The magic of wind-dried laundry

There are many entries on my list of things that please me—my list of favourites, from frogs singing at night to my beloved dandelions in May with their magically-curling stems, floating perfectly still on the surface of a lake (preferably Rainy Lake) on a hot summer day, bushes filled with berries, and the sound of a pileated woodpecker hammering out his happy tune.
But today, on a windy sunny summer day, my favourite of favourites is fresh sheets just off the clothesline and on to my bed; sheets smoothed tight and pressed flat with my hands.
And then I crawl into bed and pull the sheet over my head, and breathe that heavenly fragrance that only the wind through the trees and across the lawn and over the garden can gather up.
Think of all the smells that the wind, a wind from any season (even winter), picks up and sweeps through the fibres of my crisp white sheets: blossoms of every variety, new grass freshly-scattered out across the lawn by the lawnmower, new hay growth about to burst into bud, flowers taking their turn in the flowerbeds to show off their colour and bouquet, apples ripening on the tree, or a campfire off in the distance with its woody, earthy smell.
All these fragrances are captured in my sheets, woven intrinsically together. This smell can’t be reproduced; can’t be copied or created by any other means.
When I was little, my mother would gather my bed sheets off the clothesline, and once she had smoothed the bottom sheet perfectly flat and tucked it under my mattress, I would jump into bed and she would shake out the top sheet over me and it would settle down, gently, like butterflies against my skin while I stayed perfectly still.
It is my favourite mother memory.
I can’t help but think of those people who don’t have a clothesline, who must use a dryer for all their laundry. I know of people whose subdivision by-laws do not allow for the use of a clothesline.
What madness is this? Aside from saving electricity, these people miss out on the privilege and the miracle of laundry-drying day that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
I always check out clotheslines when I am out and about, and I love best those clotheslines that are a work of art—where the clothes hang from smallest to biggest, or in order of colour like its very own rainbow.
Or, what is now an almost extinct sight (certainly on the endangered list of sights), a long line of white flannelette diapers snapping in the wind, pinned precisely, like some mathematical equation.
I miss seeing those clotheslines; a sight that creates the image of a baby bundled up tight, held against his mother’s chest while she rocks and hums, assuring him all will be well, so go to sleep.
Coloured and printed sheets gather up fragrances, too, but not in the same way my mother’s glistening white sheets did.
I think I shall go and do a load of laundry, and see what magic I can create.
wendistewart@live.ca

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