My fixed income prompts me to examine expenses from fresh angles. Do I need this item? How might I reduce the cost of this service? It seems on the surface to be an austere and negative stance yet as I go back to basics I’ve been finding that the “belt tightening” process is producing unexpected joys.

This week as the weather revs up toward summer, reaching for record temperatures I gaze with longing over the backyard fence at my neighbor’s clothesline – to the crisp fragrant sheets and bright shirts. A few years ago her husband had scaled a fir tree at the property line and attached a pulley half way up in a horizontal line from the back porch. Soon laundry was flapping cheerily in the breezes forty feet across the yard. If I gave it any thought at the time it was to wonder if it would adversely affect our property values!

But heck, in an economy when property values are in free fall anyway there are other values to consider – energy conservation for one. (And consequently saving a buck or two on the electric bill!) So I dragged my antique wooden drying rack out of storage. How it had escaped becoming kindling decades ago I’ll never know – could have something to do with being buried under boxes of Christmas ornaments and a selection of dusty mouse traps. I washed off the spider webs and grime and set the rack on the deck in the sunshine.

As I write, my third load of wash clings to the rack in the heat – jeans, underwear, towels, polo shirts. At twilight I’ll fold each stiff, sun bleached item, proud of my enterprise and frugality. I’ll bury my face in the towels luscious with the scent of fresh air and lavender – while being alert to the possibility of hitchhiking honey bees. I have no idea how much money I’ve saved by giving the electric dryer a rest this week – probably no more than a few cents – but I have taken an enjoyable trip back in time, have resurrected memories of my mother’s double clothesline from our back porch to the apple orchard.

Memories of the womanly lore of wash day – which as I remember was usually Monday. Remember that there was a particular order in which the wash was hung. Supposedly every woman knew from birth the proper way to hang a load of laundry – though beyond the importance of hanging like items together, the vast storehouse of hereditary knowledge seems to have passed me by. Mom tells me her Irish grandmother’s laundry line was a masterpiece, a legend in the land – but then Great-grandma Tierney was a pro, doing laundry for the mansions “up on the hill” in Cincinnati in the days when rich ladies wore starched white cotton gowns dripping with lace to afternoon tea parties. Great-grandma Tierney would be utterly horrified if she could see how ineptly I’ve managed the ancient art – not to mention how scandalized she’d be by the items themselves! Jeans and polo shirts for women! Horrors!!

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