Turning Point by Beth Irvine: Sailing Off

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The sky was as speckled with clouds as a spring meadow with sheep. Like sheep let out for their first frolic, the clouds scampered overhead. 

It was perfect kite-flying weather but, instead of that, I was hanging towels and sheets on the line. I was careful to wrap edges over the clothesline wire and ram the pins down to the coil. The breeze pulled everything horizontal; the clothesline hummed a cheery little tune, accompanied by the staccato snapping of the sheets. Perfect drying weather! Less than an hour, I thought.

“Laundry benefits from a thorough shaking up. Bring on the wind!” I said, stuffing another load into the washer. Maybe I could get the whole job done before the wind herded all our woolly clouds into an afternoon shower. 

Really, I needed my best pair of jeans clean and in a hurry. I should have remembered what Lewis Mumford had to say about wind, “A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man.  Kites rise against, not with, the wind.” With or against, there’s nothing like sheets dried in the wind! 

I really like those jeans.  They actually fit and they don’t have those styling details that fall out of fashion by the middle of next week. Before the next load was done, the sheets and pillowcases were dry, so there was lots of room for shirts and jeans. I do recall a tiny thread of worry weaving through conscious thought. 

Five springs ago, in a freshening zephyr, the best dress pants went sailing across the brook to fetch up under the floribunda. It had required a rake, wet sneakers and multiple lacerations to retrieve them, not to mention an hour or so with a darning needle and strong light to pull the snags through to the wrong side. But that was then - now I know how to cram those clothespins on hard enough to anchor a kite! Well, I thought I did.

When I checked back an hour later, everything was dry . . . and the jeans were gone. Gone as in NOT across-the-brook-in-the-floribunda, NOT hiding-in-the-forsythia-bush, just totally “not there.” Oh, the four clothes pins had hung on, but they just marked the place where the jeans used to be.  Apparently they all had lost their grip! What can you do in a situation like this?

Walking to church at low tide the next morning, I noticed a blue lump clinging to a rock in the middle of - and much further down - the brook. Could it be? Yes, it was! 

This time, it only cost a minor skirmish with a blackberry cane and a little extra laundering to remove the algae. The whole process actually added that patina that you pay an extra $20 for at Mark’s Work Wearhouse.  I guess I can say with Jimmy Dean, “I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

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