Hanging laundry in November is quite different from hanging laundry in August. First, let me explain. I love doing laundry. It's one of my many quirks. I don't understand people who think it's a chore. It's easy and satisfying. I don't have to think, just keep in the rhythm of hanging and folding, so my mind is free to wander. It takes some time, but the job has natural built-in breaks to it. The rhythm of the task encourages a quiet meditation, and I find satisfaction in folding the familiar clothes, now clean and soft, and ready to wear another day. Creating order from a pile of dirty clothes suits me.
Hanging the laundry takes me outside to enjoy the nice day—the breeze and the sun. But in November it begins to get tricky. I wear a heavy sweater, but I can’t keep my fingers warm. This makes it both more difficult to hurry, and more important to finish quickly. Laundry in November holds a little tinge of sadness. Winter seems to be late this year, yet we know it is coming. The gray skies hold snow, and the evenings come early. In the summer I can wash three cycles of clothes and have them dry and folded before supper. In November, I have to rush to finish even one load. As I struggle to hurry with the wet clothes, the late autumn air cools them. My damp fingers pull in the chill, and soon they are numb and aching, both at the same time. Now my fingers are clumsy, and my mind is no longer free to wander. Now I am wondering if this is the last laundry I will hang on the line. Will winter stop teasing us and settle in seriously now? Will the blizzards come, the temperature drop? Will my laundry freeze on the line into stiff cardboard cut-outs of shirts and pants? Will I be dispatched to the drier until Spring?
This week my laundry luck ran out. I left a batch of still damp clothes on the line one evening, and it rained for two days. Today the sun has returned, but some of the clothes are streaked with mud, blown across the yard from the field, I suppose. I’ll have to take it down to rewash. I wander around the yard, checking on things I should have taken care of before the frost. A basket of weeds sits in the middle of my half-weeded path; the rain barrel is full of ice, the sillcock frozen shut, so I can’t even open it in case of a thaw. I’ll need to weatherize the aviary outlets and plug in the lights and winter water dishes. All this would have been easier to do before the freeze hit, but every year I get lulled in to thinking Autumn will last forever, or at least one more day.
Now that Winter has come, I’ll turn my attention inward. I’ll work on interior, warm projects—cleaning out closets and painting them, knitting, writing, fixing the thermostat. I’ll take brisk walks with the dog, collecting stones for my spiral herb garden, but I’ll just leave these in a pile until Spring. I’ll make plans, bake bread, sing songs. I’ll clean the basement. I’ll plant seeds for Spring.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in cycles, common things, and her own back yard.