pinning, pining and penning

So the other day I was repairing clothespins.

Because, yes, I hang my clothes on a line. Two lines, actually. In good weather, outside, on a circular thingy. And in bad weather, or in winter [for everything but sheets, which go outside year-round], a line in the basement. The clothespins I use are wooden, held together with an ingenious metal squiggly [there may be an even more technical name for it that I’m unaware of]. It delights me to what is probably an unusual degree that somewhere there is a factory making these tiny works of art, that they are still necessary and that [while they’re also made in plastic] for the most part they haven’t become scientifically enhanced, engineered or in some other way ‘improved’.

There are the dolly peg kind as well but I never got the hang of using them. As a child I was taught the art of laundry, using the wooden/metal squiggly kind and it would be like breaking rank… plus, to be honest, they annoy me because once they break it’s finito la musica… They can’t be repaired.

Unlike the avec metal-squiggly version.

Which brings me back to my point.

I was sitting at the kitchen table, fixing a basket of broken clothespins and thinking: well, this is pathetic. Shouldn’t I be doing something grander than this?? Shouldn’t I be at work on that next great novel, the one that will allow the world to continue turning? Shouldn’t I be penning brilliance of a poetic or opinionated nature, blazing trails in form and incomprehensible voices with short fiction, or hammering away at something entirely made up, like creative non? Shouldn’t I be painting? Or compiling something? At the very least, shouldn’t I move that bag of leaves to the compost?

And as much as logic wanted to say damn right, another part, much brighter than logic, kept insisting that, no, these clothespins were where it was at right now and that these few moments of tending to something so mundane were to be relished, that there was a gift in the seemingly ‘backwardness’ of this kind of work. I thought of my dad, a master of fixing things; he’d prefer that route any day to buying new, and it had nothing to do with saving money. It just pleased him to take the time to repair something. There was the satisfaction with the end product of course, but it occurred to me as I mended those pins that part of what he enjoyed may well have been the meditative quality of mindless but worthwhile tasks… the sort of thing we’ve gotten out of the habit of doing in our never-ending search for faster, better, easier, more—as we get sucked into thinking we don’t have time for this sort of thing in our clever-clever Jetson world—but if we’re honest we waste more than mere minutes doing a lot less of value… it’s just that we do it with things shinier than clothespins.

Anyway, the point [at last] is this: what a difference I felt once I allowed myself the luxury—a sliver of time to do this wee job—once I allowed myself the odd and simple pleasure of it rather than feeling I must always and forever be getting on to something more important…

Important being decidedly relative.
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8 thoughts on “pinning, pining and penning

  1. Other than being separated, your clothespins look pristine. There is obviously not a clothespin-chewing cat living in your house. Nor one that bats those pristine clothespins into hidden-and-unreachable places, never to be seen again.

    Aritha van Herk was working on a book about laundry – something very important as a subject, I’ve hard her say, because laundry is elemental in all our lives, and throughout time. I’ll try to find out what happened to that MS.

    1. These are the ones that live in the basement so they don’t get as chewed up by the elements.
      And no clothespin chompers here either!

      Love the sound of the book on laundry.

  2. Never underestimate the mind-calming properties of working with your hands, the simpler the task, perhaps the better.
    Me, too, I hang laundry with wooden pins, braving my particular enemies–those TWITTERING inner-city sparrows who plot squirts of you-know-what to land directly on the sheets.
    I’m wondering if you got your line in the basement idea from your mother or another Alpie relative? My aunts in the mountains all have lines strung across their attics to hang the winter wash.

    1. Yes indeed… my mum had a basement line. As for the Alpie contingent, I think you’re right, the upper floor of the barn-like house was used for hanging laundry. Much sweeter, this technique, than what I did while living in England, which was to drape dampness over every stick of furniture and then wait a few days for it to dry…

      Inner city sparrows blessing your linen, eh?
      I’m telling you, that’s good luck.

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