Country Laundry


I flipped on the radio. Must have been the Philly NPR station. "...reminds women of the drudgery of laundry..." said the speaker. The program had something to do with public art, maybe the giant clothespin sculpture near city hall.

I happen to really enjoy laundry. Really. Country laundry, not urban laundry.

There are fundamental differences between the two.

Urban: Did I hoard enough quarters? Trundle weeks worth of socks and bulky jeans down to the laundromat. Cringe when wet underwear flops out of the washer and onto the floor. Glance around to see who is staring at your laundry. Vie for the truly hot dryers. Didn't hoard enough quarters. Hold breath against terrible odors: bleach, dryer sheets, "Spring Blast" scented detergent. Weigh leaving the laundromat while the dryer spins to actually have a weekend afternoon free vs. the fact that the the dryer will stop 8 minutes after I leave the vicinity and the fear that someone will steal my underwear, my clothes will burn to a crisp, or be sopping wet when I return (see above fact).

Having left urban laundry far behind, I've forgotten the drudgery of laundry.

I jog out to move the suet feeder from the clothsline. I feel a cold dampness seep into my slippers.

SNAP! SNAP! I snap the towels. The birds continue divebombing the feeder. The sun shines on my face. A little wind kicks up, and blows the shirts. They are already frozen stiff, but the wind and sun will dry them.

A tulip tree seed case spins through the air. The bossy siskin senses a chickadee approaching from behind and flares his little wings. The chickadee is ejected from the feeder.

Socks go up two by two to save clothespins. The clothespins are old, worn smooth by unanticipated rain storms and hot summer sun. The metal springs are sturdy, most likely made by someone of my grandparents' generation. After all, I inherited these pins when we cleaned out my grandparents' home.

My mind wanders, and sounds of the morning drift by. The clothesline reel yells, as I send the laundry out over the lawn. Please don't poop on my laundry, I request of the birds. Please, squirrels, don't find the suet.

Inside, I realize how deeply chilled my fingers are. I try to warm them on the fading heat of a tea cup. The wind blows two tee shirts up on themselves.

Chickadees are Laundry Chums

After the afternoon's work is done and before the sun slips below the treeline, I take in the laundry. The coin pockets of the jeans are still damp, but the beltline and crotch are dry. The bandanna is loose and unwrinkled. All of it smells fresh and feels cool and stiff.

Jared and I laugh about how I can't read the thermometer and determine how to dress myself. "What's the temperature?" "Fifty-five." "Is that, umm, jacket and hat?" "Sweatshirt and vest." *

Nuthatch Observes the Feeder/Clothesline Activity Matrix

I do know how to tell laundry though. I know what will dry, and what will remain wet at 4 o'clock on a fiercely windy January day. I know how many times I can fold over sheets to make room for sleeveless shirts on July. In August, I know I can't wait 'til mid-morning to hang, even on the hottest day; the sun gets too low behind the trees and dampness comes off the earth. Nothing dries. A month later, the moisture dissipates, laundry dries again.

All the while, the laundry goes and comes down. I watch the birds attack the feeder in January, the titmice start singing in February, the phoebes return in March, the spring beauties in April, thrushes in May, hummingbirds zoom in June, you get the point. I love to be reminded of the drudgery of laundry.

Here's some information about suburban and urban laundry, and the RIGHT TO DRY Campaign.

*I had to confirm this clothing choice with Jared. I was not sure how to dress for 55 degrees. My initial guess was incorrect!