Monday, May 14, 2012


One American looking to buy a house in France to another American who would like to sell a house:

"Is this your clothesline?"


"It doesn’t bother your neighbor?"

I paues in my response. Not because I had anything to hide, but because it was a question that brought lots of thoughts to mind. Quite simply the answer was no it doesn’t bother the neighbor. But would this American looking to buy my little house in the village be able to understand that my neighbor was probably more bothered by all the years that we didn’t have a clothesline. All that electricity being gobbled up when we could have hung our clothes out in the dry sunshine of southwestern France, sleep in sheets perfumed by that same magic sun. That it was even ok to hang laundry on Sunday if it had been a rainy week and this was the first sun to be harnessed.
I also thought of my friend that used our house for a week. She was embarrassed that she did not have enough time to get the sheets and towels dry when she was leaving.  I told her to just throw them in the drier. She confessed she didn’t have a clue how to use our drier. In fact she had never used any drier. Ever. Never needed one, and she also never had to iron her clothes-that's what gravity is for.

And there was the Saturday morning at the Williston Farmer’s market where I found another French friend talking to a young man handing out flyers on how to put up a clothesline. She was incredulous that there would be an exhibit stall to explain the benefits of having a laundry line. She couldn’t believe that there would be any need for this education – didn’t everyone just have a clothesline? What could be going on in those grand backyards in all the family neighborhoods?

We always had a fold up clothesline growing up and my Mom put it to good use. But it was indeed well hidden and I don’t remember any neighbor having one. She’ll still include a comment or two in our conversations about the sun or the rain and how the weather is affecting the drying of the laundry, usually with a bit of a hint towards her having grown up in the depression and how profligate my generation is with it’s resources.
Here at the new house we inherited a very large line. I can hang two loads of laundry with no problem. Such a luxury.  As I hang the laundry I often think of the last kindness two dear friends did for my while packing up to leave Vermont. While I worked on some other silly thing they hung my laundry. When I went to gather it up that evening I was bowled over by the organization and techniques used to get everything on the line.  It was truly a work of art.

Who would think that hanging laundry would lead to such memories and reflections on the two cultures that I have experienced. Given a choice an American would always have a dryer even if just for back up – here in my corner of rural France a clothes drier is perceived as a luxury that one can live without. 

And no, no one will be bothered to see your clean knickers, bras, panties and batman underwear flapping in the breeze.


dleggat said...

I love this post! I started line drying as soon as I moved to my house. I have to admit though that whenever I hang out the laundry I'm torn between satisfaction at using the sun and concern about what the neighbors might think. Then I remember these Doonesbury cartoons:

Hope all is well. debby

Mary Jo said...

I loved this posting even more than I love my clothesline. Perhaps we could start an online bulletin board where each person who has one, shows a great shot with their linens, jeans, shirts, undies, whatever, blowin' in the wind. One of my favorite photos (not digital, unfortunately) shows a line full of Andrew's diapers and onesies at our first home. I've always been proud of that.

Recently, Vermont passed a "Right to Dry" law which enables anyone, regardless of their neighborhood association restrictions, the right to have a clothesline to dry their clothes. Amazing that we need such a law.

So thanks for your posting. It may even persuade some folks to take advantage of this free resource and a nod to a simpler way of life.

Mary Jo

La Vida Artesania said...

Hi Susan, nice entry. We, of course, hang to dry as does most everyone else here in Catalunya. Rarely the weather doesn't cooperate and we use the wonderful old wooden drying rack inherited from Betty.

Anonymous said...

When I retire to near Bennington, Vt it is my very intention to air dry my laundry! Silly but true, a simple pleasure, huh?