Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Zen of Laundry

Don't get me wrong, I hate laundry. Well, not exactly hate it, but definitely dislike it. I wouldn't mind it now and then, but it's a task that never ends

So imagine my surprise when this weekend I found myself actually enjoying the repetitive action of hanging wet clothes, load after load. I recently switched to hanging clothes simply to save money, but I've realized that I enjoy the time outside on a beautiful day like we had Sunday afternoon. That and the fact that no one else wants to help, so it's a few minutes of snatched solitude.

Me: "Hey, you want to help me with the laundry?"
Kid (nonchalantly, although looking like he'd rather eat dirt) : "Nah."
Me: "Oh darn." (Secretly thrilled because I can spend a few minutes without someone asking me where their shoes are, asking me to fix a paint blaster, asking me what we have to eat for lunch, asking me to help with a computer problem, asking me to untie a knot, asking me to ... well, you get the idea.) 

How pathetic is it that I view hanging wet underwear as my little spa retreat?

So here I was, with three loads of laundry to hang, one after the other, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. Usually when I do solitary manual labor, I listen to a book on my iPod. But that day, I guess because I didn't think I'd be outside for long, I had only the sounds of the birds, the wind, and the water in our pool (and of course the ambient traffic and neighborhood noises). My mind slowly slid into a solitary space, drifting, floating, musing about nothing much at all.

Functional meditation. That's what it ended up being. Meditation with a purpose. Is that an oxymoron?

What did I end up day-dreaming about? Mostly trivial, piddly stuff. But there were some almost profound thoughts and certainly a lot of appreciation for the life I have. It's so easy for me (and it seems for so many around me) to get caught up in the minutiae of the day, thinking of how tasty that grass looks just over the fence, while behind me stretches a vast rolling grassland of lush green, all for the crunching.

I guess of lot of what I appreciate about my life sounds pretty cliched, but cliches become cliches because there's truth in them. I had neighbors who had cancer on both sides of the family, with their siblings--and even dog--dying of various cancers, their mothers having battled breast cancer, and their child fighting a continued war against cancer. My cousin found the love of her life, got married and was ecstatic, and then the spouse decided five months into it that there were too many demons hiding under the bed and asked for a divorce.  Another of my cousins--three years older than me--died suddenly, minutes after the rest of us rang in the New Year. These tragedies happen around us every day, but I complain that there are legos strewn across the floor or the kids are laughing too loud. 

In the sunlight, with the birds chirping around me, the sound of water in our pool rushing softly over my senses, I was washed with a feeling of gratitude that persists. I hung up the last of the hole-y socks and stained t-shirts and walked inside and hugged my kids. I nestled my face in their hair, and they hugged me back--real, honest-to-goodness hugs from the soul--and I knew that I wouldn't trade my life--my cluttered, chaotic, lego-strewn, breakfast-dishes-still-on-the-table, 95-decibel life--for anyone else's anywhere. That's laundry zen for ya'.

I think I'll go do a load of whites.


  1. We want to get a line installed soon. I actually wouldn't mind the experience as you describe it, and remember it from my youth when laundry-hanging was one of my regular chores.

    Mind you, it's one thing to enjoy the weather now, but we know what it's going to be in a few weeks!

  2. Beautiful post, Camille. I have the same experience with hanging the laundry on our line. Often it's just an excuse to be outside in the sunshine, reflecting on my blessings.
    BTW, I'm sorry about the things that have happened to your cousins. Sounds very painful, both to go through and to witness. Really puts things into perspective, huh?

  3. Got a mundane comment/question - what kind of line do u use? a long clothes line or multiple racks? Every time I plan to save money and energy to line dry clothes in this blazin' Texas heat, I think to the wonderful feeling of efficiency I get when I get a load done in 2.5 hours basket to closet.

    I rather love household chores for the same reason you mentioned - is quiet time to daydream and think.

  4. You know you're a redneck when you pin your clothes directly to the porch rail. :)
    We have a fence-type tail that makes a perfect place to hang things because it doesn't sag like a line does. Our wooden deck was *literally* disintegrating before our eyes, so we had to get it replaced. I kept waiting until they were finished to put up my line, but once it was done, there was no place to hang it! As it turns out, the fence rail works even better.
    I've been loving this weather--my clothes are drying in an hour!

  5. I love this post Camille. Hanging laundry does sound very Zen. You know, lately when I'm cooking (and B doesn't want to help) I feel like I'm taking time to myself. I also know what you mean about that seeming pathetic but its actually not. I also like what you say about gratitude. I frequently look around me and feel very grateful and guilty for complaining about petty things.