Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zen and the Art of Hanging Laundry

This weekend was perfect weather for hanging laundry.  I am a great fan of hanging laundry when the weather is at all cooperative.  I grew up hanging it outside from early March to late October, which involves some rather chilly temperatures in which to be handling wet clothes.  I'm not that hard core but the kids know if I hear a dryer running between April and September they better well have sought permission to do so.  My mother-in-law lives in a community which bans washlines.  This kind of thinking baffles me and you couldn't give me a house for free in such a place.  Hanging the laundry was one of my very first chores when I was a wee Lime.  Back then it was a chore, over time it became a peaceful ritual.   So this weekend I was especially enjoying the job when Mr. Lime broke into my meditations.

Mr Lime: Is there a particular reason you hang the wash with such precision?  I mean all the pants together, all the t-shirts, everything separated by whose laundry it is?  Why so methodical?  It will still dry if the socks are all interspersed among everything else.

Me:  Yes, it will still dry no matter how it's hung but it pleases me to do it this way.  It's a zen thing.  Order out of disorder. Visually balanced.

Mr. Lime: Wouldn't balanced be if all the long things were on either end and the short things in the middle or vice verse?

Me: That would be symmetrical and one version of balance.  This is a different type of balance.

Mr. Lime: Do you need me to help hang it? 

Me: I'm content to hang it myself.   It's a meditation I enjoy but if you want to carry the basket that would be great.

Mr. Lime: (smirking)  You're just afraid I'd mess it up, aren't you?

Me: (matching smirk for smirk) I'm not sure you are ready for the meditation.

Mr. Lime: (feigning offense) Whaddya mean???

Me: Look at all these clothepins left dangling on the line from last time when someone else hung the laundry.

Mr. Lime: So???

Lime: Breaks up the balance, interferes with the meditation.

Mr. Lime: (stunned) It's more efficient!

Lime:  Grasshopper, you have much to learn.  This is not about pure efficiency.  The meditation cannot be rushed.  There is a rhythm in achieving the balance.

Mr. Lime: (utterly incredulous) You're completely insane!!!

Me: (serenely) The student is not ready to receive what the master has to give.

Mr. Lime: (taking a deep breath as he carries the next basket behind me)  Shouldn't you be chanting "Om" or something to prepare for this?

Me: No need.  I live the zen of laundry.  I'm one with it.

Mr. Lime: (insistently) But you're just diving into this!  You haven't prepared!

Me: Grasshopper, I was preparing last night for this moment, when I saw the weather would be good.

Mr. Lime: (hopefully) So you're excited about the washline as I carry the basket?

Me: Yes.

Mr. Lime: Then you should be dancing gleefully!

Me: Animation is not required.  This is meditation.  It's serenity.  It's zen.

Mr. Lime:  (sarcastically)  So how'd YOU get to be this great master?

Me:  It started when I was 6 and trained by hanging it alone in the cold weather.  It was further developed when I worked in a nursing home laundry.  It was honed when I had a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler and no help.  I am the master.  You are the novice.

Mr. Lime: (very upset)  But you're not preparing!!!!!!!!

Lime: Grasshopper, you try my patience.  You are making meditation impossible with all this chatter and argument.

Mr. Lime: (after a few moments of silence, once we have re-entered the house and I am folding now dry laundry...also a meditation)  So does watching laundry dry make you happy too?

Lime: Explain what you mean.

Mr Lime:  Do you like to see it blowing in the breeze? Is that zen too?

Lime: It is calming.

Mr. Lime:  So if I got you a video of laundry flapping around in scenic locations, like at the ocean or in the mountains, that would be a good birthday present?

Me: (arching a single eyebrow) One cannot manufacture or mass produce the experience...AND...you called ME completely insane?


Moosekahl said...

Ok...that just makes me smile

Cricket said...

Heh, heh. Funny post.

You're making me nostalgic for our old line. Before we moved to Providence, we had an apartment just outside Boston above my wife's great-aunt. Our back "yard" was even smaller than the one we have now, mostly paved, mostly clothesline. We hung our clothes whenever we could.

Aunt Sophie put us to shame, though. She used the line year round, as long as it was above freezing. I can still picture her, barefoot, in a nightdress, hanging clothes in the middle of winter. She was in her 90s. Serious French-Canadian blood there.

I have a line now, but it's too short for real laundry - bathing suits, towels... that's about it.

Funny, too, I was thinking about laundry. I've been repainting our kitchen, and thought I'd wash the curtains while I was at it. They pretty much dissolved in the wash, even on gentle. Yikes. And dammit. Add one more thing to the list of things to do today.

No good deed goes unpunished ;-)

Jazz said...

I love hanging laundry, but our line is about 3 feet long unfortunately.

Kat said...

My mother always used to hang our laundry out to dry, but every time (only a few times) I've tried it was pooped on by birds. Every. Time. Not very zen.

Craig said...

This is hilarious. Do the two of you have many such conversations, in which you go so vigorously back-and-forth on the fine details of laundry-hanging (or whatever else)?

You also remind me of the time I was telling Jen about my idea for a solar-powered clothes dryer, and she was right on the edge of being bedazzled by my technical prowess, until I tossed her a coil of rope. . .

God bless you for embracing such a lovely, earthy way; I'm sure you're completely earnest about the benefits of 'slowing it down'. . .

Cooper said...

someone needs to video these conversations....for posterity sake, of course...

Eric Alder said...

Zen has a way of showing up amidst the most mundane daily chores, and it's good (Zen) that you noticed.


DEFINITION: a cross between a collie and a coyote.

Suldog said...

I rather enjoyed hanging laundry when I was a kid. We had a little back porch - no more than a few steps to a platform outside of the back door - and the line ran from there to the back fence, on pulleys. Hang an item, move it out a bit into the yard via the pulleys, hang another, move it out, etc.

No electric or gas dryer can ever match the scent of clothes dried outside. It's like store-bought bread versus home-baked.

S said...

You are hilarious!
When I had a dog, I tried the clothesline thing, and I came out and found all the clothes on the ground, all dirty, and Rio lying on top of them, contented!

Plus, im allergic to grass so hanging stuff outside is baaaad!

That was so visually good Lime, I felt like I was there watching the whole thing!

When Mr Lime can snatch the clothespin out of your hand, he will be ready....

Logophile said...

After watching Alice in Wonderland Thing Two said he thought I would fit right in with that scene.

I bet he would feel the same about you.

G-Man said...

When you can snatch the clothespin from my hand...You Are ready!

secret agent woman said...

I get that. I have my own zen system for packing groceries at the self-checkout lie.

Dave said...

I had a good laugh at this Michelle! Good banter between partners - good fun. We use the clothes line as much as we can too - Jill usually hangs it but sometimes I help. (I'm allowed to....) :-) - Dave

Mona said...

hahaha! That was fun conversation!

Mary Q Contrarie said...

I love such conversations. I usually have my conversations with Mr. Fluffy and it is usually while he is batting the laundry that is hanging on the clothes drying rack. He seems to think that everything we do is in some way designed for his entertainment.