On a slow moving Sunday afternoon I went back to and old file on my computer titled IN PROGRESS WRITING. As I had imaged there was the sketch of an essay in there titled “Clothes Line” created on March 5, 2006. I am not sure I have opened it since until today. But clearly there has been a thread running though my consciousness about laundry, wanting to make its way onto a page.
Like many people I know, I grew up with a big drier in the dark basement of an old home. We used it often. It wasn’t until first my summers at camp and then my college days in Vermont that the drier became obsolete and everyone around me used clothes lines to dry their clothes. I found it a delight to, as I wrote in 2006 “putter with clothes pins and rearrange pieces of fabric.” But then as the winter months wore on (and they surely did in Northern Vermont) the laundry would inevitability go into the drier. It’s not as if we didn’t have dryers, we just chose not to use them when the sun and warmth was good enough. Save the planet.
I so enjoyed these moments of arranging my belongings delicately on a line and then gathering them up when they had lost their dampness and became deliciously warm to the touch, smelling like what I imagine to be the scent of the horizon. There was precision in the placement and tenderness in the touch. Today I live in a country where no one owns a dryer. Where hanging your laundry is as much of a daily chore as washing the dishes and making your bed, no matter what season. But somehow it still retains that momentary state of mediation for me. It is in these quick moments before heading off to work for the day or while simultaneously preparing lunch that I feel most human. It is a pause, a moment to breathe. A chore that I actually look forward to.
The difference here is that no matter what season, no matter the weather, your laundry gets hung on the line, or in your living room, in full view of any passerby or any visitor to your home. To a foreigner, the laundry line can scream….hey look at my underwear…and thus, my personal life. To an Italian, the laundry line just is and letting the personal objects of your home life hang out for everyone to see just adds to the beauty of a culture where intimate moments are plainly visible.