For my birthday this summer, my husband erected a clothes line in the backyard. This may not seem like a particularly romantic gift, but it has already given me a great deal of pleasure hanging out clothes and then taking them down and folding them. Even though it has been hotter than the hinges of hades outside here for the last week or so. So why does this give me pleasure?
First, I feel connected to women in my family across time who have hung out laundry for the sun and wind to dry. My grandfather had 9 brothers and 2 sisters. I’ll bet they helped their mother hang out lots and lots and lots of laundry.
Second, it’s pleasant to be out in the backyard listening to birds and looking at the trellis that my husband and son made this summer. The collias are flourishing. They hung these plants as a stand-in for the vine that hasn’t had a chance to grow over the trellis yet.
Third, I feel a certain satisfaction that I’m making a personal contribution to combat global warming. Years ago, Atomic Energy Commissioner Dixie Lee Ray spoke to a group of citizens protesting a nuclear power plant going into their area. She asked them, “How many of you people, who want to transition to solar power, make the simple use of solar power that requires no invention or new technology: hanging out your clothes to dry.” I think she got 0 raised hands at the time. But I could raise mine.
Finally, I just like handling clothes. I like hanging them, I like taking them down, and I like folding them. Jack Kornfield wrote a book titled After the Ecstasy, The Laundry to pull us back to earth. Another buddhist wrote about doing the dishes for the sake of doing the dishes. I feel very lucky to be able to savor hanging clothes.