Thirty-six hours at home. One hot shower and one warm bath on a extremely cold day. Twenty-eight tidy, white stitches cast on Nana’s knitting needles (with any luck, mittens-to-be for a pair of toddler hands.) Five hardy Red Star chickens in the coop out back. A cluster of six red tulips plucked from a grocery store bucket. Two pieces of homemade pizza for dinner. One rainbow shirt and a wish granted. Two days until the full Wolf moon. Eighteen additional minutes of daylight since the New Year. The hope of a 27 degree heat wave tomorrow.
Laundry, as a chore – its sorting, washing, drying, folding, stacking, and tucking away – is one of life’s necessaries. It simply must be done in order to be prepared for all of our dailies: work, play, cooking, cleaning, and comfortable rest. Once upon a time, laundry, in all its multi-stepped, never-ending cycles, was almost more than I could manage.
Not so today.
Just now, for me, all those steps are more soothing than stressful. I’ve learned the stress was really more about time and less about the task itself. With four boys – and all their multitude of socks – the drudgery was more about the sheer quantity of the laundry than disdain for doing it.
Today, strange as it may sound, I celebrate laundry.
I feel gratitude for the tidy task of it. The satisfying snap of a towel. Overcoming the dilemma of a fitted sheet. The delight when every sock entering the washer finds it way out of the dryer as well. The small victory of actually washing, drying, folding, and stowing a load all in the same day.
Folding laundry is like a moving meditation. Pull. Fold. Smooth … Fold. Smooth. Stack … Pull. Fold. Smooth … Fold. Smooth. Stack. My mind feels free to go elsewhere even as it stays exactly in the moment. I am centered. Calm. Mindful and relaxed in the repetition of movement and years of practice. Some of my best writing ideas come as I pull clean, warm laundry from the basket.
There’s a metaphor for life somewhere in the smoothing of wrinkles. The acceptance of stains. The reliving and memory of the last week through the clothing we wore. Memories of a dinner out. A successful day at work. A granddaughter’s overnight visit.
Maybe the pleasure I feel comes from more time, or maybe it’s a newfound appreciation for the uncomplicated and routine. There’s hope and happiness for me in simple tasks. There’s peace and a sense of purpose found in the curved folds of stacked towels.
A celebration. Sorting my way through darks and lights and cycles. Alone with my laundry, my thoughts and my love.
I love your windows wide open and the billow of your breezes in my white curtains. I love the last of summer’s flowers, both the gathering and the plunk of them in a pale blue Ball jar on my kitchen counter. A bit worn out, like summer itself, but still up for one more celebration before the leaves begin to color and claim center stage.
September, you need not try as hard as June, July, and August. You’re simultaneously an end and a beginning. No need to be something you’re not – neither summer, nor fall – but summer and fall. You’re a burst of yellow school buses up the road, irrationally blue skies, and a few final barefoot walks around the yard. You’re one more trip to the beach and a bonfire for Sunday’s cookout.
What would you be, September, without a new notebook? A couple more morning minutes under the warmth of the covers? A final few nights lolling about on the front porch before dinner?
Just yesterday I saw two geese honk south – early birds – and the green acorns I kick down the road have begun to brown. Frantic squirrels dash across the road, mouths full. Monarch butterflies are migrating, and I wish them well as our paths cross for a moment, stuck as I am in traffic and surprised by their sudden appearance. The geraniums cling desperately to their pink even as the mums bloom on the front stoop.
Maybe we’re all on pause, dear September, not yet ready for what’s next but lingering awhile longer with what was. The thing is, wishing never once made time stand still, and so we move onward into earlier darkness and later light come morning, not without our hardships but hearts hoping, nonetheless.
So September, I’ll tilt my face to the last of the sun’s warmth and lick ‘round my mouth as the juice of apples and peaches and tomatoes drips down my chin. I’ll front porch our pumpkins and shuck all the corn I can get my hands around. Each day I wonder if today’s the last day I tug on my shorts, all the while looking forward to flannel. One day ice cream and the next, apple cider donuts. You’re neither, nor, and both. My favorite month of all.
Dear September, I love you.