Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Sweet Dreams on the Line . . .

. . . the clothesline.Clothesline Venice

Iceland’s volcano blew the day we were to leave, but after the drama and delay, Italy. This past week I’ve been enchanted by Venice’s romantic, damp decay, quiet plazas at sunset where children play and mothers visit, pizzerias and trattorias, gondola-crowded canals, churches glittering with art, passageways leading nowhere and everywhere, a maze that will eventually get you somewhere. Outdoor markets with local produce and fish are astounding. There is devotion to art and good food.

All of this and I’ve latched on to the laundry.

venitian clothesline

Arrays of it everywhere. Normale. Hang it outside from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th story windows. Sheets, towels, tee-shirts, jeans, plenty of underwear too, flying in the breeze. I love this scene, partly because it’s a peek at a culture which is completely comfortable with airing its laundry. That says something. A clichéd view perhaps, washers and dryers are prevalent and I’m sure Italy’s laundry habits are changing – though electricity remains an expensive commodity here.

I love it too because as a child I accompanied my grandmother, wearing one of her aprons tied round and round my middle, pockets filled with clothespins. While she hung clothes on the line it was my job to hand her the pins as she needed them and I probably felt it was an important task. And, this breeze-filled laundry is a reminder that for me one of life’s sweetest pleasures are air-dried sheets at home on my own bed. So it’s natural for me to be enamored with Italian laundry along with the beauty of a gilded fresco, a mosaic floor or a balcony with its imagined centuries of family life. My own inclination to use the clothesline seems justified here.

Venice clothesline

Hard to imagine Venetians having a community debate about the aesthetics of clotheslines, though maybe it’s happened. Check out this article. NY Times, A Line in the Yard: The Battle Over the Right to Dry Outside.

Back to my own backyard in Seattle, where I’ll be again in a few weeks . . .

clothesline 50.jpg

Air-dried sheets and pillowcases are one of the luxuries of life – in my opinion. The convenience of an electric clothes dryer can easily override the organic alternative right outside the door, so It took me a while to stop and recognize how I could easily rearrange that part of the laundry routine. I decided about the sheets a long time ago now, so there’s never debate about it. We dry our sheets outdoors all year long, even through winter with surprisingly little weather-related interference. (Venice’s damp weather, by the way, is a lot like western Washington’s.) We’ve rigged up a line that can be stretched from here to there when needed.

December-January 2.jpg

After years of line drying for personal reasons, I recognized the environmental bonus: that it’s a small but tangible action toward living green and especially meaningful if it becomes collective action. If this one sounds enticing, find a way to make it happen, for your own sweet dreams first, and then for the planet’s. Bedtime bliss.

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5 Responses »

  1. Oh Sally!!! How beautiful to see the laundry of Venezia!! We were wondering about your departure, but I was sure you left before the ash hit the fan….I hope that you are revelling in the beauty of the land a mi familia! Glad to read/hear from you. Hope you are well and enjoying a WONDERFUL time. Can’t wait to see/hear more of su viaggio a’Italia!!

  2. I love this Sally! And I am so happy to know that you are having a wonderful time. Thank you for the beautiful photographs and thoughts of the universal language of laundry.

  3. Ginetta & Joan.Thank you for good wishes. Just finished dinner at a small neighborhood trattoria in Rome, not expensive, wonderful food, packed with neighborhood regulars and a few of us foreigners, singing and music through the evening from this table and that. It’s late, dinner at 10:00, finished 3 hours later. A fine evening.

    However . . . I have to fess up to the laundry situation. I’d like to say mine’s drying in the breeze, but no, it’s hanging on a silly little line in the bathroom at the moment. The reality of traveling.

  4. Lovely pictures, and great memories of the laundry lines of Europe! Of course it’s rainy and cold in Seattle today so no chance for that.

  5. Hey Sally,
    I love these laundry pix (!!) and so glad you got out as (re-) scheduled.
    I’ve been plotting where to install my own laundry line for the summer. The sunniest spot is in front of the house right along the street. Makes for a different kind of prayer flag. But these European reminders give me other ideas.
    Looking forward to the stories and food ideas you bring home.
    And the smell of air dried sheets and clothes in the next few months.