By Michelle Blake on October 26, 2010 2:18 PM
Saturday afternoon, the sky a hazy blue with wisps of damp clouds. Rain has just swept by to the north of us, and I can hear the thunder rumbling in the mountains, but the air is still heavy with summer. For some reason, the bugs have retreated, and I am taking down laundry, moving the damp t-shirts onto the line that still gets sunlight late into the day, hoping they will all dry before our storm hits, the one we have been promised for hours by the distant thick darkness and flashes of lightning.
With no warning, I think something along the lines of: "This is what I like to do most in the world--hang out laundry and take it down, dry and fragrant, at the end of the day."
I am surprised by the thought, but mostly I'm surprised because it seems so true.
I hate machines that make noise. I do not like dishwashers, Hoovers, hair dryers, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed whackers, or clothes dryers. I like to sweep. I like the feel of wet hair. I like to rake. I am fond of most weeds, except the most obvious and invasive, and I love to pull those up by hand. Lately I left what we thought might be a weed and it turned into a bizarre bright-red poppy-like flower, all alone on the edge of the herb bed.
Also, all of those machines put a lot more fumes into the air, the kind of fumes that are slowly destroying the world as we once knew it. This is not a scientific analysis, it is common sense. I detest an idling car.
Hanging out laundry, on the other hand, is good. It isn't complicated or subtle. Clean is better than dirty. Water is one of the great pleasures of the universe. Sometimes when the bugs are bad, I drape myself in a wet sheet, covering my head and letting the corners hang down, where they flick at my calves and keep away the gnats. I imagine that I look like Sargent's Moroccan woman in her white draperies, in Fumee d'Ambre Gris.
But how can it be true that this is my favorite activity in the world? I want so many things. The perfect editor for my new novel. My children's health and good fortune. A million dollars (I'm old fashioned). A barn. Goats. Horses. World peace. Hanging out laundry helps me achieve none of these goals.
The desire machine seldom sleeps. Perhaps that is the secret of the sweet pleasure of the laundry line. In the hot stillness I can smell soap and wet cotton and feel the air in the north changing the day and for that moment the world-as-it-is seems exactly enough. I have accomplished what I need to accomplish. I want only what I have.