by Debbie Homewood from Richmond Hill, ON
May 4, 13
There has always been a clothesline in my life. I never really thought about it as a kid. It was just there. In fact, in the house I grew up in, my mom had two lovely and long clotheslines, each on pulleys.
I owe my affection for the clothesline to my mother. Although she would never have used the word, she deeply understood and lived the ideal of stewardship. She had no choice. There was never a lot of money. She was born in 1916, during World War One. She was a young adult during the Depression and World War Two. She knew hard times. She knew you had to take care of what you had, because you did not know if you would get anything more. And taking care of things included everything. Your home, your furniture, your land … and your clothes. Stewardship - the care of things - began as a necessity but it became part of life. She was good at it. She passed those values on to me.
I was taught how to wash and care for clothes – and that included the proper way to hang them on the line. You can scoff if you like, but there is a proper way to hang clothes on a line. Picture my mother’s life. It consisted of hard physical work all day, every day, without modern conveniences. She became a master at saving time and effort, energy and money. If you hung the clothes on the line in a certain way, it minimized the amount of wrinkles, and therefore the amount of ironing. So, yes, I learned the proper way to hang clothes on the line and was doing so, standing on a chair, by the age of 8. I was taking clothes off the line, long before that.
I remember the day we got our first clothes dryer. I imagine it seemed like a miracle to my mom. She had raised six children of her own, and helped to raise two others, all of them in cloth diapers. She used to say there were mornings when she had 50 diapers on the line by 7 am. In those days your homemaking skills were judged by how your washing appeared on the line. How white were the whites? Did you hang the underpants together, and then the socks? Were the pillowcases the right way up?
The clothesline is still part of my life and I am happy about that. It fits well with my basic values and with the sustainable lifestyle I try to live. I am not even close to being the steward my mother was but I try and it matters to me that I do.
I hang the laundry on the line for as much of the year as possible. I dry it inside for the rest of the year.
It means I have to pay attention to the weather. I like that I am still, in some tiny way, connected to the natural rhythms of the world.
The other morning I was out at the line and saw four Baltimore Orioles in the tree. I haven’t seen Baltimore Orioles in years.
I like pretty much everything to do with the clothesline: the quiet, meditative space I am in when I hang the clothes, the simple act of folding them when they are dry. I like the money I save, and the power I conserve. I like that by hanging my clothes on the line, I prolong their life. The sun bleached whites. The smell of a towel off the line. A bed made with sheets dried in the sun.
I can’t imagine my life without my clothesline.
I don’t ever want to.