Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

October 14, 2006

Quite prominent

Just remembered a statement Olla made yesterday when talking about a friend of hers from the old days. Olla said her friend came from a family which was "quite prominent in Flom."

Flom is a nice town, but its population is at most 30. Not quite sure what it would take to be quite prominent there.

Another phrase of the day: "You're going to stay for lunch, aren't you?"

The nice ladies at the Cluster 4 gathering at the Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji, of course, asked me to stay for lunch.

So did the nice ladies at the Gary Legion Auxilary meeting to which I briefly spoke one week ago. (Sorry it took so long to get the mention in, Joyce.) They were going to serve coffee, and it was eight o'clock at night! I couldn't partake. I had class to prepare for, and coffee at eight at night would have me up until five a.m.

Now, the trouble with staying for lunch today in Bemidji was that after I spoke, but before lunch, they were having an annual meeting with election of officers and such. That would have taken at least a half-an-hour, and then lunch, and then visiting, all fun, but I would have been an hour-and-a-half later getting home where there was plenty to do.

I feel like a real lug turning down such hospitality. But after I get done speaking, my primary urge is to go hide, be by myself and unwind. Also, if there's a long drive ahead, as there was today, I want to get started so that there is some day left when I get home.

So, in the end, I didn't stay for lunch. And I felt awful about it.

More reports on "stri:"

Friend Jim, a professor of religion and a student of Theravada Buddhist texts who somehow manages to at the same time maintain impeccable Norwegian American credentials, reports that the word is properly spelled "strid," which means a battle, strife or conflict.

Cousin-in-law Ingela, who is a real-live Swede, contributes, as she puts it, her two kroner in. She agrees with Jim and adds that in Swedish, the word, with a "d," means battle, strife or conflict, apparently the same as Norwegian. So, they agree on that much.

To put it properly:

This is getting to be quite a strid.


One of the benefits of winter is that the sun rises late enough for me to catch it. This morning the weather is cold and clear, and I am up drinking coffee next to my sunlamp, taking little breaks to go downstairs for more coffee and check out the sunrise. All is quiet but for the ticking of the clocks.

I am speaking in Bemidji later in the morning to a group of Lutheran women. To be specific, I am speaking to "Cluster 4" for the Cluster 4 fall gathering.

Sometimes those who have me speak take the liberty of giving my speech a title. Today's title is "Lutheran Church Women: Doing the Work of the Lord." I will see if I can fit singing Willie Nelson, ragtime piano, and a few jokes into that designation. Depends upon your definition of "work of the Lord," I guess.

Over the past few weeks, I have given three speeches to nursing home inservices--training sessions required for nursing home workers--on customer service. I open with the assertion that nursing home workers are doing much more than customer service, they are performing a ministry. I could just as well say they are doing the work of the Lord.

Speaking of nursing homes, I visited Aunt Olla in the Fertile Hilton yesterday. She said that she wasn't normally superstitious, but Friday the 13th wasn't going particularly well. In fact, it was sort of a "stri," although Olla didn't use the word.

Olla's been raising cane on the nursing home resident council. Proceedings are confidential, so I won't breach the topics here, but suffice it to say that Olla made it clear that when she approaches death, she wants to stay in the comfort of her bed and not be dragged down to the dining hall just because somebody thinks its a good idea for her to stay active.

Olla's planning an outing next Thursday. We are going to see some of her friends "for the last time." Once this is finished, then she will be done, she said. I laughed. It probably won't be the last time for anything. Olla has a genius for putting another carrot out on the end of the stick as soon as the last carrot is conquered. With the successful birthday party behind her, planning immediately began for the next event, which, like the Syttende Mai celebration and her birthday, is going to be the last.

Of course, this won't go on forever. Olla is ninety-five years old. I have to balance that in there when I think about the next event, which in this case apparently includes me giving a piano concert to the entire apartment building of one of the friends we are visiting in Detroit Lakes.

There is the problem of fitting all of Olla's friends we are going to pick up on the way to Detroit Lakes in my pickup. These are all people in their eighties, so I don't think it would be wise to put any of them behind the front seat. Olla thinks that would be kind of fun, but I do not, so perhaps the thing to do would be to rent a limo.

