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!
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I just loved this Eliza! Growing up in Montana, I remember well bringing in the frozen laundry off the line in winter, lining up dad’s jeans like soldiers on the porch to defrost/dry? I can’t quite remember how it worked. I don’t recall a day that clothes didn’t hang in the back yard. When we first moved to our home here in the city–modern development–I had my husband put a clothesline up in the back yard. I received a warning citation a week later from the city that it wasn’t allowed, and I was to remove it. Don’ want to spoil the look of the neighborhood. Hmm. I rather the love the look (your photos)
That is too sad, for you and the planet. I have kept tons of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere by hanging my laundry over the years. I love seeing laundry hanging, I guess I’m considered weird. Given the awareness of climate change, maybe it’s time to repeal the city by-laws. I wonder how many signatures it takes? I can see the headlines: “Mandy takes on City Hall!” 🙂
I think it’s especially a larger-city thing. Must have things looking “pretty” you know? I’ve mentioned that I live around beautiful wetlands–and what do I smell? Dryer sheets! Argh!
Eliza, I love working outside. I feel richer than a king or queen when I do. And yes, there is no comparison to the smell of laundry dried outside. I find dryers wear out the clothes really fast, and take all beautiful scent and life out of them. Even when I haven’t had access to an outside line, I hang dry my clothes inside.
I agree with you completely and in winter I, too, use an indoor rack. It makes perfect sense to me as it adds much needed moisture to the dry indoor air. Thanks for visiting!
There is nothing in the world like the scent of sheets hung out to dry. I love this post, Eliza. Thank you for sharing it with me. Since we’re on the subject of laundry, and if you feel like it, here’s my ode to ironing:
It’s on my old blog (I called where we lived in northeast Ohio “The Bogs”).
Wow, I am impressed that you have been blogging for 8 yrs. You’re a pioneer! 😉
Since 1999, in some form or another. Way too long, maybe. 😀
Even more impressed… definitely a pioneer!
Reading this beautiful post makes me like you even more!
😀 Thank you so much dear friend – the affection is mutual! 🙂
I was reading today’s post and directed myself to this one. You and I were brought up in the same way. I remember helping my Great Grandmother hang up laundry, then my Grandmother and of course my Mom. I have always had a clothesline and just love the way the clothes smell. I really enjoyed reading about your family and laundry. Irs one of those simple things in life that brings pleasure..
So true, Carole, I guess there is a bond that connects us to our foremothers and that connection gives us a kind of peace. Thanks for stopping by and commenting today!