Many folks used to hang their washing out to dry, and some still do. Now remember I grew up in N. Ireland and rain was everyone’s close friend. Rain was always in the habit of showing up when you least expected, hanging around longer than was really necessary and always promising to visit again soon! My mother made many a dash to the back garden to bring in the almost dry washing before it got drenched by an unexpected downpour! When I was tall enough to reach the pegs on the line I shared the sudden task! Washing out on the line also meant no kicking a football/soccer ball and even if you tried to dodge the hanging sleeves and billowing sheets if the ball hit the clothes pole you were suddenly wrestled by the laundry as it fell around you. I have some memories of washing being left out just too long as the weather turned cold and then having to bring in stiff clothes! Yet we all know that clothes blowing dry in the good fresh air made a wonderful difference for the good. The poets Luci Shaw and R.S. Thomas knew much about laundry drying in the wind, I hope their lines kindle many memories for you. Once upon a time wash days were a lot of hard work, but never did we hear a complaint being pegged to the line.
Thirty years ago the green square beyond
our back door was webbed with lines
on which I hung with wooden pegs
my angels and my ghosts – white nightgowns
winged in the wind, shrouds of tablecloths,
shirts fluting their spooky sleeves, their
dwindling tails – shadows of the lucid cloth
moving like water on the grass.
Now we live over a basement dryer churning
beneath a 40-watt bulb. The trap keeps filling
with a gray lint as our clothes, our second skins,
are dried out by the minutes on a dial.
The air behind the house
is empty of epiphanies, apparitions.
Gone is the iron-fresh smell of damp linens
praying their vapor to the sun. Luci Shaw
TWO SHIRTS on a LINE
They set to one another
then move silently
apart only to return
back to back. I am
fascinated by a dance
without music, by
a couple without faces
dancing away a January
their tears. There is no one
to put them on but
the wind that fits them
where it touches,
that, when about to be
asked for directions, vanishes
leaving them dangling
as though they had been hanged. R. S. Thomas
Holy and loving God,
our hearts are heavy today
as sadness and grief
shower down around us
as building and bricks
bury the living and give up only the dead.
Holy God our restless earth
quakes and splits and hope
drives people to scramble and search
for the sound of life.
Holy God, in the amidst of such tragedy
still war rages and life is taken.
Save us from our own inhumanity
save us from our selfish ways.
Remind us of your words to your prophet
Isaiah- Stop doing wrong
learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage
the oppressed. Defend the fatherless, plead
the case for the widow. Though your sins are
like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Lord God we cry unto you, help us to help
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.
One thought on “Washing Day”
I have always thought it a privilege to hang wet laundry on an outdoor clothesline to use the sun and its clean warmth, but this task is not allowed in my neighborhood. How unfortunate that the sight of this is deemed offensive. I have photographed Amish clotheslines of dark, solid colored dresses and white shirts. I have hung colorful dish towels on the line in the yard of a rented farmhouse in the middle of Kansas just to watch the breeze. I have laughed with cousins as we recall our grandmother’s white bedding drying on the line and return to the beds feeling as if we were sleeping in paper envelopes. But none of these memories distract me from the immense tragedies of current war and natural disaster. The scripture you reference reminds us that our collective inhumanity often leaves others “hanging out to dry”, but I will be encouraged by the news that so many nations have promised not to do that this time to Syria, and to Turkey. In all of this unimaginable chaos, we still need to find hope.