Olla's brother, my grandfather, started with his last trips about ten years before he died. I think we took over a dozen last trips to Twin Valley to visit the graveyard and see all his friends--he knew most of the people there--or a last trip to eat at his sister Millie's. Grandpa's health was far less stable than Olla's, so his contention that each trip was his last had more credence.


Readers Irene and Ruth immediately came to the rescue: Stri (pronounced "stree" with a rolled "r") is a Norwegian word which roughly means "strife."

My grandmother, who was Swedish, used the word to describe chaotic situations. I mixed the meaning of the word up with the English "strewn," as in, "after the tornado, our whole house was strewn about. It was such a stri."

Of course, a tornado would cause strife, so it would also cause "stri," or be a stri. But due to how my grandmother used the word, I will always think it means "mess" more than "strife."

October 13, 2006


Yesterday, I played piano at the Halstad Living Center. When I was going around before hand greeting the residents, many of them wanted to talk gardening.

One of the ladies overheard the conversation. I don't know how with it she was, but when I got to her and asked how she was doing, she said, "Gardening is just a big stree!"

She pronounced it the Norwegian way, "Stdee."

I hadn't heard that word in a long time, I believe since my grandmother passed away. I recall that she would use the word to mean a situation was chaos. It was a "stree."

I have looked up the word online spelled as I have spelled it here. No references at all. One of the residents said that the literal translation meant "strife."

If any of you have the correct spelling of the word "stree," and a definition, I would be grateful.

October 11, 2006


Today, the weather turned very cold, hovering around freezing for most of the day. There was a dusting of snow this morning, and more dustings throughout the day as various squalls passed over. Between the squalls came brief periods of sunshine.

I wrote in praise of naps last night but then I awoke at 4:30 a.m. this morning, unable to sleep, ready to go--due to my long nap. So, I got up, made some coffee, turned on my sunlamp, and did some work. I love the quiet of early morning. I wish I could get up early every day. However, that would just make my afternoon nap even longer.

At class, two football players here from Miami figured that the snow outside, which was the first they had ever seen, justified canceling class. They wanted to go out and play in it. That was the theme today at UMC--the students from warmer climes and countries were thrilled with the snow while everybody else was telling them that they'd be sick of it soon enough.

Torture of US citizen by his own government

Please read this account of the treatment given a US citizen suspected of plotting a "dirty bomb" attack, but not given a trial for three years to prove or disprove the charge.

October 10, 2006

Napping weather

The weather turned cloudy and cold today. Lots of rain this evening. It all made me feel groggy. After a busy couple of weeks, I did nothing. It felt good.

And I took a long nap. This was no ordinary nap. It was one of those where I melted into the bed and didn't move. When I awoke, I didn't know what time of what day it was. Morning or night? No idea.

A person needs a day like that every now and then.

TORII HUNTER is going to stay with the Twins. The Twins picked up his $12 million option. And it wasn't ten minutes before he complained that he would prefer a multi-year contract, but he would just have to accept this one year deal. And hey, its $12 million.

So, Hunter is going to be around to annoy me for another year. For the record, my objections to Torii are 1) he's overpaid 2) he's not the centerfielder he used to be 3) he talks to much and criticized his teammates and management in the newspapers 4) he has a personal make-up artist 5) he thinks he's the franchise.

"He has nothing to teach me!" said Hunter when they hired hitting coach Joe Vavra this season. Hunter was disappointed they didn't get somebody with a famous name. Turns out, Vavra had a whole lot to teach Hunter and the rest of the Twins. Under his tutelage they went from the worst-hitting team in the league to the best.

"We won't catch Detroit, all we can do is chase Chicago," Hunter said in July. He was wrong. The Twins caught Detroit.

Granted, Hunter came on like gangbusters at the plate at the end of the season. I did not expect that. However, his outfield play continued to sink in quality. They need to put him in left field, but that will never happen. So, we're stuck with his 30-year-old legs in center field for another year, not the worst thing in the world, but when it comes with his diva-like attitude, it gets to be a bit much.

October 09, 2006


One of my students is having difficulty. She is a sweet girl, and she tries to stay awake, and I tease her a little during class to try to keep her awake, but to no avail.

So, we met after class today. I asked her what the problem was. She was frank: "It is so boring!" She tries to do the reading, but when you have no interest, it is difficult to get through the first paragraph of the very heavy history text.

