I heard the washer give the sigh and click that signals the end of the cycle, and felt a little jolt of anticipation: time to hang the first load on the line.
Some people would read that and think, get a life. Others, I suspect, would know exactly how I feel. There is a mysterious sort of satisfaction that comes with hanging out clothes. In fact, it’s SO satisfying, that I think I might have written about it before.
The WHY eludes me. It’s a very mundane task, and lugging heavy baskets of wet laundry out the door, down the deck steps and across the yard certainly isn’t labor-saving. But once I plop the basket down on the ground, unfold the umbrella spiral of lines and grab for the first clothes pin, I can feel myself relax.
I have a system for hanging, and I’m careful to use up every space on each line to assure there being room for the loads to come. My mind sometimes wanders as I pin one item after another, planning dinner, or remembering conversations, or thinking about the character in whatever book I happen to be reading.
Sometimes, though, I’m simply aware of this shirt or that pair of pants, thoughts riffling through my mind like the wind through my linens. There’s George’s tux shirt, so blindingly white and needing always to be ready for the next formal gig; the tie-dyed t-shirt with the guitar on it, made by an online friend we’ve never met; my white knit top that George especially likes; my caftan where I spilled some homemade chocolate ice cream; the cherry-print shirt I made for George that’s always a hit here in cherry land; my plaid seersucker pants that are–HOW old?! They still look great.
I feel the sun on my back, I hear the jays screeching from one tree while goldfinches mew gently from another. Thank you, little birds, for leaving my wash spotless, despite all the times you fly overhead. I smell that lovely combination of damp cloth and summer air, so fresh and clean. There’s no better fragrance for bedding.
Then of course, there are the chipmunks. We started feeding one, and then there were two, and this year a crop of young ones learned about the humans who carry peanuts with them. It’s not long, as I hang the clothes, that I hear a rustling behind me and turn to see a little brown head peeking out from under the shed, bright eyes riveted on me.
I quickly offer peanuts in their shell–one for one cheek, one for the other, and a third to be grasped by the front teeth. Off he goes, tail straight in th air, feet flying, peanuts rattling audibly in their shells, to his lair. He’ll be back. As long as I’m out there hanging clothes, he’ll be back.
Sometimes I confess I walk outside just to watch the clothes swinging in the breeze, knowing that I’ve given them new life, and I’ve done it not just because it needed to be done, but because I like doing it. I like knowing that George will open the closet and know he’ll find clean, ironed shirts and folded, paired socks. It’s so domestic it’s almost disgusting; but then, doing things for others is what brings joy to life.
And maybe, in the end, that’s the answer. Line drying keeps me involved in a way that dumping clothes in a machine doesn’t do. I’m not willing to extend that to the wash part; you won’t see me hunched over a scrub board any time soon. But give me clothes line and clothes pins, a soft breeze, singing birds and begging chipmunks, and I’ll be eminently satisfied.