Lost Laundry

One of my earliest memories is threading my way through my grandmother’s loaded clotheslines, hiding among the sheets, ducking under the towels, and emerging on the other side to green grass and a bank of flowers. My mother hung out her laundry, too, and it wasn’t just in the summer heat. I remember our laughter over frozen long johns, stiff and proud next to the other unmentionables in a late fall Montana freeze.

Here’s a laundry day in Venice:


I learned well from them, but when my long clothesline (t-bars at both ends) crashed with the old tree in the backyard, it was like losing a dear old friend. I whined about it until finally a good friend showed up at my house on my birthday with her mom and stepfather. He dug the hole for the cement footing and Linda and her mom helped string up the wire for a single steel post clothesline. It was one of the best surprise birthday gifts I ever received!

I thought “hanging out clothes” to dry was a thing of the past for younger people, but when my grandchildren were toddlers and I’d arrive at their house to do some baby-sitting, there was always a large clothing rack or two set up near the washer and dryer and they were full. Some younger people are doing a great job of watching their energy bills and use of resources.

I still love hanging out the laundry and I do it as often as I possibly can. I enjoy having an excuse for getting out into the fresh air, and then being rewarded for it with a modest electric bill. I appreciate the time to hear the bees murmuring in the nearby periwinkle-blue ceanothus flowers. I get a whiff of the peonies that will only linger for a few days longer. I can usually hear if David is out from Seattle and clearing brush over on his property. I love that smell of line-dried sheets, so superior to any chemical dryer deodorant.

Toshiba Digital Camera

If you look carefully you can see my clothesline between the peonies and the blue bush in the background.

In our damp Northwest, there’s no way to hang out clothes through most of the winter, so I keep a small indoor drying rack for heavier items, like jeans. I have spent quite a few hours dreaming of how I could string a few lines back and forth in my enclosed, unheated front porch, but it’s still just a plan.

The potter, who knows me well, gave me a large poster some years back of a beautiful painting by Charles Curran (1861-1942) called “Shadow Decoration.” The colors are warm pastels. We only see the woman from the back, ¬†hanging out clothes. The shadows of plants that are behind the sheets play on the white surfaces in fine patterns. You can almost feel the movement of the breeze and the sun’s warmth.

It’s unsettling to me that families aren’t sitting down to dinner together and visiting every evening. But as I drive through neighborhoods, I’m also sad that I see so few clotheslines.

Do you hang out clothes to dry?


Photo credits:

Photo 1: o palsson <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/45713725@N00/6875702573″>Laundry day in Venice</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com&#8221;

Photo 3:¬†zoonabar <a ref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/92496717@N00/6093621129″>Clotheslines</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com