“The Clothes Pin” by Jane Kenyon
How much better it is
to carry wood to the fire
than to moan about your life.
How much better
to throw the garbage
onto the compost, or to pin the clean
sheet on the line
with a gray-brown wooden clothes pin!
This afternoon – basking in the balmy-for-northeast-Iowa sun, 45 degrees in the afternoon that’s now one hour longer – I hauled one of my wooden lawn chairs up out of the basement and set it out on the lawn. One yellow flag of spring: the first sign. I sat there to read aloud and revise a piece I’m writing for The New Haven Review. Between paragraphs I closed my eyes and smiled. The sun is coming back again. It’s good.
The lilacs I transplanted from my friends’ yard to make a hedge along the back fence are budding now. Under their protective thatch of old stems and grasses, lilies are peeking up, one centimeter at a time. Juncoes are flocking to my feeders, picking around in the spill of seeds and half-frozen poop the rabbits and squirrels have left. (Hey, poop is fertilizer, right?) The compost pile is thawing, a winter’s worth of eggshells and coffee grounds and orange peels scattered on top. I can push my finger into the ground, first-knuckle-deep. Pretty soon, the red snounts of rhubarb will nose up along the fence in my vegetable garden (just behind the chair in the picture.)
Designs, devices, and desires: as the world slowly thaws, I’m making plans for my yard to get even more peaceful and edible and green, a place of renewal in a busy life. Rain barrels. Blueberries and honeyberries in place of anonymous, inherited foundation shrubs. Widening the borders of all my perennial beds (basically where the snow is now) a foot or two further into the grass, for more flowers. Maybe a manual reel lawnmower to replace my noisy, limping old gas-powered one. Trailing nasturtiums from last year’s saved seeds in boxes from my second-floor rear window to replicate the famous display at my favorite museum (our summer thunderstorms may be too hard on them, but I can dream.)
Near the top of the list is a clothesline. And I think I know how to do it; if I can hang a reel of line from a fencepost on one side of the yard, then screw a very heavy eye-bolt (with shoulders, to take the load – ah, the things you learn on the Internet!) from the eaves of my garage, I can stretch the line across the yard, clip it tight, and go — then retract it completely when I’m done. Now that my college is changing all dorm washers to cold-water-only (which I’ve been doing for a while), and I’m reading more and more about the negative effects of running a clothes dryer, this is looking like a good option.
And when I hang my clothesline reel on the fencepost, I’ll paint this Jane Kenyon poem on a little sign and hang it underneath.
I can already smell it: the sun and wind in an armful of clean, dry clothes.
In the words of my favorite Yehuda Amichai poem, here comes the small song of spring.