Monday, April 6, 2009

A Sunny Monday

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

Back in Avignon, piles of laundry and dust greet me. The Plane trees, aka Sycamores, aka Platanes are dropping their fluff, which wafts on the breeze as it descends, coming into my bedroom and stimulating allergy attacks. Ahhh, spring. I adore the flowers, I adore the greenery -- though my yard is beginning to resemble a jungle. At this point I'll need to take a scythe to the grass before I dare attempt mowing it. Just days after weeding, the vegetable patch more closely resembles my yard than a garden. We had a couple of gorgeous days nearly a month ago already, when spending all afternoon outside in the sun in a t-shirt felt possible. It's cooler this week, and moister. I look hopefully at my mini-herb garden, wondering if there'll be some sprouts there at some point. Perhaps not till it gets warmer? The kitchen does stay rather cool, even though there's gorgeous morning light flowing in the window.

It is still cool enough in the morning that Jonas would like me to light a fire in the stove. But, from sheer laziness, or just being less sensitive to the cold, I've not lit one in quite a while. Last week, there were evenings that were happily warmed by a fire. But we're at that tipping point between the seasons. Do we put away all the winter clothes? Start taking out the linen pants and skirts? Stores are showing their wares: flouncy short summer dresses, sheer beige blouses. It's a time of almost... A time of transition. Beauty flowers all around us, and quick upon its heels comes the overwhelming greenery. White petals flutter to the ground. I pass by the orchard one day and it is bare, another and it is in full regalia, another, and it has already shifted to leaf.

The urge to slip on my roller blades and go for a spin with the boys is growing. Small problem though, Leo's feet are now my size and he feels no guilt in stealing away my pink skates. Fashion was never too much of an issue for him. Far more a "comfort" kind of guy. My actor neighbor has already borrowed my bike and taken out his girlfriend. We're all reeling from the flowing sap. Running into the wind and mild air of this spring.

Hanging out the laundry is a task I enjoy. (and a good thing this, with the household I have). Ever since my year in Japan, I've hung out laundry. There, even during the rainy season, the laundry was hung outside, under a roof, but still, hung to dry in the moist, mushi-atsui, air. Everywhere I go in France we hang our laundry to dry. It is simply standard. Be it from the living room window above the neighbors' courtyard in Arles, or in my backyard here in Avignon, or on the other side of the front lawn at the winery. We all hang our laundry out in the fresh air. On rainy days, or when it is simply too cold, I've a wrack in the bathroom. This year I succumbed to the 'need' or at least deep pleasure of owning a dishwasher. It always runs on the shortest, coolest cycles, with organic/non-phosphate detergent. But never again will I own a dryer. I just don't see why one should.

I've acquired laundry-hanging skills as the years have passed. In Arles, with the oodles of sheets from the b&b I used many doors in the house (which had beforehand been cleaned of their dust), folded the sheets carefully, and hung them over these useful surfaces. T-shirts, pants, wash clothes with fringe, all need serious shaking out before you hang them (otherwise, t-shirts can dry with crumpled sleeves, the fringe clumps). I am not much or an ironer -- which puts me in the serious minority in this country-- but such is life. To get away with this, I am careful to hang pillow cases very neatly, ditto my linen pants and cotton shirts. Anything to accomplish in one task what others might do in two if they are careless.

Then there is the issue of 'hanging one's laundry in public:' do I hang underwear, bras, etc., outside, in view of the neighbors? or inside on the bathroom wrack? It depends. But I've no qualms in delegating laundry folding and distribution amongst the kids as my parents did with myself and my siblings. My boys can fold up girls' undies just as easily as the girls can fold up theirs. It's all a part of growing up and adjusting to a varied world.

My au pairs either willingly learning the laundry tricks, i.e. went along with the program, or, they rebelled and never really adapted to the hanging laundry concept. For instance, no matter how impatient you are, you can't bring it in too soon. If you fold your laundry damp, woe on you the smelly mold that will appear, and that will be nearly impossible to wash out. I believe they felt I was trying to introduce them to the 19th Century. And I did often joke that I was aiming to enter the 20th Century, forget the 21st.

Such is still the case. It is almost painful for me to return to using my gas stove and electric oven after managing so much of the winter with my wood stove.

Ah well. Today, I'm lunching in town. So perhaps I'll leave the dust for tomorrow?

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