Tangled Laundry

Isn't that a smile-making illustration? I found it at the homepage of the UA Robotics Team from 2006.

I was looking for a picture of "wet laundry" because the picture in my head today is of a great heaping pile of cold, damp, hopelessly tangled wet laundry. Someone has put my life -- my thoughts and all the things that have happened in the last year or two -- into a top-loading, agitating, tangling washing machine, and then that someone has pushed the button. (Did I do that? Is that what happens when we don't process the process as it happens to us? In us? By us? --- See? All tangled up!)

All my strings have tied themselves into wet knots. I can see the loops of color. There are the white and pink ribbons from my nightgowns made into a crazy braid with the windbreaker's blue cinch string. All of that is woven and knotted and tangled around the smaller stuff - the cleaning cloths and underwear and socks. The massive ratty tangle has grabbed the loops of my bluejeans and attached wads of color to the wrists of my blouses so that the sleeves are ballooned out and festooned with wrist corsages wrapped way too tightly. It makes me twitchy to look at them.

And, yes, I know that one simply does not load all those disparate things into the washer at once. One separates one's laundry into cloth weights and washing temperatures and similar colors. But there it is. And apparently someone has poked the "spin" button. I don't know where to start to untangle it all so that I can "drip dry" or "lay flat" or do some ironing and get things put away in drawers and closets. I can lift out the cold, damp lump of knots and colors and ribbons and strings and buttons and sleeves and pant legs. I have done that. Here it sits - needing detangling.

The robotics team was supposed to make a robot to do the laundry. But in life, when all our stuff is tangled and stuck together, there is no machine for the work of sorting feelings and experiences and reactions and opinions and questions and awareness. We have to do it ourselves, slowly, painstakingly, and with great attention. If you don't pay attention, you make knots instead of releasing them. This is hand work. And it is not easy.

I think that's what I want from Lent this year. By the end of Lent, I want to have untangled the grief from the victories. I want to open the knots and release the shock from the affection and shake out the freshly washed fabric of my days to hang my life to dry in the sunny, hay-scented air. Slowly, using my own slightly numb fingers to work at the great pile of cold, damp knots, I want it all separated into its pieces so that I can press out the creases, and fold and put away the pieces of my life. It's all clean - thank God for that. It smells sweet. There is no sour smell of bitterness here. But what a mess!

The "Laundry" bag in the picture here is from MaryJane'sFarm, where many such things may be found. She sells apron patterns and organic cotton towels and garlic and iris rhizomes. She's tough. She bakes and digs in the garden and sews and works hard. She hangs out her wash to flap and sweeten in the sun.

Spring cleaning. Laundry sorting. Lent.

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