Today I told myself that I simply must get some laundry done. These beautiful and blue summer days have been dictating a distinct lack of focus on getting tasks done around the house. There are certain chores that provide feelings of satisfaction when accomplished. There are other chores that simply must be done. No questions asked. No whining allowed. You must get yourself in gear and motivate. Get some laundry done.
Then I started thinking of the time when I used to do laundry on an old wringer washing machine. I lived where there was no option for electricity, so this particular beast was one of those diehard Maytags that operated on gasoline and oil — all while belching exhaust and roaring at a deafening idle. Tubs were filled by hauling buckets from the lake. The empty-bucket trip was all downhill, the full-bucket trip was all uphill. Sometimes the wringer didn’t work, and I had to switch over to hand wringing. What with all the hauling and needing to literally kick the old Briggs & Stratton motor into action, life felt challenging on Laundry Day.
The blahs can affect the psyche in powerful ways. Laundry was a necessary chore that tended to rock my generally high level of positivity and my appreciation of living in such pristine beauty and solitude. Still. The sea’s doldrums hold as much gravity as can the wind. Hunger as can fullness. Indifference as can passion. There is certainly a balance within the blahs.
I look back and give myself serious kudos for taking on such an enormous chore on a weekly basis. Even then, in retrospect, when all was hauled, washed, rinsed, and hung, I rarely felt any glowing level of achievement. I experienced no grand sense of accomplishment when draining the last of the rinse tubs and hanging it up on the cellar’s wall. Laundry was one of those chores that lived and grew without notice. Like unbridled growth in a Petri dish, laundry took on a life of its own. It reflected my chosen priorities of the week with a clarity that no Mirror-Mirror-on-the-Wall could. Had I chosen to lounge on the dock in my bikini on that 93 degree day or had I chosen to fall the dead maple that was overhanging the Cellar?
The Laundry Bag did not lie. It was a snapshot of my week. Wood chips littered the floor as I upended the Bag. I saw a blue sweatshirt with a rip in the upper arm, and a chainsaw-oil-stained pair of Levi’s. Eau de petrol perfumed the air. My bikini? Still in my dresser along with my other Travel Dream Clothes: my sarong, collapsible sun hat, and cute strappy sandals. Daydreams of rowing around the lake and lounging on the dock were given over to the burrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrip of a Stihl chain saw and the sparing of the cellar roof.
In the wintertime, while sloshing around outside in sub-freezing temperatures in knee-high snow, I used to daydream of the 1960s when the idea of the Paper Dress was being tossed around as being a viable fabric for clothing. It was brilliant. Functional by day and ready-made firestarter for when I lay the fire in the cookstove for the next morning. As I prepared for bedtime each night, I could don my chic and sexy tissue-paper negligee while crumpling up my work clothes from my day’s work. Dual purpose. And no laundry to be done!
And then one winter day something happened to me as I stood outdoors at the wringer in sub-freezing temperatures and snow – my hands in insulated rubber gloves and my feet in felt-lined boots, aching from the cold of snow and the slosh of icy water.
I don’t know how, but it all funneled into my first ephiphany: it was not the physical rigors that made Laundry Day a pain. It was purely my attitude. My thinking. I stopped. And took inventory. I had the unique privilege of resource, health, and time to complete the task. Time. I look back and remember how it felt to have so much Time. It was so wonderful and decadent, and I took it for granted every single day. And my body really didn’t mind the labor . . . I was outside. Getting some good exercise. Breathing wonderfully clean, pure, cold air. Looking at the tree branches dressed in snow. Listening to the silence ring and ricochet around the lake. How could a body complain about any of this?
My second epiphany: the Laundry Bag took on magical properties that paralleled the complexities and simplicity of man’s relationship to eternity. The Laundry Bag is bottomless, and it is never empty. There is always something growing in it as a result of some other action. My attitude grew to appreciate this. I was part of something that was much bigger than I was. The Universe. It all sounds so strange as I write this, but this is how it all felt at the time: life is very large. And I am a laundry-making contributor to the Wheel of the Universe.
I truly did switch things up after that. I started to sing loudly while I plunged in the wash tub and rinsed and cranked on the wringer — this was my happier version of being on the chain gang. I recognized the blessing in having Time for such a ridiculously time-consuming chore . . . one that now requires me to simply throw laundry into a magic tub and push a button and walk away while electricity and complex machinery do all of the work for me.
But. I now work away from home to compensate for the running water and the electricity that makes Laundry Magic. And, in order to pay for such luxury, my life work has taken an academic turn away from the physical. Life now moves to an urgency that is so different from taking my Time and hauling water and looking at the birds flying overhead and singing off-key bluegrass tunes about river banks and the glitter of gold and lost love and big rock candy mountains.
It feels like I have less time now . . . that there has been some sort of cosmic exchange that has played a joke on me. That somehow my modern electric front-loading Maytag burns up more time, resource, and energy than my gasoline-powered wringer Maytag ever did. The best way I can explain it is there is a dearth of presence. All of that hauling and heating tubs of water on the cookstove and wringing sudsy water out of my clothes made an impression that I would never trade for the joys of convenience.
Perspective. What a gift it is. I love the way time reflects around on itself and, in the doing, presents me with gifts that make my heart sing. Life is a flow of Universal Presence that all manifests in unexpected and miraculous ways.