by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” I think that’s how the song begins. But it’s not so easy in summertime when one lives on a Texas ranch and it’s hay season.

My mama says she didn’t send me to college to end up driving a tractor. To get my hands dirty. But almost immediately upon the completion of my undergraduate degree, I married a Texas boy and began life on a cattle ranch.

Most of the time, I tell my friends my life is much like Eva Gabor on the U.S. 1960’s sitcom, “Green Acres.” I go shopping. I get monthly pedicures. I go to the hairdresser twice a month. And I get my acrylic nails put on and filled. This also requires two appointments each month. And I never, ever, ever drive a tractor without first putting on my lipstick.

Today was the first day of this year’s hay season. I admit this time of year is a love, sometimes hate, relationship. The long workdays and late night dinners are not much fun. But there is something about driving a tractor that I do enjoy. The smell of freshly cut grass is most pleasing. And I especially relish the broad view the hay fields provide as I move along.

The big horizon before my gaze reminds me how infinite life is. And whatever troubles have been burdening my heart begin to seem quite small in contrast.

Inevitably, the last stanza of a favorite hymn comes to mind:

“Green pastures are before me, Which yet I have not seen; Bright skies will soon be o’er me, Where darkest clouds have been. My hope I cannot measure, My path in life is free; My Father has my treasure, And He will walk with me.”

As I press on under the hot Texas sun and sing these words, my heart is filled with peaceful appreciation of the moment. I take a deep breath, wipe the sweat off my brow, and sing the words again. Then, I start to reflect on how attitudes and perceptions impact my life.

As I grew up, my mama always encouraged me to look for what is good in everything. And to be grateful. Time and again her advice proved to be right, and I learned how gratitude was a viewpoint from which my life could be observed, helping me to see what was there instead of what was not. Gratitude had the power to broaden my vision and to help me see options and prospects that were only obscured by a limited point of view.

My most vivid recent example of this came with the remodel of the little farmhouse where my husband and I have lived the past 25 years. It began as our starter house and grew into the home where we would raise our only child. Now, it has become the place where we may spend our retirement years.

For most of these years, I was ready to move out. Ready to build a new house. And consequently, I spent much of my time being unhappy about where I was and looking forward to something that might never be.

A friend, who is a talented artist with an interior decorator’s eye, was visiting one day and began pointing out various special and unique features she saw in our little farmhouse. She saw details I had never appreciated and valued before–mostly because I was consumed with focusing on what I didn’t like. My heart was so set on building a new house, I wasn’t even considering ideas on how to improve where I was.

A truly miraculous thing happened — something I didn’t expect, wasn’t looking for, and would never have imagined. My view of my little farmhouse changed. As my appreciation for it grew, I began to imagine ways to remodel. Very soon, the idea of building a new house was no longer even a consideration. I wanted to stay where I was. I was totally happy and satisfied where I was. Today, with the remodeling almost complete, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Once again, gratitude helped me to see present possibilities, and that new view changed my life.

My first day of driving the tractor this year was accomplished with me feeling quite satisfied with and proud of my hay loader skills. Those folks familiar with this type of work will appreciate my meaning when I say I didn’t miss any bales!

A thumbs up from my husband affirmed, “Good job!” And I was on my way to cook supper.

Summertime in Texas means many more days like today. But tomorrow’s not a hay baling day! I have my pedicure appointment!