For the Love of Laundry

We should all do what in the long run gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.
E.B. White

I have never considered myself a particularly domestic person. House cleaning just frustrates me (you mean after all that work, I'm going to have to do it all again in a week?), ironing seems pointless, and three-meals-a-day cooking is tedious. But I love doing laundry. I love the piles of clean clothes with their promise of good things to come - a fresh start to every day.

But laundry isn't really laundry unless you hang the clothing out to dry. There is nothing like the smell or crisp feel of line-dried sheets when you crawl into bed at the end of a exhausting day. Sadly, North America is one of the few places in the world where energy guzzling dryers are considered indispensable - and dryers are second only to refrigerators in power consumption.

I come by my laundry lust honestly. My grandfather was the laundry hanger in the family and took great pride in his skill. Neighbors in their small Norwegian-Canadian community were judged by the orderliness of their laundry lines. I don't think he would approve of my profligate use of clothespins, though. I don't like the little spot that stubbornly refuses to dry when you clip one item to another.

When we moved to our house on the island I was delighted to find a laundry line strung between an arbutus tree and the corner of the house. I could look out over the ocean while hanging the clothes and the breezes would dry them in just a couple of hours. The only thing that didn't change during the renovation was the location of the laundry line.

In Japan, bedding is hung out to dry along with clothing but the sight of futons on the line is becoming increasingly rare as regular beds take their place in people's homes. When I lived in Tokyo I always dreaded laundry day. We didn't have a washing machine so we had to use the laundromat down the street. There was an underwear thief in the neighborhood who would sneak in when no one was around and steal my unmentionables. You also had to be careful leaving laundry out for too long in Tokyo - after more than twelve hours the clothing had to be rewashed.

Italians are also very particular about the way they hang their laundry. It's always very orderly and elegantissimo. One wouldn't dare present a brutta figura by displaying a sloppy clothes line. God forbid you should hang a sock from the cuff rather than the toe or place a bra between two towels.

The word that best describes the laundry hanging style in Shanghai is "exuberant". Laundry literally hangs everywhere; from the trees, the lamp posts, power lines, and road signs. The municipal government there has been on a campaign recently to try to convince people to keep their laundry inside for the duration of Expo (to little effect).

After enlightenment, the laundry.
Zen proverb


Daniel said...

Hi, Ms. RFFASI (I won't use your name!). I enjoyed the laundry post and have draped three wash-loads all over the deck this week, what with the sunny weather on the island. That is my favourite part of the process, for sure....

I am glad you have made a return to blogging again. Next post is a kitchen tour, I seem to have in the back of my mind somewhere.



Real Food from a Small Island said...

Thanks, Dan. I did mention something about a kitchen post. You've inspired me to get it rolling.