This I Believe

Betsy - Northfield, Minnesota
Entered on September 14, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: golden rule

I believe in going outside when the sun is shining.

I believe in bike rides in the morning; reading in the backyard in the afternoon; walking around the neighborhood in the evening, when the light is just so and the sunset is creeping in.

I believe in picking strawberries, making jam, and serving it at picnics. I believe in those endless August days where you go straight from pajamas to swimsuit to pajamas, letting sun and water set the agenda for 16 hours straight. I believe in the positive vibes of Vitamin E. I believe in slapping on the sunscreen and getting out of the house. If I’m inside on a sunny day, I feel like I’m wasting time. Burning daylight.

This isn’t always the safest philosophy. I once biked thirty miles in 100-degree heat and gave myself sunstroke so bad that I nearly fainted on the shoulder of a four-lane highway riding home.

On vacations in Jamaica, I never could get the hang of the locals’ schedule: work in the morning, sleep through the afternoon, dance at night. I always slept in, then ended up on the beach in the hottest part of the day–and was so fried by sunset that I couldn’t stay awake, much less dance.

Of course, it goes without saying that I have always, adamantly, believed in the maxim “Make hay while the sun shines.” I believed it, that is, until I had the chance last summer to literally make hay.

My husband and I bought a little farm whose two acres of fenced pasture were ripe with grass and alfalfa, enough to see our matronly pony through the winter.

Flush with the novelty of it all, we hired a local farmer to cut and bale the hay, and then we “put up” the 76 bales ourselves. This is how you put up hay: The Driver crawls the pickup truck slowly through the field, pausing at each bale for the Walker to pick it up and heave it into the truck. When the truck bed is full—a dozen bales or so—the Driver parks inches away from the barn, and the Walker climbs up on the hood to heave the 80-pound bales in through a second-story window, into the hayloft. The Driver, now up in the loft, catches the bales and stacks them, four bales high. It is hot, dusty work that could kill you before it made you stronger.

I should point out here that my husband and I both grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and neither of us has raised horses, or baled hay. We wore short-sleeve T-shirts the first day, ignorant of the way hay scratches up your skin each time you wrap your arms around a bale to move it. We spent the night soaking our rashed, burning arms, and then we wore flannel shirts for the rest of the week, even though it was 95 degrees out.

We muscled 74 bales (minus the two that I ran over with the truck) into the loft by ourselves. We were giddy with pride, and dehydration. When the last bale was in, we headed straight for a cool shower and a glass of lemonade in the shadow of the barn.

I still believe in sunshine. But now I also believe in shade.