The only color in my yard this summer came from clean laundry
flapping in the breeze and backlit by the sun.
When our children were very young, we lived on 10 acres of Blackland Prairie east of Austin, home to Johnson grass, bluebonnets, two trees and scads of fire ants. We were poor as church mice. When our second-hand dryer broke down, I was forced to engage in the vintage activity of hanging laundry out to dry. My husband built an iconic clothesline behind our rent house, with two galvanized iron T posts and four lines strung between.
I hated it. I hated it as much for its symbolism of our status in the world as for its inconveniences. In summer, the clothes were stiff as boards, and about as comfortable to wear. Our underwear dangled for the world to ogle. Yellow jackets crawled over the clothes, pins and lines, waiting to zap the laundress. In winter, clothes wouldn’t dry, and so we draped them all about our very small house. But more pressingly in my young mind, CIVILIZED PEOPLE SHOULD OWN A CLOTHES DRYER!
When our fortunes improved, I bought a dryer and never looked back.
That is, until we faced the same situation here on the hill. Broken dryer, not enough scratch to purchase another. This time Dan strung clothesline between oaks in a small motte outside the laundry room. It was winter, and we frequently resorted to drying clothes over the stair rail and on hangers in doorways.
My in-laws saw our plight, and very generously gave us a dryer for Christmas.
But something had changed in me since those early years. Perhaps it was a deeper appreciation of nature, or a diminished concern for what others think, or a greater interest in the wellbeing of the planet (sounds lofty).
I now enjoy hanging laundry. Saving electricity - for my pocketbook and the planet - is how I justify the extra time it requires. But really, I just love it.
Did my great-grandmothers feel this way about laundry? Their world was simpler. Perhaps this was just another household chore among many, without the luxury of a stand-by dryer. I hope that they stopped occasionally to enjoy their natural surroundings, took a deep breath of clean air as I do, and returned to their other chores rejuvenated.
Now, it’s time to bring in the laundry.
Favorite spot in the garden: