As far back as I can remember our laundry has hung to dry on a clothesline. To some, it’s rather quaint and old-fashioned, but to me there is something reassuringly domestic about seeing clothes hung in the sun or flapping in the wind. One can guess a bit about the real people who live in this space and time; whether there are children or only adults, what they do for a living, maybe they dress finely or casually. It speaks of life in the current moment and fashion, a snapshot of their lives.
When I was small, all year ‘round, my mother washed clothes for nine of us, and all was hung on the line to dry. Breezy weather was best of course, things dried quickly. In winter, the laundry came in freeze-dried, stiff as boards and had to be beaten into softness. Over her lifetime, my mother must have washed a million diapers, and when I grew up, I followed her lead. I stopped at two children, seven would have been insanity, but I insisted on cloth diapers and everything went on the line (sunlight bleaches and sanitizes naturally). My contemporaries thought I was crazy to hang clothes outside and not use the convenience of a dryer, let alone bother with cloth diapers when disposables were what everyone used.
Back when I was in high school, the environmental movement was just starting, (I remember skipping school to join the first Earth Day celebrations) and earth conservation was in vogue. I had always been conscious of such things; I was raised frugally and woe to any one of us who wasted anything, be it electricity or aluminum foil. Why waste money and resources when Nature dried your clothes for free?
In the past decade, the Green Movement has brought on a resurgence of that earlier Earth Day consciousness and it is a good thing for our dear Mother Earth when people start looking at their consumption with an eye to conserving resources. Abandoning one’s dryer is an adjustment many are making. It may not be easy or convenient; to be sure, our lifestyle is busier than ever.
No longer do I have tiny clothes or diapers hung out (my boys now grown with one gone off on his own), yet still there is laundry and it is one of my favorite chores. Herein lays the blessing: hanging laundry outside can be a mindfulness meditation. When I go outside, all the weary world goes away and I am in the morning sunshine, the breeze gently plays the hair around my face or whips my clothes frantically. The birds twitter, swoop and fly across the sky that is clear, has thin high clouds or puffy fat ones. All this I take in as I breathe deeply this moment in time, simply BEING here now. The trees, the sound of the wind tat-tatting the leaves, a crow cawing or a nuthatch calling “ha-ha” as she heads downward on a trunk searching for insects. Bees drone in the flowers from the first crocus in spring to the last asters in fall. I observe and am a part of it all.
In late afternoon, as I return to gather and fold each item, sunlight slants through the trees, and once again I enjoy the renewing peacefulness of nature. A gift for my soul to go along with that of freshly dried clothes that smell of the outdoors. When I slip between the sheets at night, the clean linen smell is a joy as I press my nose in and breathe deeply. Ah, it is the best!