Finding God in the Clothesline

It’s a really small gesture, I know: finally getting an outdoor clothesline so I can abandon my electric dryer. I should have done it years ago; I have plenty of space in the yard, and it’s not as though it’s news that we should be looking for every way possible to reduce our gigantic carbon footprints.

I have no excuse for why it took me so long, but finally last month I went online and ordered one of those umbrella-type clotheslines, the kind with a tall pole in the middle and lines strung around it in a square. I had to mix and pour concrete for the first time (something the average six-year-old could do, but who knew?), and used a level to get it straight in its hole. I waited patiently for the required setting time, and then waited again for the rain to stop, and ever since then — for the last thirty loads of laundry or so — I have been hauling the wet clothes out to my line and pinning them up, one shirt or sheet or pair of socks at a time.

What I anticipated in making this shift was a mix of one part relief (finding another thing to do to cut energy consumption), one part hassle, half a cup of stress because of the time it takes to pin up all the clothes and take them down again, and a scant teaspoon of self-righteousness.

What I have found instead is pure pleasure. I had forgotten how wonderful clothes smell when they’ve been dried by the wind and sun. I had not realized how meditative each of those ten or fifteen minute spans could be when I stand there, feeling the sun on my face and being saturated by birdsong as I offer the clothes to the breezes or receive them back. I find myself filled with new awareness and therefore gratitude for this partnership — the natural energies of the earth’s air and heat moving through the mundane offering of my family’s clothing. It is swift, functional, easy; it is also grace and blessing.

A friend sent me this poem in response to my laundry epiphany. I guess I’m not the only one who finds God in the clothesline…

by Ruth Moose
All our life
so much laundry;
each day’s doing or not
comes clean,
flows off and away
to blend with other sins
of this world. Each day
begins new skin,
blessed by the elements
charged to take us
out again to do or undo
what’s been assigned.
From socks to shirts
the selves we shed
lift off the line
as if they own
a life apart
from the one we offer.
There is joy in clean laundry.
All is forgiven in water, sun
and air. We offer our day’s
to the blue-eyed sky, with
soap and prayer,
our arms up, then lowered
in supplication.

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