Life’s Light Pleasures

10 · 29 · 20

The sun shines, warming every place the sunlight lands, despite the lightly chilled autumn air. It’s a good time to be outdoors for a while—gardening, walking, or hanging laundry.

Similarly-colored blouses, shirts, T-shirts, and lingerie are damp and chilled in the laundry basket, ready for drying. Clothespins and clothesline are ready to help.

When the laundry is hung it takes on the aesthetics of a colorful array of flags. Dark load or light, each piece of laundry picks up the sunlight. In early autumn, that is likely to be enhanced by a playful, gentle breeze: Shirts and lingerie dance just a little on an autumn clothesline. Towels and washcloths hang in a kind of upside-down attention by the time they’ve dried.

Maybe this is a good day to hang washed bedsheets on the clothesline. There really is nothing quite like the smell of sheets and pillowcases that have been sun-dried. Scented laundry detergent would obviously get in the way of the freshness you can breathe in when the bedding has dried. The advertising pull of those fragrance-free exclamations on a detergent box have an even greater appeal when the sun is shining.

Here’s something to puzzle over: How do towels and washcloths become more absorbent when they’ve been hung on the line to dry than they are when they’ve been placed in the dryer with no fabric softener (which further reduces absorbency)? You notice this as soon as the towel touches your skin after a shower. Sunlight helps the towels to do their job better, just as it benefits more animate objects like plants and people. No need for any theoretical research. It is what it is: Towels are more absorbent after being dried in the sunlight. Call it an existence proof.

Some point out that solar energy will soon reduce our overall cost of an energy supply. Put solar panels on the roof or wait for the energy delivery companies to provide more power from captured sunlight; it’s coming. Clotheslines? They’ve been around for a very, very long time! No need to wait. “Solar drying” was always the method of choice (at least, weather permitting) until the mid-20th century. Drying clothes in the sunlight is free. You can’t get much more of a cost-reduction than that!

But for me, it’s the smell and feel of sun-dried laundry that is most convincing of its value. It’s something you have to experience to appreciate. Shake, hang, dry, smell, feel, fold, repeat.


Patricia is the author of a wide range of essays that span narrative, persuasive, and informational approaches. She believes that most writing benefits from an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on knowledge acquired over decades of diverse learning endeavors.

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