My Clothes Smell Like Sunshine

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And all is right in the world.

And all is right in the world. Source: clemente hide caption

itoggle caption Source: clemente

Clotheslines were a regular part of my childhood, like dinner tables and Hungry Hungry Hippos. When I think back, I remember my parents' clothesline, a high-tech contraption that stretched for about 25 yards, the rope strung between two trees behind our house. My dad rigged it so that you could stand in one spot, pin up a shirt, tug the line, and pin another, till it was full. The lines at our beach house were simpler, a classic T-Post setup draped with an ever-changing rainbow of towels and bathing suits. At my grandmother's farm you can still see the classic four-sided, tiered variety (Does anyone know what they're called? Colleague Susan Lund found me loads of "umbrella" clotheslines, and I guess that's what this one is, but it's really old), though she now prefers to toss clothes in the dryer. Though all three lines have fallen into disuse (or have been disassembled), I can still keenly recall the scent of clothes dried in the sun... it's like nothing else. In some communities, they're considered an eyesore, which I can't understand at all. Nothing says "people live here" — people who probably smell good, too — like a clothesline bedecked with fluttering sheets and overalls dancing in the breeze. What do you think? Does it bug you?



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It is hard to afford environmentalism these days. I can't buy a hybrid car, I can't install solar panels. But I can hang my clothes out, use a compost pile and reduse the amount of grass I have. I have cut my electric usage by half just by not using my dryer and turning off lights. We need to have our priorities in the right place.

Sent by Brittney Cummins | 2:47 PM | 9-13-2007

I live in Minneapolis and my neighbor hangs her clothes in the yard between our houses. I was shocked to hear that some people consider this an eye sore, I've always thought of it as rather a romantic image. perhaps her laundry is just more atractive than most.

Sent by Zoe | 2:54 PM | 9-13-2007

I love my clothes line! My husband and I hang out all our towels, sheets, and "lounge around the house" clothes. They smell so good, and the towels' smell also makes the bathrooms smell wonderful. The towels are super absorbant and our sheets are heavenly. The enviromental benefits are just a bonus. I can't believe cities are legislating this. I can't believe some "neighbors" might protest. I think my clothes line is beautiful.

What is this country becoming?

Sent by Lisa H | 2:57 PM | 9-13-2007

Your commentator wondered on the air if this is a class issue. I'd say yes, in the sense that there's a lot more preoccupation with how things look than their content. It's bad environmental policy when, say, hygiene is compromised (for the folks who don't take showers.) But how ugly are things going to be if we don't get energy consumption under control? Please, bring clotheslines back!

Sent by Barbara | 3:06 PM | 9-13-2007

Oh gracious!? I am totally exasperated. People who make comments like--"well, I'm not sure what the environmental ramifications of the wind turbines are but they are really ugly" should definitely read an article about how much they help. Then they might see them as the dancing, softly swaying beauties that are saving their kids'futures!
This coming from a woman who does like to shower, has a pumpkin growing out of her neglected compost pile, occasionally throws things away instead of recycling them, and drives past the Limerick, Pa nuclear power plant daily.

Sent by Janette Fertig | 3:09 PM | 9-13-2007

When people have a long-term perspective, they see beauty in what helps humanity thrive healthily. The scents of nature on our clothing uplift our spirits. When people's perspective of what they see is wide enough to realize the effects of those sun-dried clothes, they are happy to see them, knowing they will make people healthier. When people relax, they see beauty in the way things are. Some driers involve chemicals that may cause cancer. When people see this, they see that as ugly. They see nature, which gives us food and herbs that enable life, as healthy. We come from a culture that mass murdered all practicioners of natural medicine as witches as recently as four centuries ago. This instilled a fear of appreciating nature in our culture, so people could survive. We still don't love nature as much as it would benefit us, because it gives us our lives and those of everyone we love. If we want people to live in health, we see the means of achieving that as beautiful. I saw a cultural study a few years ago. The United States was one of the countries that scored lowest in terms of having a long-term orientation. Countries whose tradition of natural medicine remained intact had much higher scores. Increasing our long-term perspective and our awareness of the benefits of nature makes the world a better place for ourselves, our children, and everyone we affect.

Sent by Irene | 3:11 PM | 9-13-2007

I like Zoe's comment. It is so artfully put. It reminds me of how much appreciation of art there is in Minneapolis.

Sent by Irene | 4:24 PM | 9-13-2007

My mom was born and grew up in Poughkeepsie. One of my most endearing memories was of my grandmother stringing up the laundry on a pulley driven clothesline between her brownstone and a high branch of a cherry tree.

Poughkeepsie, New York. Remember your roots!

Sent by John Tynan | 4:51 PM | 9-13-2007

I'm listening to this show from across the planet in New Zealand. This wierd and uniquely American discussion is a reminder of how entrenched wasteful consumption has become in the culture of wealthier Americans. Where else could people think that its "normal" to rely on power-guzzling dryers if the weather gives you the choice of hanging your clothes in the sun for free? Almost all NZers have dryers in their homes too, but the norm is to see these as a stand-by for a rainy day.

Sent by John MacCormick | 9:08 PM | 9-13-2007

"Nothing says people actually live here" more than clothes drying out in the solar clothes dryer more than seeing this wholesome picture. Yes it takes extra time.Yes nobody has the time anymore.But this one sight says"home to me more than any homecookin' ever could. It's cost efficient also. The Solar Dryer smells of fresh Sunshine and Air. Take that Snuggle wannabes.

Sent by cheyanne | 2:06 PM | 9-14-2007

If the town government of Poughkeepsie is complaining about the clothes lines, what about the power lines? Of course these eyesores put in place by the giant energy corporations are not brought into the discussion. The clothesline debate has nothing to do with environmentalism and everything to do with treating the symptoms and not the disease.

Sent by Dominic Swincicki | 8:47 AM | 9-17-2007

I love clotheslines.
Nature-created, moving and wearable art contrasted by a bright blue (hopefully) sky.
But lawn care companies spray the lawn in my neighborhood and they spray whatever the time of day. I can only open my windows open on Sunday if it's nice out in the hopes they will never spray on that day of the week.
Have you ever got a face full of that chemical spray??--I don't want it on my clothes!
I have a clothesline in my basement and a little more than 1/2 my laundry drys there.

Sent by kmcnabb | 5:29 PM | 11-13-2007

As an amateur photographer, I have a collection of clothesline images from all over the world I have traveled, dreaming of one day publishing book about the fascination and pleasures of such sacred ritual, whether necessity, or simplistic desire. I treasure those breezy sunny days that provide my favorite household chore, washing and hanging and photographing my clothesline!

Sent by Deb | 11:00 PM | 11-13-2007