Taking Notice: Story. Beauty. Laundry.

Simply Laundry. Photo credit: E.Claire, 13yo. Pastry Child Photography.

This Summer, much to my husbands dismay, I bought two retractable laundry lines. I could read it all over his face, “Another cockamamie idea of Rachelle’s that will never come to pass.” But before he could point out that I don’t have TIME to hang laundry– and also we have no sun, I blurted out my reasoning. “It reminds me of hanging up the laundry with my Gooney Gooney Grandpa.” Instead of skeptical words, he smiled. I could read it in the crinkled corners of his eyes, “Oh, I see. It’s a ritual wrapped in a story.” 

Gooney Gooney Grandpa was what we called my Great Grandfather. He used to make that noise when he bounced us on his knee. “GooneyGooneyGooney.” He’s been gone a long time now and I have only fleeting memories of him. But when I hang the laundry I remember. I remember him passing hand over hand along the line. I recall my four-year-old self handing him the clothes pins with pride. I remember the best bit — stealing a pomegranate from the neighbor’s tree when the task was done.

Most of the rituals of my day go by unseen. Mundane. Hurried. Automated. But there are things that help me stop and notice. Making chai in the red enameled pot. Watering the garden with the stubborn hose. And now this, the slow repeated pattern of hanging clothes on the line. Bend. Pluck. Drape. Pinch. Repeat.

The ritual of hanging laundry is a rite of noticing. I notice that the strappy sundress and denim shorts I hang on the line are much more grown up than my younger daughter’s clothes used to be. Pinned next to each other, my older daughter’s tank top hang as long as mine, a testament to her graceful teenage figure. Drape. Pin. Repeat. I am grateful, so grateful that they have grown this old, have lived this long. (Our first child did not.)

Bend. Pluck.I move on to the cloth napkins, handmade, with our initials embroidered on the corner. I feel virtuous. So green of me, isn’t it? Cloth napkins. Line drying. A laugh wells up inside me. I know I am only virtuous in ways that serve me best. It is only in the places where beauty meets story that I can rally myself to do the right thing. Beautiful napkins held on a storied line, and volia! I am a green crusader.

Pluck. Drape. The delicates wait now in the basket, my stockings flap in the breeze. The different sides of myself come into view. Mother, all napkins and tea towels, and children’s clothes. Lover, fishnets and lacy trimmed panties.

Drape. Pinch. The line is full now and the basket bare. So I return upstairs to my third self. Healer, where I write these words to you.

May beauty, story, and repetition enter your world today. And may it bring comfort to your frazzled soul.

Much Warmth,

*your magpie girl


Th Art of NoticingDo you need helping taking notice of what Mary Oliver calls “your one wild, precious life?” My next mindfulness course is being offered as part of a very affordable discount package. If this feels right-fit to you, you can find out more here. Thank you for being here today. -R

maxine July 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm

You know Rachelle, you make light of the ways in which you go green not being good enough, but it is in these small steps that change occurs. These little things add up to something ginormous, mainly being present and authentic to oneself, and you know, that’s always good enough for me. Lovely message here…

Kel July 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm

interesting that Maxine picked up on the same part of your post as me
there feels like there’s a lot of energy there, particularly in this line which jumped out at me … I know I am only virtuous in ways that serve me best.

aren’t we all :)

Missy July 23, 2011 at 9:40 am

This post made me smile, as many of you posts do. I used to hang laundry with my grandmother, who, although she’s been gone 6 years now, I still dream of and write of often. She made a clothespin holder from a pair of denim shorts. I thought she was so clever. When we moved into this house (my first house since I was 5 years old) I was so excited to put up a clothesline and have fresh smelling, line-dried clothes, but…did you know pollen sticks to your line-dried clothes, and here in the Ohio River valley, the pollen rules. Allergies (my kids have them, too) have kept me from hanging my own laundry, but I do spare a sentimental grin for every full clothesline I see.

Mary July 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm

This is for Missy who thinks she can not air dry because of the pollen. We have allergies in my house to. I have found that by using a laundry drying rack inside the house, for my clothes. I can have the economic and emotional benefits of line drying with out the sneezing and wheezing.

Rachelle July 24, 2011 at 9:37 am

Good idea Mary. My little retractable clothes lines can be hung indoors or out. All you need to do is put screws in both places and you can slide ’em off and move ’em around. I hang my lines in the basement in the winter. (Course, this only works if you have a garage or a basement. I don’t think you’d want them stretched across your living room. lol!)


Rachelle July 24, 2011 at 9:38 am


I love how clever your grandmother was too! I think that generation was much better at being resourceful. We can learn a lot from them!

Thank you for sharing your memories.



Rachelle July 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

Maxine and Kel,

I think we should lean into the reality that we are virtuous in the ways that serve us best, don’t you? I mean, let’s take the path of least reistence! Why make it hard? (I’ll meet you there!) I think that’s what made me laugh at myself. The realization that this is the case. :-)

See you on the easy road!


Trenda Plunkett (a.k.a. Kalliope Bell) July 25, 2011 at 9:25 am

Rachelle, thank you for reminding me of the every day opportunities to practice mindfulness through noticing. Hmmm, wonder where I can buy myself some clothesline…

Bright Blessings,


Paul July 26, 2011 at 7:58 am

And, if I may add this postscript as Rachelle’s husband… The clothelines came in very handy this weekend when the kids spilled a bowl of cereal on the couch, and I had to hang the cushion covers out to dry. So the clothelines go in the “good idea” pile, for sure!

Bethany July 27, 2011 at 6:31 am

I love this, Rachelle. I use a clothesline too (out of necessity at first), and it’s become a much-beloved calming ritual for me too. This is a post worth printing out and giving to your daughters one day!

bydrered October 31, 2011 at 1:13 am

So the clothelines go in the “good idea” pile, for sure!

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: