For the Love of a Clothesline
I love hanging sheets out on my clothesline. You would think laundry would be a dreaded chore: I wash around five sets of sheets a week for work. Each massage client = one set of twin sheets with pillowcases and/or face-cradle covers. The washing is done in a machine, and when I can, I let the sun and wind do the drying.
I look forward to the break in my day that is hanging sheets fresh from the wash. The barefoot walk from my dryer through the backyard grass can tell me so much about the moment of the day: damp and cool on a spring morning, scratchy with dry dirt clods underfoot in heat of summer. Indiana is already in a drought this year & rough on bare feet, among other things. The other day I looked out and thought “Well, at least the sheets will dry quickly.”
We are in mid-summer in Indiana, and a Mama Robin has a nest of babies tucked in an S-curve on one of our gutter downspouts. The babies and their ever-open beaks peek a little higher over the nest by the day, and Mama Robin seems to have a suitor (Daddy Robin? or friend) that wants to help out by bringing snacks. He sits and serenades the whole family, worm or bug in beak, from the nearby Redbud tree, hoping they’ll invite him over.
Hanging the sheets sends me into the backyard, at least for a few minutes, every day. I get a glimpse of how plants are changing, growing, ripening, decaying, and possibly a reminder that I ought to be out there more. Neighbor cats cruise back and forth on invisible highways, sometimes ignoring me completely (if they’re on a mission), sometimes coming over for backyard kitty massages.
During the cooler months, a breeze will quicken the slower drying time, and I’ve been known to let the sheets freeze on the line. Sheet-popcicles. I get a little kick out of folding icy sheets into bundles small enough to fit into the dryer when I’ve finally given in. It helps my southern soul feel like I can tackle the mid-western winter.
Something about the mathematical organization of five sets of sheets on the four-sided, umbrella-style line makes for a satisfying accomplishment. Flat sheets go on the outer rings with the most width and height, fitted sheets a few rungs inside, pillowcases & face-cradle covers stay to the shorter lines on the inside. It soothes me to get them all hung and smoothed out. I always feel like I’ve passed the test of fitting them all on there, and arranging them in an aesthetically balanced way.
The hanging sheets are visually beautiful, blowing in the breezes. There are variations in their (green, purple & brown) colors as they dry, and as the sun moves across the sky. Passing clouds add a whole other dimension to the kaleidoscope.
I stopped running out into the rain to retrieve sheets forever ago. They are just fine if they get rained on. They dry again. These are the best-smelling sheets we could hope for.
As homeowners, we are the caretakers of a stately and gracious American Elm tree, which canopies our entire backyard, including the clothesline. The big Elm is around 100-years old, and it’s such a treat to visit with it. Several families of red squirrels make that tree their home, so to hang sheets is to spend time under a few ridiculous families of squirrels. They may be spiraling around branches in hot pursuit of their playmates, or sacked out, belly-down, legs-sprawled-out, in a cozy crook. Usually at least one will sit and fuss at me from a nearby branch. I’m always in trouble with the squirrels, probably because of the association with the neighborhood cats, and the three we harbor in our own home.
In raspberry season (all summer at my house), I have to make sure I don’t leave the sheets out too long, else they get marked with raspberry bird poop. Raspberry bird poop doesn’t wash out, no matter how much Dr. Bronner’s I soak into it. I just can’t seem to get mad at the rascally birds, though. I love having them around, even if they do eat my raspberries and poop on my laundry. I’m OK with giving up a few berries and the occasional sheet, for their sake.
A lot of good stuff goes into these simple pieces of fabric as they float around in the breeze in my little backyard haven, soaking up the sun, the trees, the neighborhood animal-activity, and the peace this space brings my whole family.
I enjoy these details, and think of them as a form of energy work, a meditation, and part of the work of my healing arts practice. I believe at some level my clients benefit from their sheets being such an integrated part of the backyard ecosystem. I know I do.