them tick? Has any group of men ever presided over greater or more awful events--as the Holocaust, the Battle of Britain, the Normandy Invasion, the Battle of Stalingrad? What was it like to have a commanding view of the whole scene?

In the end, I decided that the few clips of the leaders weren't worth the endless canned footage of people putting bombs on planes, and I changed the channel to an investigation of an unsolved murder--another sure way to catch my attention. I love real life murder mysteries, the sort of thing you see on Court TV.

November 15, 2005

Alberta clipper

I was planning a trip to Grand Forks, but turned around when I saw the visibility. Frozen slush covers the roads. It is far from ideal outside right now.

This weeping willow adds some color to the bleak landscape.

Nine yards, again

The sum total of emailed responses indicates that the preferred explanation for the term "whole nine yards" is that nine yards was the length of an ammo belt in World War II. Shoot off all your ammo, you gave 'em the whole nine yards.

Aunt Beth emailed a clip from the New York Times in which a grandma talked about her young grandson playing football "with pads and the whole nine yards." The phrase is still alive and well in the modern vernacular.

It is possible that the sticking power of such a phrase comes in part from the ambiguity of its origins. The higher the number of possible origins, the more people are likely to feel at home using the phrase. The phrase "nine yards" sounds appropriate for football, garments, cement trucks and ammo belts. Take your pick.

If Cassio were still here, I would be busy explaining this one!

Major victory

After much shuffling of junk, the pickup entered the garage for the first time today, a mere five months after I moved into the house. It never once occurred to me to build a garage big enough to fit both junk and vehicle, so I had to move the junk to the guest bedroom, which is now useless for its intended purpose.

So, after 170,000 miles, the Ranger finally will be stored in warm garage.

The view from the crow's nest changes dramatically with the snow. If the sun were to come out, it would be spectacular. As it is, it can be kind of fun watching the snow fall in waves across the swamp.

Old man winter

The swamp is a slush pot this morning as the falling snow gathers faster than the water can melt it.

A little red twig provides some color relief in the otherwise drab landscape.

I was looking through a copy of Arizona Highways magazine this morning. As always, the magazine carries incredible pictures, pictures which start getting one to think about a winter escape.

November 14, 2005


That's the only way to describe today's weather. Cold, sleet, wet. I guess it is an Alberta clipper that is coming through. Nothing to do but stay inside and putz around.

So, I dug through some boxes in the garage, hoping to sort out some of the accumulated stuff. Got stuck reading old journals from my college years in the mid-1980s. Boy, I wouldn't go through that time of life again.

I was too young to take proper advantage of college. I couldn't decide upon a major because every one of them felt wrong. I couldn't decide upon a career for fear that committing to one would swallow me up in its minutea.

People grated one me more than they should have. I was in the dormitory, and quarters were a bit tight. I was used to absolute quiet, and the dorm was anything but quiet. I wasn't much of a partier, so that didn't appeal. I kept thinking that there was, somewhere, an ideal group of people with whom I could converse with perfect ease. Where were they? I imagined they hung out in a coffee shop in Manhattan.

Now I know such a group doesn't exist. You take people in bits and pieces, emphasizing the good bits and overlooking the bad bits, and in that way you can gain the necessary social sustenance.

If you keep searching for the ideal situation, you will never find it. The trick is to make your present situation as ideal as possible. However, in college, I was still paralyzed by the fear that every possible career, every friendship, every bold new direction would define me for good. As a result, I committed to nothing.

That fear overcame me the day I signed the papers to take over the nursery. Now I am a nurseryman, I thought. I won't be anything else but a nurseryman. I will be swallowed whole by the nursery and will spend my days weeding tree rows and fixing stoves. I will hang out with other nurserymen and talk about trees.

Well, the opposite was true. Committing to the business was liberating. I have been free to write, to play music, to teach, to travel, to do all the things I wanted to do during college but didn't dare.

If I would have had to depend upon writing for a living, it would never have been any fun. I would have been scared to say what I thought for fear of losing my livelihood. If I had to teach for a living, teaching wouldn't be nearly as fun. I would have been so consumed by advancing my career that I wouldn't have been able to relax and enjoy the students.

So, I finally learned a vital lesson: To commit is liberating, not imprisoning. Yes, you must choose carefully what you commit to, but it really isn't a life or death decision. Just get busy on what's in front of you and the rest will take care of itself.

Now, why was that so difficult?