Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Pleasures of Flapping Laundry

We'd rather see a backyard line full of laundry flapping in the breeze than a row of laundromat driers turning like cement-mixers in the flat glare of florescent lighting.

What happened in the last decades to make our soulless yuppies decide that air-dried laundry was some sort of affront to good taste and property values? Sez a real estate agent in Hendersonville, N.C., which has more than its share, apparently, of upscale developments that have banned by local law the outdoor drying of laundry, "It starts to look like a tenement."

In our eyes, flapping laundry looks like human life on a human scale, a savings, a freshness in the closet. This late 20th-century uppityness about "tenement" life is frankly unamerican, not to mention self-defeating.

A law introduced in the N.C. General Assembly this year would have overturned local bans on hanging laundry, but it died:
An effort in North Carolina spearheaded by Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, and backed by other lawmakers including Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, made progress this year but died before the General Assembly adjourned last month.

Harrison first tried to go after homeowner covenants, but as opposition mounted, she substituted a bill that would have limited only city and county ordinances. Her proposal passed the House but was rejected by a Senate committee.

The Asheville Citizen-Times story linked above offers hope, nevertheless, that a citizens' uprising is happening among homeowner associations and neighborhood groups to overturn stupid local rules and Victorian squeamishness. Let the laundry flap!

Hanging laundry is aesthetically pleasing (never mind the savings in electricity and all the other environmental benefits). We remember an art installation on Sanford Mall, probably back in the early '80s, when the Appalachian State University administration allowed a faculty artist to install several clotheslines and hang a wonderful assortment of clothing and linens, all carefully chosen for color, texture, and form. The installation stayed up a few days and filled our heads with memories of home and childhood and "washing day," before some high-falutin' prude complained and the whole thing was removed.

Bring back the clotheslines!

American poet Richard Wilbur captured for us the beauties of wind and damp laundry. He saw in the moving forms the presence of angels:
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down in so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.

("Love Calls Us To the Things of This World")

Sometimes there's no antidote to stupid law like poetry.

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