Posts Tagged ‘Cloister Walk’

“My Monday nights seem to be about washing things,” I wrote in a recent journal entry. It’s not confined to Mondays, really – even with just two of us, there are always (it seems) dishes piling up in the kitchen sink (someday we’ll have a dishwasher), and mounds of laundry piling up in our two separate laundry baskets. J did his own laundry – quite capably, I’m sure – before I married him, but I am so picky about my laundry that I took over the task for both of us. And, well, it’s never done – no news to any of you who also do laundry, no matter whom you live with or how tidy they are.

I don’t really mind doing laundry – it does itself after I load it in, and then I just have to toss it in the dryer and check on it once in a while. But whenever I get frustrated with the mounds, my thoughts turn to a beloved passage from Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk:

Laundry seems to have an almost religious importance for many women. We groan about the drudgery but seldom talk about the secret pleasure we feel at being able to make dirty things clean, especially the clothes of our loved ones, which possess an intimacy all their own. Laundry is one of the very few tasks in life that offers instant results, and this is nothing to sneer at.

Several summers ago now, I spent two weeks at Camp Blue Haven, writing and hiking and soaking in the beauty of the Sangre de Cristo mountains (and, appropriately, healing from a tough year). My stay lasted 13 days – in other words, long enough to require a laundry session – and so, on the quiet Sunday between the first week and the second, I sat in the doorway of the spare, simple laundry room in the shower house next to our cabin, reading Norris’ words and listening to the dryer thumping steadily behind me and the rain thrumming down outside. The fresh scent of detergent and dryer sheets mingled with the smell of summer rain, and both scents melded with Norris’ simple, honest, beautiful words to wash both my clothes and my soul clean.

Years later, as I trek up and down the stairs, from the basement (where the dryer is) to our second-floor apartment and back again, I think of those words, and that rainy afternoon, and those two weeks of soul-laundering long ago. And when I spread the fresh clean clothes out on the guest-room bed, and fold and sort and stow away, I breathe in the scent of lavender, and of memory.


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