I am three days returned from a two week holiday as I write this homage to the washing. No, I’m not some sort of freak. I don’t like ironing or putting it away into drawers but standing beneath a line, hanging out the wet and sloppy mound of clothes into some sort of an ordered display is something which really satisfies my OCD.
But today is more special, as it always is when you come home and empty your case into the washer. It is the packing up of the special time you’ve just had through the ritual of cleaning and cleansing your clothes. Don’t tell me you’ve not ever felt this before?
As I peg the clothes up onto the line, one by one, I am reminded of the moments of my holiday, where the days ran at a much slower pace and I was constantly in the moment.
There is our holiday, right there on that line, waving back at me, thumbing its nose, saying to me, “Remember this and that?”
“How good was that evening in the balmy warmth as you ate mudcrab in coconut milk and sipped an enormous Pina Colada, as your kid sang you the song?”
“Do you remember that or are you already sunken back into the humdrum that is the everyday?”
I stand this amongst the array of clothes a sweet cacophony of wonderful, peaceful and considered moments in time. The types of moments that make a holiday treasured and deeply felt.
There are the colours. The bright pinks and every shade of blue. The smattering of yellows against pale greens and greys. All of them making the line a beacon for the eye, crying out to the rest of suburbia, should they spy across our fence line, that last week this adventuring family, now all tanned and changed from their experiences, had been holidaying. Our collection of washing flapping and flying, licking up whatever warmth it could from a bland spring sun, trying desperately to dry, spurred on its quest by the whipping cool wind.
There is my daughter’s first ever sarong fluttering in the breeze, the smell of coconut oil and frangipani drifting into the air. The sarong is a must have for every woman and a coming of age when you first come to possess your own.
She chose one in a light coral colour with grey highlights. Instinctively she knew what to do with it. Thrown over her face to keep off the sun or wrapped around her shoulders as we walked the shoreline in the blazing heat. Then used for warmth as we returned from the island later in the day, shielding herself from the cooler wind that was carrying us home.
I am reminded at last week we had no socks or shoes on. Instead, we had thongs or nothing at all, as we roamed quietly on beaches with white sand, looking for treasures delivered by the design of the ever mysterious thing called nature. Our feet were gently massaged and scrubbed as we quietly whiled away the day, not thinking of much, with nowhere to be except where we were. Now there are these pathetic socks pinned to the line, used only twice in the whole trip: on the plane there and for the second time on the way back. They are like imposters amongst their sunny, carefree friends; the dresses, bathers, boardies, coloured t-shirts and caftans.
The clothes act as a spinnaker as the line twirls. It takes me back to the days out on the boats when we surrendered ourselves to the ocean and to the mercy of fish that darted about us, a moving visual explosion of colour with a backdrop of the most perfect cobalt blue. Back on board our vessel the residue of the salty water pricking the skin as a sun belted down on us as we literally sailed off into the sunset. Time seems to equalise between the two worlds. I am caught between the beach and the washing.
Out there in holiday land we’re happy, we’re family and we are living the dream. Most of all we’re grateful for the indulgence of the break from the routine of home, school, of work, of the responsibilities of life. Here we can be seekers of something more important, embraced by the beauty of where we find ourselves. Nowhere to be. Nothing particularly urgent.
Here, on holidays (blessed holidays!) we forget what troubles us and put behind us our to-do lists. No, here we are soul warriors. Totally in the moment giving the most important thought to what is for lunch or falling into a crisp bed, that someone else made, as we tumble into sleep exhausted by the adventures of the day.
And this washing line asks me to remember each glorious part of what went before, as I unpin the bits and pieces, pressing them to my face to experience those familiar holiday smells that never fully fade despite the washing powder. I fold them up and put them away, mentioning to them silently that we will all do this again soon and the adventures will continue. I tell myself, as I pack away the colours, that the feelings we gained from our break can be brought back into the everyday. But it is something we must work on, to allow ourselves to bring that ‘in the moment’ feeling to our everyday lives.
Dear friends, as you next put your washing out to dry, scheme your next escape, even if it is a fleeting one. As you peg up your once white bra, think of how it would feel if it transformed into a bikini top. Or the tea towels as miniature sarongs calling out to you to go find your beach. Even if doing the washing is not your type of weird mediation, make it an opportunity to remind yourself that life is there for the living. Take that holiday. Life is short.