Friday, March 23

Taking It In

I love laundry on the line. I love to watch the kaleidoscope of colors and shapes blow in the breeze. I love the way that sheets snap when the wind whistles past. I love the look of socks dangling precariously on the wire. I love the way air-dried laundry smells. Oh, I love that scent.

In the early years of our marriage, Don and I ventured to parts theretofore-to-us unknown when we moved to the desert town of Tucson, Arizona. Don would be attending law school at the University of Arizona, hence we we would make our home in this desert for the following three years. I fell in love with the Tucson landscape immediately; the desert brush, the towering saguaro, the spindly ocotillo, and the pervasive prickly pear were beauty beyond description in my eyes. Initially, we lived in a beat-up, run-down, roach-infested housing facility for married students, but within a few months we followed a lead and found a two-bedroom duplex home in the center of town. It was perfect for us. And you couldn't beat the rent: $325/month. The house was small, but ample. We had space for a home office/study room and a great little bedroom in the back with big windows overlooking the back yard. We also had a washing machine in the house. Repeating that now. A washing machine in the house. No longer would I have to haul baskets of laundry to and from an apartment complex laundry room. I had a washing machine of my own. There wasn't a dryer, but that was a small matter to me, as there was a laundry line in the back yard. Between the two hefty citrus trees (one orange and one grapefruit) and above the river-rock ground cover, there was a sturdy set of metal poles with three long wires stretched between them. There it was standing ready to do the job; it was as if the apparatus was calling out for laundry to be pinned there, so as to fulfill the measure of its creation. I loved hanging the laundry out on the line. With the first loads that I washed and then carried outside I was flooded with memories of my childhood when I helped my mother with the very same task. I remember standing alongside her as she bent over the basket of wet things and then straightened to her full height to attach them to the clothesline above. It was my job to hand her the clothespins and I took that responsibility very seriously, making certain that I always had one available when her hand reached down into mine to retrieve the wooden clips. Hanging laundry in Tucson was like a little magical trip back in time for me.
On the warmest of days laundry hanging was a time efficient task. I could hang the clothes swiftly, moving from left to right down the line, and by the time I had reached the bottom of the basket I could return to the start and begin removing them. They would be hot and dry in no time at all. When you pull on desert-air dried jeans there is a distinct snap and crack to the denim. You can't duplicate it anywhere. The same goes for the crispness of a t-shirt pulled over your head. It slides down the torso with an unambiguous 'a-woosh'.

And, oh that scent.

Ultimately, we got an electric dryer and I didn't use the line in back as often. With each house move since then we have always had both a washing machine and a dryer and I have fallen more and more out of the habit of hanging the laundry out to dry.

However, just this week our dryer quit on us. Without signal or warning it just decided to stop drying things. Perhaps it was feeling overused and underappreciated as it stood atop the washing machine slaving away day after day, load after load. So it just decided to rest. I understand the sentiment. Entirely. But while we waited for a landlord's decision regarding repair or replacement of the machine, the laundry itself forgot to stop piling up. Consequently, in order to keep up I found myself once again bending over the basket hanging laundry out on the line. At this house, the laundry line is a moderately strong but somewhat floppy piece of wire strung between the walls of the back balcony. Because of the direction it faces, the spot doesn't take in a lot of sun so it was no warm-Tucson-time-efficient drying. But oh, what a great sight to look out my office window and see the colors and the shapes hanging on the line. I sat at my desk and watched the clothing snap, twist, blow, flap, and sway in the wind; the socks looking almost comical as they gamboled in the updraft. The colder temperature and the humidity in the air made line drying a full-day event these past several days but as I have carried the laundry basket through the house to the back balcony I have once again basked in my memories.

As I pulled things in from the line this morning I found myself a little bit sad. The new dryer will be delivered today and let's be honest, I won't be drying my socks outside any more.

So I took that moment to bury my face in the freshly dry t-shirts and towels and I inhaled deeply.


  1. I feel exactly the same. I can't do it in winter obviously but hanging clothes out is so therapeutic (and cost effective) that I can't wait for spring.

    And those pictures you posted are fantastic!

    I can't believe you actually had a goldfish last seven years, that's gotta be something for Guinness BOok of Records or something. A goldfish on steroids.

  2. You know you have my sympathies on broken appliance woes. But this piece almost made me wish for my dryer to fail. Almost.


  3. I loved this, Jenn. And the smell is so different. Of course, Jennifer, in her post on luxuries, etc., upon returning to the U.S. was happy to let that part of her life go! ;-)

    I hope you're enjoying your vacation - I'm taking a semi, so I'm not writing/reading as much. I'm back to the grindstone for real on Tuesday.