Keeps Us Coming Back

What we owned was piled on the bed
and warmed the room with the smell
of bodies, bleach, and dryer sheets.
You, on one side, folded the colors
and I, on the other, the whites. Between us,
years, children, holes in the knees, stains.

What you folded became gifts, wrapped,
too beautiful to open. I watched you work
as I took sock after sock and married them.
We knew that most of what we did
would be undone, but it kept us coming back
to the same bed, the same warm room.
~Jim Richards, “Laundry” from Mud Season Review #15

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”

Twenty years ago the green square beyond
our back door was webbed with lines
on which I hung with wooden pegs
my angels and my ghosts –white nightgowns
winged in the wind, shrouds of tablecloths,
shirts fluting their spooky sleeves,
their dwindling tails — shadows of the lucid cloth
moving like water on the grass.

Now we live over a basement dryer churning
beneath a 40-watt bulb. The trap keeps filling
with a gray lint as my cloths, my second skins,
are dried out by the dialed minute.
The air behind the house is empty
of apparitions, epiphanies. Gone
is the iron-fresh smell of damp linens
praying their vapor to the sun.
~Luci Shaw “Evaporation” from Water Lines

We need to always be on the lookout for simple pleasures that keep us coming back for more again and again.

Clean laundry freshly dried on the clothesline is one of them. True, the towels and sheets are rougher when the wind has snapped them into shape rather than a rolling dryer drum with fabric softener sheets. The scent of the outdoors more than makes up for the sandpaper feel. I bury my face in the pile as I bring it inside to fold and put away.

Smoothing, folding, stacking, creating order- it will be undone and redone in merely a week, yet is such a comforting routine.

Even when there is disarray, when we are soiled and smelly, when we feel tossed into the dirty clothes hamper, we can be restored. Water and cleansing and wind bearing fresh air ready us to be folded and smoothed and stowed away until we are needed.

We don’t just keep coming back; we are called back. We are loved so much that dirty doesn’t matter because it always (always) can be made clean.

4 thoughts on “Keeps Us Coming Back

  1. i have a big folding rack (IKEA) i keep on the back deck as soon as spring lets me, and this year it stayed there until two weeks ago….reminds me of childhood and gramma! that deep sun-dried-ness smell is about the loveliest i know…..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Memories…I still use my two clotheslines for drying bedding and underwear – even in winter. Invariably they freeze. So I take them inside (they’re stiff as a board) and put them on my radiators where they are bone dry the next day. I sleep soundly, calmed by the unique fragrance of nature. I have tried to encourage my adult grandchildren to try it. No success there. They live in town homes or condos that forbid the use of clotheslines so they make do with dryers and artificially perfumed softening, static-free dryer sheets. Modern Science wins again!

    (At least I am free to use real butter in my cooking and baking. No spies or city ordinances there!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Alice, isn’t it sad in this age of being conscious of our carbon footprint! Is there anything more earth-honoring than letting the wind dry our laundry on a line? And I agree about butter! love, Emily

    Like

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