I realised that I was in an uncharacteristically optimistic frame of mind this morning when I hung my washing out on the clothes line despite the fact that the weather report had forecast a thunderstorm today. Not that I’m naturally pessimistic, or that I have significant trust issues with the general veracity of Bureau of Meterology bulletins (I’d describe them as relatively minor trust issues, most days).
But I do admit that I was truly amazed to find myself out there in the back yard shortly after 8:00am, beneath skies that could at best be described as leaden, blithely hanging sheets on the line.
Queen sized sheets.
With all the audacity and aplomb of a Mardi Gras parader last Saturday night, I kept pegging away until they were hanging as proudly from the line as the rainbow flags that fly all over Sydneytown at this time of year.
Even when a few tinsy drops of rain fell on the windscreen as I drove Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop to school and preschool, I was completely unfazed. My washing, according to my miraculously positive (or perhaps delirious?) mindset, was going to get dry. On the line. Today.
It may have been around this point, or shortly after a grin spread across my face when I didn’t have to switch my windscreen wipers on because the rain suddenly stopped, that I began to wonder whether maybe, just maybe, I had stumbled upon that oh-so-elusive Holy Grail of the Home Front: Laundry Enlightenment.
Had I inadvertently strayed into domestic nirvana without even realising? Was samsara near at hand?
Laundry is, quite literally, motherhood’s dirty little secret. No one ever tells you before you have children just how much washing small people can generate over the course of twenty-four hours. The simplest explanation of why this undeniable truth remains unsaid that I can provide to prospective parents is this: anyone who already has a child is too busy doing laundry to tell you.
I am not (yet) so cynical that I would substitute a more traditional newborn gift with a jumbo box of washing powder and a super-sized container of stain remover. It is true, however, that day after endless day we wash clothes, hang them out to dry, fold them into tidy piles, place them lovingly in the closets and drawers of our progeny and quite possibly of our spouse as well (knowing that if we don’t, we’ll only trip over them at 3:00am when someone calls out for one last glass of water). It’s not rocket science — far from it. But it is relentless.
Doing the laundry — with all its insistent, inexorable cycles — often brings to my mind the old Zen adage: “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water”. The fact that Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield should have written a book on mindfulness and meditation entitled After the Ecstasy, the Laundry does not surprise me in the least. Similarly, the fact that I haven’t had time to read Kornfield’s book — buried as I generally am under an avalanche of dirty clothes — does not fill me with astonishment either.
But every now and then, days like today come along when we rise above mundane routine: days when we defy the odds, we forget about taking calculated risks, we ignore the dire predictions of the weather forecasters. Days when we hang our queen sized sheets on the line and let them flap away with gay abandon — thunderstorms be damned.
For the record, my washing did get dry today. On the line. By itself.
Just don’t get me started about the ironing.