One of my fondest memories from my childhood is the sweet smell of sheets and clothes just brought in from a clothesline in the sun. It’s springtime and the bees are enjoying the clover blossoming nearby. A gentle breeze is blowing. An ideal day for hanging out…..
And I have carried this joyful practice with me through the years. As soon as I settle, up goes a clothesline, if there is not one already there. And I often gift friends with little lines in sunny pockets of their home space. There’s also always a drying line somewhere near my washer, or a rack to put things on hangers – sometimes a folding wooden rack. In Europe and many other countries, they wisely have a rack on a pulley in the laundry room or over a stove – part of it may be screened, for laying out delicate sweaters, and some are just wooden dowels in a light frame – able to be let down to fill and then elevated to the warmth of the ceiling out of the way. What a great idea, one I have been creating when possible since I first saw a woman do this in her lovely Boulder, Colorado, mountain home years ago! She said she learned it from a visit to Scandinavia….
Oh sure, if I have an enormous load of wash on a rainy day, I use the simple dryer I have, but on most other days, I enjoy the process of hanging clothes on the line. Even in the winter, they freeze dry and are even cleaner and fresher. On those days, I often tuck them in the dryer for a few final minutes of moisture release and warmth for folding.
I’ve been traveling internationally to learn, explore and teach healthy / sustainable living these last few years. Being a lover of this magnificent Earth, it’s a joy to see more of her land and meet her varied peoples. A couple years ago, I had left my orchard garden home (with it’s clothesline over the radiant flowers) to live in Ecuador for the winter, and then journey on through many European and UK countries into the spring.
My little cottage in Ecuador behind my sister’s home had the perfect outdoor setup for the climate which ranged from 65-80 degrees all year round – a concrete washing station with a scrub board built right in. I have always had my own little, old-fashioned wood and glass scrub board, which is wonderful for hand washing, so this was great setup! A handle on the side turned on fingers of water that came from the high side of the angled wash board, giving plenty of handy water for washing, and then drained out the bottom. When the washing was done, right beside it were several short lines for hanging – all this behind a pretty brick wall next to my back-yard cottage. I was in heaven!!
Then going on to Europe on a rainy and chilly spring, I was interested to see that no one, no matter when, used a dryer! Clothes blew happily on country lines, and waved above in the narrow, winding streets of Italian villages; gave color and movement to a backyard on the Scots highland coast – sheets blowing in the wind like Tibetan prayer flags! Even in the up-scale, gorgeous home where I stayed in Cannes on the French Riviera, my friend unfolded her drying racks outside on sunny days, and inside on rainy ones! Some homes had driers but just didn’t use them unless there was an emergency need.
Wow, seeing this I began to realize how much power and energy we spend in the United States for drying our clothes, since heating anything takes enormous amounts of power! I began to think that we could probably light a city and save a nuclear plant’s construction just by getting more conscious about drying our clothes. Such a simple thing, yet Americans use all that power without blinking an eye!
Because my car was stored in another city than the airport, I stayed for several days upon my return with a wonderful family in the university area of Missoula – a very awake and conscious place, I thought. Needing to wash out a few small and delicate things from the flight, I hand-washed them, and looked for the clothesline. I had seen the monster washer and dryer in the basement, which in bright new red took up half a room – didn’t need those energy burners… Hmmmm, no line to be seen. Maybe she used a portable rack. I asked her where it might be, and she said with an odd energy, ‘’I don’t have one.” “Oh”, I said, somewhat stunned – this totally not what I was accustomed to. I commented on that and she still had an odd look on her face.
When I asked her what was going on,
she said, “Clotheslines are illegal here.” I’m sure my jaw dropped, and you could have knocked me over with a feather. “You are kidding, right?”, I queried. “No, the neighborhood voted, and no one wanted to see clothes hanging out on a line.”
I was speechless and felt remarkably much like crying. This was very sad to me. What was wrong with people? What was wrong with clean clothes fluttering in the breeze? This prohibition said something I don’t like to believe about ‘conscious’ Americans – it seems to me many people have lost touch with reality, with simple and elegant ways of living that feel wonderful and at the same time care for the Earth when we are indeed in an energy crisis – building filthy coal plants and dangerous nuclear plants to create the energy that people demand. We don’t even use solar power in the sunny southwest, or wind power in appropriate places, let alone allow the development of even more useful forms of energy.
If I had had a ticket at that moment, I would have boarded the plane for Ecuador!! What was happening to me was what I call reverse culture shock. Sometimes the radically different ways of living in foreign countries are quite a shock; I was shocked by my own county’s extravagant ways. And when I have tried to talk about it, help people wake up and live a bit more lightly and consciously, I have been met with disdain. It has been most dis-heartening.
I’m writing this, sitting in a sweet backyard of a forest cottage home near a little lake in northern Germany, and yes, my clothes are in the sun on lines right beside me; and solar panels are on every roof. When I take my things down, I will be rewarded with that lovely smell of sun-dried clothes, not of some strange chemical perfume that is on drier sheets (which, by the way, are some of the most toxic chemicals we can disperse – many of them killing our vital neighbors, the bees, as well as causing health problems for your family Please check yours, and find a non-poisonous variety in your health food store – or the dryer balls that work well for static.)
I pay a lot of attention to health concerns around the world, and one of the major ones that is causing profound challenges, not only for our environment but for our own and our children’s health, is toxic pollution. Yes, surely some of it comes from industry, yet much of it comes from our everyday life choices – from our cleaning products, out-gassing house construction, lawn sprays, and the pesticides on our food.
So you have an open invitation to become more conscious about these seemingly small things, in a movement of blessing for your own life and in conscious service to all the life around you.
Here’s to your health and the fresh smell of sheets dried on the line in the sun of a spring day — and happy bees and butterflies in the flowers around you!!
BLESSINGS FOR ALL OUR RELATIONS, BROOKE
PS: Here’s starter kit, an easy solution, and also a bit more sophistated model!