Is the glass half full, or half empty? Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” And this last week provided many opportunities to look and see. It’s been unusually hot for this time of year, which means that everyone has been putting in even longer hours than usual to keep things irrigated and alive. The crops are drying up, the animals are heating up and we are trying our best to keep our chins up as we go through the long, hot days.

We were a few weeks later than usual shearing our sheep — which normally wouldn’t have mattered — but this year, the poor animals were so hot. We kept sprinklers on in their pasture trying to keep the temperature down as best as possible, but they looked miserable in their wool coats in triple-digit weather. Elvis, our buck, was getting up there in age, but has been doing well — at least until the mercury topped the thermometer. While waiting in line to be sheared, the poor old guy laid down and died. Elvis has officially left the barn — may he rest happy in those heavenly pastures where the sun never heats over 80 degrees.

Elvis had set the tone for the next few weeks. One of our tractors ended up at the John Deere dealership for some major repairs, while another blew a front tire driving down the road. Even our camp trailer had gone in for work on its slide-outs. And just as quickly as one problem was fixed, another popped up. While swathing one afternoon, I see a plume of smoke rise above the skyline. As it was in the direction of several of our wheat fields, my husband went to investigate. It wasn’t our wheat — but it was our straw. My husband, along with many other farmers and neighbors, spent the rest of the day helping to keep the fire from destroying the surrounding wheat fields.

A few days later, our son called with knotter trouble one afternoon. He’d done everything he knew, but it still wouldn’t work. My husband headed out to help. A few hours later, my husband was still digging grass out of the baler. When I finished swathing and got home, I threw together some food for the hungry boys. They’d rolled out of bed at 3:30 that morning, and were very hungry. Lunch in hand, I walked outside to find nothing to drive but my motorcycle. I had to do a little consolidating to get the lunch in the saddlebag. Less than a mile down the road, I shift up, and the bike sputtered and died. I coasted off the road and checked my gas tank — bone dry. By the time I finally reached the field, the gummy bears were more like gummy forests, and the cold drinks were tepid at best. But to a hungry stomach, none of that matters. While the kids were wolfing down their lunch, my husband tried starting the baler again. When the PTO turned on with a loud clunk, his face clouded. Climbing underneath the baler, his shoulders slumped — all six needles just broke. Yet another five-digit repair bill. So, is the glass half empty? Or half full?

As we pulled handful after handful of grass hay out of the chamber, I kept thinking about that glass.

The optimist says: The glass is half full.

The pessimist says: The glass is half empty.

The Eskimo says: Let’s talk about the benefits of ice.

The artist uses it to rinse out his brushes.

The engineer says: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

The feminist says: A man would probably get a full glass.

The salesman says: Will the glass sell better marketed as half full or half empty?

The accountant says: The glass is 50% in the red.

The sommelier says: It’s a standard 5-ounce pour. It leaves room in the glass for the wine to oxygenate.

The mom says: It doesn’t matter. Without a coaster, it will still leave a ring.

The great-grandpa says: Some just see my teeth in it and get freaked out.

The farmer says: You’re missing the point. Finish the line of pipe, turn the pump on and then the glass can be refilled!

When you look ahead in your life, do you expect things to work out for the best, or do you assume the worst? When we envision the future, our rostral anterior cingulate cortex determines whether we see clear, blue skies or dark storm clouds. But optimism and pessimism are not hardwired. We can overcome our natural tendency toward doom and gloom. We can dwell on the miseries of the past and pick at the scabs of every wound — or can we make a fresh start. Be grateful for what we have. Gummy forests taste just the same as gummy bears. Cherish our relationships. How amazing is it that I can spend every day working with my husband and boys? Our lives are richer when we choose optimism.

As my husband climbs out from under the baler, covered in hay and grease, he smiles and says, “The baler’s out of commission. Let’s take that glass and refill it from the boat.”

Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.

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