I am grateful for my clothesline. I love my clothesline. Love love love it. I have mentioned my devotion before and those who know me, are well aware of my affection for the fifty-some feet of white “marine” cotton rope that I hung between two hemlock trees in my side yard, complete with pulleys. I built a deck upon which to stand while hanging my laundry, miscalculating the effort required to climb to its summit with two steps, again confirming my lack of credentials for building things, which never stops me from trying. That’s a bit of a run-on sentence. My apologies.
I was hanging my sheets the other day, the sun warm, the breeze ideal, and I was smiling my oh-I-love-you-clothesline sort of smile and it got me thinking, as most things do. Why do I love my clothesline with such devoted zeal? I examined the possibilities. My clothesline saves me a bit of cash on my significant Nova Scotia Power bill, which charges me 15.805 cents per kilowatt-hour, ranking 9/13 in Canada as compared to Ontario’s average of 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour with a ranking of 4/13, according to energyhub.org, in case you wanted to know.
My clothesline creates an environmentally responsible activity, my dryer silent while the sunny breeze dries my clothes at no cost to me or the environment. The smell of my sheets fresh off the line is a fragrance like no other, that I breathe in deeply as I snuggle under my sheets at night. But surely there is something more at work here.
My clothesline always makes me think of Annie and when I hang my laundry out, she is with me and I am transported to a time when Annie tied a flour sack over my shoulders, a royal cape, while Annie did the wash, the sheets and pillow cases snapping in the wind. Annie would love my clothesline, too.
There is a profound sense of calm for me, that comes with using the clothesline, rather than the electric dryer. It is a relying on one’s self in a pure sense. It feels, in those moments, almost meditative, certainly soothing.
We, like many families, didn’t have a clothes dryer while I was growing up. My mother hung the laundry on the clothesline twelve months of the year, using a large wooden clothes rack in a spare bedroom on rainy days. She never considered this a burden, that I was aware of. It was a fact of life, simple. But perhaps she, like me, found those moments of laundry hanging a chance to pause the busy day, to reflect, to breathe deeply and forget all the ordinary chaos that swirls around us on any given day.
I hear others remind me that the clothesline doesn’t remove wrinkles and a dryer is required for that. A good wind solves that problem, but of course there are wrinkles, but I also love an iron, one that hisses and spits. My Grandma Sutherland would visit us and iron every tea towel in sight and then she would take on the pillowcases, spritzing them with lavender water to help us sleep, and then the sheets, and then my father’s shirts and then …. Ironing, to my grandmother, was a way to make sense of the world, to make parts of her life pristine and smooth and wrinkle-free.
I love laundry day. I miss the clothesline filled with soft flannel diapers and little t-shirts and socks no bigger than my thumb. I used to drive by a home of a large family and the clothesline was always busy. The clothes were hung in colour formation, like the rainbow, and every single time I drove past, I had to pause and take in the artistic expression that can only be created with laundry. I didn’t know the family living in that particular house, but the hanging of the colours never failed to brighten my day, to bring a smile and a pause. I wish I had taken the time to thank her, to have knocked on her door and said, “Well done!”