Nothing is as fresh as the smell of fresh laundry set out on a clothes line. As I traveled all over the world one of the things I really enjoyed was seeing clothes swinging in the breeze as if they were doing an ethereal dance to some unseen celestial orchestra.
Even in countries where clean streets are rare and poverty is everywhere it’s amazing how childrens’ school uniforms are always so crisp and their shirts so white.
I was walking down a dusty hot dirt road in Honduras in the 90’s and was in dire need of a drink of water. Why I was there and thirsty is an entire blog in itself! I paused in the shade and noticed a woman hanging out her laundry. Her motions were rhythmic and she quietly hummed a song only she knew the words to.
She noticed me and beckoned me to join her on her porch. I guess I looked a bit like a hound dog and she took pity on this ill equipped gringo. Once I climbed up to her porch she ushered me to an old rickety chair in the shade provided by her tin roof. Without saying a word she fetched me some water and sat down beside me. Once I refreshed myself and felt a bit more human I thanked her. She didn’t speak English, which didn’t surprise me considering where I was, but between us we had a great conversation using our hands and smiles.
This kind spirit got me another glass of water and then went back to hanging her laundry. Again she began humming and following some sort of rhythm her mother had probably taught her when she was learning to hang laundry.
The whites were shockingly white, not a stain anywhere and everything smelled oh so fresh.
One half hour later I was on my way after exchanging hugs and many thank you’s.
This angel of mercy reminded me of my own mother who use to hang our laundry out on our backyard clothes line. The same rhythm, the same humming, the same wonderful clean smells.
While my mother’s “unmentionables” were hung in the basement on a wooden drying rack, everything else was sent outside. Winter was the only time this pattern was changed. The new fangle electric clothes dryer in the basement was then put to use.
Unfortunately the clothes never smelled as good as when they came in off the clothesline.
It’s sad in our area there is a restrictive covenant forbidding us from hanging out laundry in our backyards. Probably lobbied for by the energy companies no doubt.
My wife and I did a Mediterranean Cruise a month or so ago. Beyond the usual must see locations in Italy, Greece and Croatia the thing that stuck me the most was seeing laundry out on clotheslines. Clotheslines everywhere!
While I stood and took in these floating, waving sculptures of multicoloured humanity, I was jostled by the hoards of tourists stampeding to the next Instagram worthy selfie. No one looked up at the drying clothes waving to them.
Dubrovnik was beautiful, the red roofs outstanding but what transfixed me was all the laundry. I took more photos of laundry than anything else! This started an informal photo project. From Dubrovnik on, it was drying laundry that really fascinated me.
Sure I have some quality images of the various locations we visited. Possibly in a later blog posting I might share them with you.
In this blog we are going to celebrate hanging laundry.
A CLOTHESLINE POEM
A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew,
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the “fancy sheets”
And towels upon the line;
You’d see the “company table cloths”
With intricate designs.
The line announced a baby’s birth
From folks who lived inside –
As brand new infant clothes were hung,
So carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed,
You’d know how much they’d grown!
It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.
It also said, “Gone on vacation now”
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged, with not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past,
For dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody’s guess!
I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign.
When neighbors knew each other best
by what hung on the line.