The author of the text is partly to blame. He mixes in mountains of detail he finds interesting. To students struggling with the class, that detail, which I also find very interesting, just clouds things up. Which of these crazy pieces of trivia do I need to learn?

I told her she was normal. No normal, healthy 18-year-old would be interested in history. I was interested in history at that age, but I was wierd.

But, I said that she's going to spend the rest of her life, no matter what profession she enters, dealing with a certain amount of things she didn't choose, things which she will find boring. It will be how she deals with the elements of her profession she didn't expect and doesn't find interesting at first blush which will make her a success or failure.

We went over some possible methods to try to crack the nut. I want her to try to turn every paragraph heading ("The Battle of Lexington and Concord") into a question: "What was the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and why was it important?" I suggested she ignore all details which don't address that question.

That means she will have to sort through the details to decide which ones to ignore, a process which should help her learn the details.

I am going to put her in touch with another girl who started the class having great difficulty. She eventually asked to visit. I suggested she come up with her own study guide. She went out and developed her own study method, which she proudly emailed me. She had been flunking all the quizzes, but now she is doing fine, and she did well on the test. She cracked the nut.

So, when I asked her to tutor the first girl, she jumped at the chance. "I seem to have a gift for history!" she wrote in her email.

YEE HAW! That's fun stuff.

But the first girl is going to have a tough time for a while. She is in college on an athletic scholarship. Her main focus is athletics. This history class is an impediment. She is smart, I can tell. She is also a gem of a person. But it is going to take a little something to overcome the biggest enemy of all, boredom.

OVERALL, I have never had such fun classes. The students are full of it. We tease back and forth. There is not a single student with a bad attitude towards the class. There are some who are lazy, but not one of them is bitter or cynical.

After the first test, which some of them failed, I felt justified in addressing one of my pet issues: posture. I said those who slouch and lay their heads on the table didn't do well. It was true. Surprise, surprise. So now, just like an old-time schoolmarm, I am starting the classes with instructions to sit up straight! Prepare to learn!

Others sat with their arms folded, not taking notes. They didn't do well either. After they didn't do well (you always wonder if they might be geniuses who are absorbing everything), I felt safe in telling them to at least write down the terms I put on the chalkboard. If they don't, I will point them out.

For the students, so little of this business is learning history and so much of it is just growing up.

Pretty soon they might be ready for the make-your-bed-in-the-morning lecture. I am convinced that any student who made his or her bed every morning for a semester would likely get better grades than one who didn't.

October 08, 2006


When I pulled up to the drive-thru at Starbuck's in Grand Forks today, I had a Virgil Fox organ album blaring on my pickup's stereo.

The perky little blonde girl at the window smiled and said, "Great organ music!"

Wow! Somebody who likes organ music!

Turns out, she is studying opera, so has an appreciation for good music.

So, the world isn't going to pot after all.

The national comedy

Unfortunately, the national news is all about this Foley thing. We are fighting a war which probably isn't being run very well, our military people are dying every day, and the only thing which captures the imagination of the voters enough to get them upset is a very creepy congressman.

Who do you blame? The news organizations for filling their airwaves up with irrelevant but compelling trash? The audiences who are so interested in trash?

I think we need divided government again for a while. We need one bunch of clowns to offset the other bunch of clowns. The Founding Fathers, especially Madison, said as much: This government is bound to be taken over by clowns. All we can do is set the clowns against each other.

Tomorrow in class we are going over the writing of the Constitution. In one day. I am going to demand that my students understand the Electoral College for the next test. I am biased, and I will announce that I am strongly in favor of keeping the Electoral College. It is the only way to avoid the huge disaster of a close national election decided by popular vote.

Can you imagine the chaos in 2000 if the national vote tally was as close as it was in Florida and the winner was determined not by the Electoral College but by popular vote? There would have been lawyers fighting over hanging chads from coast to coast! They might have even come out to Bear Park Township to contest our handwritten ballots! Heck, if they picked up a vote or two in every precinct, it could sway the whole thing.


Some of you have subscribed to get my weekly column via email. For some reason, my website's email program is not sending the column to all the subscribers. If you did not get the column Sunday night and usually do, perhaps you could email me. That would help us figure out this glitch.


A cormorant perches with its webbed feet high in a dead tree two miles outside the city limits of Rindal, along the Sand Hill River.