Three Seasons on the Line

The oak leaves have turned from brown to crispy. They’re falling, and I still can’t resist kicking my way through them on the path. The birches and beeches are still yellow; the yellow is thinning but it’s still enough to catch the mid-fall light. Cheryl Wheeler’s “When Fall Comes to New England” is running through my head.

fall foliageThe Japanese maple outside my west-facing window is tinged with red at the top. I’ve been tracking this tree since 2012, and the red always starts to show in very early November. By the middle of the month, the red is spectacular. It waits till everything else in the vicinity has passed its color peak, then there it is, catching the light at every time of day in a way that makes me pause in passing to gaze in admiration.

My most reliable guide to the changing of the seasons is the laundry line. I use the washers at the Airport Laundromat, then bring the clean, wet clothes home to hang out. The laundromat does have dryers, of course, but they cost a quarter for a scant four minutes and it takes several quarters to dry jeans and other heavy stuff.

And of course there’s the undeniable attraction of using wind and solar power instead of electricity . . .

So when the clean underwear supply runs low, roughly every three weeks, I watch for the next good drying day — bright sun and a brisk breeze will dry everything in a few hours — and off we go. While the washers wash, Tam and I stroll around the airport grounds and a little way down the dirt road that runs past the beer store, then back along the bike path. When we get home, he watches from the deck as I hang everything out.

Saturday’s laundry had a little bit of almost everything: shorts, summer-weight cotton pants, short-sleeved Ts, long-sleeved Ts, henleys and turtlenecks. We’re far enough into fall that I could barely remember wearing the shorts that were at the bottom of the hamper. What’s missing from the mix is longjohns. That makes this a three-season laundry line.

Three-season laundry line: shorts, T-shirts, turtlenecks, jeans — but no longjohns.

It’s getting colder, however. This was “fall-back” weekend, the end of Daylight Saving Time (which we all know doesn’t save any daylight, it just moves it around a bit). When Tam and I went out this morning a little after 6, the temperature was in the (barely) high 30s Fahrenheit. It’s time to make room in the drawers for longjohns and jeans, room in the closet for more turtlenecks and sweaters. Yesterday I pulled my two boxes of winter clothes out of the closet. Haven’t unpacked them yet, but the time is coming.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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4 Responses to Three Seasons on the Line

  1. Ellen T. Miller says:

    What is” radical” or “civilly disobedient” about line drying laundry?  Used to be the norm.  Is it that objectionable to still use some common sense?  (Not to mention the added attraction of the good smell of air dried cotton…)  Kudos!


    • Well, “radical” means “related to the root” or “fundamental,” and slang-wise (probably passé, often abridged to “rad”) it has meant “very cool,” so there’s that.

      As to civilly disobedient, you’re probably aware of subdivisions where hanging out the wash is against regulations? This was the case in Old Schoolhouse Village (across the street and not far from the high school) when a friend lived there years ago. It was one of those “there goes the neighborhood” things: hanging out laundry was associated with being poor, working class, insufficiently upscale or insufficiently white. I think, Ihope, that’s changed with growing ecological awareness, but I bet those regs are still on the books in a lot of places. Ditto the ones that decree that one must have a lawn, not a garden, in the front yard.

      Years ago, like in the early to mid 1990s, I copyedited a business textbook from a third-rate publisher. The author argued right upfront that the move to live simply and consume less was un-American because anti-capitalist. You rarely see this belief expressed so bluntly, but it’s most definitely out there in subtler — though often not exactly subtle — forms.


  2. Susan Robinson says:

    A timely post for me. I too love using my clothesline and just yesterday began acting on my knowledge that I need new clothespins. The old ones have metal springs and I think these are not biodegradable because things like that aren’t included in Santa Fe’s recycle instructions. So I will look around for those clothespins that are all wood. I bet Lehman’s has them if no local place does. Thanks for your pictures through the years of your bright clothes on the line.


    • Have been contemplating new pins myself. 12+ years ago downstairs neighbor (who was moving out) accidentally absconded with my clothespin bag. I had wet wash to hang and it was a Sunday with not much open. So I had to settle for plastic. They’ve lasted pretty well, but they’re starting to break. The ones I’ve bought since then are all wood, but it’s time to replace the rest of the plastic ones.


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