Sunday, 13 August 2006

Clotheslines, summer time rainbows and smiles

I love to see the rainbow swags as I look across the row of backyards. Bright fluttery yellow tops, blue jean streamers, flickers of pastel coloured panties, randomly scattered blues, greens, blacks and reds, bold expanses of floral sheets...

To see that we are all the same, we all wear clothing, cover ourselves when we sleep, dry ourselves when we are wet. The people who live their lives inside these clothes may all look different but their lines of washing pinned out to dry in the fresh air are all so familiar.

I am so happy when I am pegging up the clothes. I stand back to look at my efforts and see the unpretentiousness of the display. I feel as if I am somehow connecting the sky to myself. The sun's fire and air's winds flow through these fibres just as the water has. I then must be the missing element - earth.

It is sad that there are still neighbourhoods with actual regulations preventing people to set up an outdoor clothes drying line. I am astounded that this thinking is still prevailing while we are having to seriously assess when and why we burn our resources for power. The air is still free. And we had to wash and dry our clothing long before there were dryers to help.

A big back yard is certainly not required for this soul feeding endeavour. I have strung clothing up to dry across a balcony, on a single post with arms folding out like an upside down umbrella (this was in a tiny back yard and was removable), across my laundry room, over the bath tub, and on a folding rack. My Grandma had clothes line strung across her kitchen to dry the diapers she washed in a large pot on the stove.

I grew up in NYC and the washing lines were strung from the window of one apartment building to a building across the way, or to a telephone pole. These many layers of lines criss-crossed our view as high the buildings themselves. Summer or winter, we flung the windows open and pushed the squealing lines out to the rhythm of "arms length push, click, click, arms length push, click, click, until the void was filled." Just as one window pushed out, not far away another pulled in, "squeak, squeak". The symphony punctuated by the random snaps of the clothes springs and the distant tap-tap of a dropped clothes pin as it bounced down to the ground.

Some days there was time to call out distant conversations across the yards and alleyways but often we busily hung out our banners and quickly pulled them back in again. Children loved to send packages to friends across the way: homework, dolls, toys, letters, messages.

In the winter, the wet clothes were still sent out to flap and flutter in the air. This was a magical time because when they were pulled back in they were usually frozen hard: pants and towels could stand on their own, and when they thawed to softness they were merely damp. Towels could be so soft when they were whipped dry on a windy day, oh, but if not, they were scratchy and so rough.

Drying clothes on the line is one of the pleasures of summer for me, my time at home in the winter is not long enough during daylight hours to manage drying my clothes on the outside line - one of the costs of going out to work I guess. I really do appreciate it when I can "hang out", just as I also appreciate pulling a warm soft towel from the dryer on a cold winter's night or putting a still warm pair of socks on my frozen toes.

Some laundry line ponderings (please respond and share yours):

The sun will bleach whites pure white again.

Hang tops from their bottoms and bottoms from their tops.

...or the opposing belief that clothes should be hung in the same direction they are worn...

Wooden or plastic pegs, with springs or without?

Should you join 2 items with a single peg, or separate each piece?

Do you use pulleys or walk along the line to fill it?

How long is your line? (I have 2 lines of just over 50 feet long, enough for full 3 loads of laundry)

1 comment :

  1. Anonymous9:23 am

    Ah yes! I also enjoy the quiet solitude of hanging on my laundry line and watching the items give themselves to the breeze until they are dry. Sometimes, in a matter or only minutes, much quicker than any clothes dryer could and of course smelling that much more wonderful. I find nothing more comforting than laying myself to sleep in a bed of fine sheets (threadcount high) that have been blown to dry on my line. I have noted many times that "sewnut" and I are much alike, as also my daughter (her niece) has also noted. My thanks to her for writing her excerpt on the clothesline. LB


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