Oh, Let There Be Nothing on Earth but Laundry
(with gratitude to Richard Wilbur)
When the wash cycle ends, the racket stops like boisterous children caught roughhousing in the parents’ room. With the round door open, it’s clear what the damp and twisted sleeves have been up to. I wrest the wet fabric from the mouth of the machine and pile the contrite and tangled mass of it into a basket, white and plastic.
I wear a pocket apron–pockets full of clothespins–recycled from worn jeans, whose strings are long enough to wrap behind my back and tie in the front. The basket conforms to my hip, a clever, if modestly sexist, design (when Greg carries the clothesbasket, he lifts with both hands, arms bent like a drummer on a snare). Basket on my hip, I pass from the house to the line behind the tractor shed. Not that I hide the laundry. I proudly leave clothes hanging when guests come (often they praise the impulse), although I sometimes curate the display for style. When cars pass on the road just above me and the driver looks down on my world, I feel virtuous, but not arrogantly so. I feel privileged I have the time and space.
Beyond the road, the wild hill rises, blocking the sun until mid-morning. In the sun, the power lines that connect our remote valley to civilization stretch like so many strands of laundry line, not so sightly, but necessary nonetheless.
Greg systematically hangs his clothes on one wire, mine on another, sheets in a monochromatic row. He talks to the dogs as they loaf in the sun. I make patterns with the dinner napkins and purposely comingle the underwear. I choose a color scheme for the row facing the passersby. He stopped complaining about my idiosyncratic non-systems years ago.
With the sheets cool on my shoulder, I watch the river, green and blue married with brown, and, against the green and brown. Snowy egrets, impossibly white, whiter than bleached blouses or the sycamore bark reflecting across the water, stand in defiance of the murky brown. And then all at once they fly. The morning air is all awash with angels.