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Janice Wells: Grand day on clothes

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It’s a beautiful day here in Hearts Content.

Growing on gravel.

I’m going to plant a Little Devil Ninebark which is supposed to do very well in cold coastal conditions. Then I’m going to plant some more Dragon’s Blood Sedum on the gravel banks. What I planted last year, with no real expectations, has actually spread a little and if I plant enough and live long enough I may yet see the whole thing covered in a beautiful mat of burgundyish foliage and pink flowers, or at least not have to avert my eyes as I walk past.

I’ll probably putter around at a few more things and I’ll spend at least a couple of hours on the deck reading, watching the tide flow in and out of the mouth of the brook and listening to the birds, especially that one in the big wild rose by the beach that Daughter #1 and I have tentatively identified by its song as an olive-sided flycatcher but it really shouldn’t be because it doesn’t belong in a rose bush on the beach.

I might go for a walk up the trail to the swimming pool and see how the blueberries are coming along and around “five o’clock somewhere” I’ll pour myself whatever I’m in the mood for and anticipate the fresh cod that Daughter #1will be cooking for supper.

Doesn’t that sound like a lovely day? Even if you wouldn’t enjoy all of the above, surely you’d enjoy most of it.

So you might think housework of any kind would not be welcome on such a day.  And you would be right … except for laundry. Laundry isn’t housework on a sunny day with a little breeze drifting on off the harbour.

I have a load in the washer now. Daughter #1 will offer to hang it out but I will say no thanks. She’s enough of her mother’s daughter to be a little disappointed, but in fact if I ran across the street to the store and she had it done when I got back, it would make my otherwise lovely day not so lovely.

I love hanging out clothes in Heart’s Content. I like it OK in St. John’s but there I have a pulley clothesline. Here I have a walk-along line with a big stick stuck up in the middle of it and hanging out the clothes will be a highlight of my day today.

Jeanine says, “Next you’ll be telling me you’re washing the clothes on the rocks down by the brook.” Janine loves her dryer. Too bad. It makes me sad to think that even in Newfoundland and Labrador there are children who would not even know what I mean when I say “It’s a grand day on clothes.”

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the cost of electricity and concern for the planet will cause a light bulb to go on (haha) and future generations will rediscover the primal satisfaction of the clothesline.

I know they won’t be like me and be compelled to hang them out a certain way because that’s the way my mother taught me. I take things off and change them around if I miss something in the bottom of the basket that would be in the wrong order if I just hung it up wherever.

I realize that may sound a little obsessive to anyone not raised in the generation of clotheslines. But, as in many things, there is a soft pleasure in following a cultural tradition, especially one that makes so much sense; just the power of the sun and the fresh air keeping your fabrics smelling nicer and lasting longer.

The walk-along clothes line goes way further back than the pulley. It was probably a new invention in the days of draping wet things over bushes to dry. In this age of technology, how can I not be besotted with something that has been around forever and still works the best.

It was Zen before we knew what Zen was.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.

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