Chickens and Clotheslines for Connectivity With the Natural World

clothesline and chickens

Our motley crew of baby chickens and ducks spent the day outside in the chicken tractor while enjoying their first 80-degree day. Fresh air does them good. The sensation of grass and dirt between their toes, spindly chicken legs, and mud-flap-like duck feet/paddles, provides a thrill. A quick breeze ruffles brand new feathers, briefly exposing undergarments. At three weeks old they also delight in discovering the rudiments of flight.

A sunny day emerged within a week of clouds and rain—like discovering a lemon drop in a barren cupboard—presents a fine opportunity to make use of the clothesline. Such favorable conditions are rarely squandered in these parts. As the chief launderer in our household, I look forward to these days with a sense of expectancy. Hanging laundry in the morning is wonderfully cathartic. It presents yet another opportunity to put sunlight to good use—I’m fairly obsessed with learning to maximize it’s potential in every square foot of our yard and rooftop over time— and also for maintaining a connection with the natural world.

Orienting even a small portion of our lives around natural assets, free and abundant to all, fosters gratitude while also establishing a rhythm to our existence. A choir of songbirds transforms the space into a cathedral. Unique aromas of spring fill the lungs with each inhalation. Morning sun warms the back as I carefully handle each individual piece of clothing. I feel thankful for each item while attaching clothespin to line. The adorned line is always a feast for the eyes, as a useful item put to good work always is, with wavelike billowing providing visibility to the wind. At least four senses are enlivened, and a case could be made for all five. These serve to enhance the overall sense of gratitude and knowledge of the richness we’ve been blessed with. You don’t get this while jamming a large wad of wetness into the dryer within a cold, damp basement.

One key to successful clotheslining is not having too many clothes. I’ve learned this from my daughter. Being rather picky with clothes, her entire wardrobe makes up only half a load of laundry! Extremely annoying at first, her pickiness is helping me learn to only surround myself with things I love. Everything else is just clutter. It’s so much easier to care for things when there isn’t a gross overabundance to overwhelm you. Long gone are the days of overflowing laundry baskets and two days of clothes washing that required a herculean effort in order to catch up.

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Now laundry day provides a chance to be thankful for the clothes on our backs. Sometimes I even find myself thanking individual items while handling them and recalling memories. For example, my favorite pair of wool running socks dries on the line today. I fondly remember two epic trips endured while wearing them. Both were exceedingly difficult, exhausting, and discouraging at times. Oddly enough, those three ingredients mixed together and shaken around often produces delightful memories of grandeur.

Read about one of those trips to my secret wilderness cabin here. 90% of that particular experience was dreadful—in fact I vowed never to return during much of that time—but for some reason the sublimity of the 10% was enough to forge a beautiful experience. I still have difficulty understanding how this can happen. It’s magical, really. I think it boils down to gratitude and childlike wonder.

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All this stems from handling a simple pair of stained socks. I could go on about other memories from nearly every other piece of clothing: my favorite pair of threadbare pants, a t-shirt that symbolizes a lifestyle enjoyed even as it is pursued, etc. I acknowledge that it’s odd to derive such pleasure from these mostly unimpressive garments. I’m certainly no metrosexual fashionista, and I believe that many aspects of our materialistic culture are just plain wrong.

Perhaps it’s a paradox of sorts, especially considering that we’re on a path toward whatever semblance of minimalism works for our family. Dancing in the grey areas, exploring and pushing boundaries, is enjoyable. Unceremoniously tossing my wife’s wedding dress into a donation bin at Goodwill recently was certainly ironic given this level of attachment. It’s also possible this tendency comes from a natural tendency to overly love objects to the point of hoarding. Given my genetic stock, this is almost certainly in the mix. That’s ok. Coupled with gratitude, contentment, and perspective, we can work with our flaws—as unformed lumps of clay—while enjoying the process of slowly converting them into works of art that’ll never be quite polished enough on this side of paradise…


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