The Rough Made Smooth

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All day the blanket snapped and swelled
on the line, roused by a hot spring wind….
From there it witnessed the first sparrow,
early flies lifting their sticky feet,
and a green haze on the south-sloping hills.
Clouds rose over the mountain….At dusk
I took the blanket in, and we slept,
restless, under its fragrant weight.
~Jane Kenyon “Wash”

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How much better it is
to carry wood to the fire
than to moan about your life.
How much better
to throw the garbage
onto the compost, or to pin the clean
sheet on the line,
With a gray-brown wooden clothes pin.
~Jane Kenyon “The Clothespin”

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I grew up hanging clothes outside to dry on a clothesline on all but the rainiest stormiest days.  It was a routine summer chore for our family of five–there was almost always a load or two a day to wash and hang outside, then to gather in and fold into piles before the air and clothes grew moist with evening dew.  I would bury my little girl face in the pile of stiff towels and crispy sheets to breathe in the summer breezes–still apparent when pulled from the linen closet days later.

Over my adult years on this farm, we’ve not had a consistent spot for our clothesline so I had gotten out of the habit of hanging them up wet and pulling them down dry.  We finally decided the time had come to use less dryer energy and more solar energy, so the line went back up a few years ago.

I’ve discovered modern bath towels are not meant for clothesline drying–they are too plush, requiring the fluffing of a dryer to stay soft and pliant.  On the clothesline they dry like sandpaper, abrasive and harsh.  I heard a few complaints about that from my tender-skinned children.  I decided it is good for us all to wake up to a good buffing every morning, smoothing out our rough edges, readying us for the day.

We live in a part of the county up on an open hill with lots of windy spells, but those breezes carry interesting smells from the surrounding territory that the drying laundry absorbs like a sponge.  On the good days, it may be smells of blooming clover from the fields or the scent of apple and pear blossoms during a few spring weeks.  On other differently-fragranced days, local manure spreading or wood stove burning results in an earthy odor that serves as a reminder of where we live.  It isn’t all sunshine and perfume all the time–it can be smoke and poop as well.

The act of hanging up and gathering in the laundry remains an act of faith for me.  It is trusting, even on the cloudy or chilly days, that gravity and wind and time will render all dry and fresh.  And thanks to those line-dried bed sheets and those sandpaper bath towels, I’ll surely end up buffed and smoothed, my rough edges made plain.

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From Joy to Joy to Joy

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There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
~Li-Young Lee from “From Blossoms”
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These are impossible evenings of color and cool breezes.
A sense of immortality extends across the sky as far as the eye can see.
Impossible — because I know they won’t last; this precious time is ephemeral.
Still I revel in it,
moving from joy to joy to joy,
from buttercup to buttercup,
lifted up like petals loosened
and set down gently,
oh so gently,
to rest in the sweetness of line-dried sheets
that promise spring someday will last forever.
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Carrying On

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Light as two grasshopper husks,
Hinged wings,
Mirror image, seesaw,
Picket twin, swallowtail,
Wind foe.

The crux in hand, a woman’s tool.
Well worn as my feet.

O wood in palm,
Purveyor of order,
The business of carrying on,
The tune whistled under my windowsill.
–Ann Quinn from “Clothespin”

 

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How Much Better

dawnclothesline

How much better it is
to carry wood to the fire
than to moan about your life.
How much better
to throw the garbage
onto the compost, or to pin the clean
sheet on the line,
With a gray-brown wooden clothes pin.
~Jane Kenyon “The Clothespin”

I get easily overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done on the farm in addition to all the usual household tasks, especially on a weekend–grass to mow, flower beds to weed, garden to plant, fences to fix, manure to haul, animals to brush out — the list is endless and there are never enough hours in the day.   I moan and whine about it.

Or I can set to work, tackling one thing at a time.  A simple task is accomplished, and then another, like hanging clothes on the line: this one is done, and now this one, pinned and hanging to freshen, renewed,  in the spring breezes.

At the end of the day (or the end of the weekend), I pull them down, bury my face in them and breathe deeply, knowing how much better I am than before I began.

So much better.

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Hung Out to Dry

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Ninety degrees Fahrenheit
(free solar energy),
5-10 mph breeze blowing from the south
(free wind generation),
mother and teenage daughter
(mostly free muscle power with occasional grumbling attached).

A basket of wet clothes,
a bag of recycled wooden clothes pins,
two lines of white plastic cord stretched 20 feet between posts
and a little bit of time.

Hanging clothes outdoors
doesn’t slow global warming;
it is a selfish act.
Who can resist a night’s sleep
with the smell of line-dried sheets
and dry off with bath towels line-snapped rough?

Underwear stiff
dish rags sun-bleached
bras dangling like empty shells
socks mismatched in a row.

A household of truths and dares
hangs for all to bear witness
without need for xray vision;
no hidden agendas,
no wondering “briefs or jocks”
no wondering about sizes or shapes or undercover secrets.

Return in the late afternoon as a rain shower threatens
to undo the dry cycle, piling loads of freshness in our arms,
clasping eight, ten, twelve clothespins in one hand
in a clean sweep to see who can hold the most.

If only my personal laundry basket
overflowing with sweaty muddy moldy yucky stuff
could be so simply transformed in an afternoon
of sweet breezes, purifying light and open scrutiny.

Then I could sleep so much better tonight knowing
The Lord washes and dries, folds and softens
what I wish to keep hidden~ my dirty laundry.

I rest in His basket of renewal,
His clean sweep of freshness gathering me up
before the storm.