I took this photo out the window of the car as we drove through Amish country over the holidays. I was a little nervous when we stopped for the shot; I suppose it felt strange to infiltrate their simplicity armed with a laptop and smartphone. I'm glad I did, though. It is so beautiful out there, with the bank barns and twisty roads and clotheslines taller than roofs. Seriously-what is up with this? My guess--when a family lives without electricity, getting their clothes dry is less about that fresh-as-a-breeze smell, than say, the reason I hang clothes on the line. These people are not messing around--they just go ahead and crank those plain-colored, non-vainglorious clothes right on up to the heavens because that's where the warm air is. I, on the other hand, own an electric dryer, but choose to pin up a rainbow of happy garments because, a.) it saves money, and b.) it looks, to the average passerby, like I'm meeting/exceeding domestic expectations instead of standing in front of the fridge eating ice cream.
A little further on we stopped again, this time turning down an unmarked road that led us along a partially frozen stream to a middle-of-nowhere greenhouse. This time we lingered, admiring the arborvitae from the car and making plans to come back when the shop was open--if we could ever find it again, that is. As we idled there, I saw in the corner of the landscape, a little girl standing on the porch of the adjacent homestead. The house sat back far from the road, and almost didn't notice her--and I guess that's the point--but there she was, in the sub-forty degree weather, whipping the wet out of clothes, getting them ready for the cranked-up clothesline. No, they don't even dry them a little bit in the dryer to get the wrinkles out; this is serious stuff. She was dressed all in black, or maybe it was navy, I couldn't tell--but boy, when she saw us did she take off running for the barn.
It didn't surprised me, really-a little girl just fetching her dad to say: somebody's here. That struck me as fairly universal. My own children have done it a hundred times, so the act itself wasn't unusual in my sight. It was the way she ran: like someone who had never seen herself running, or considered how ridiculous she would look. Arms and legs flailing, no grace, style, or self-consciousness. She ran to get the job done. Utterly utilitarian. It made me laugh out loud, then just like that, we drove off for home. But the whole way I was thinking how nice it would be to experience life without such painful self-awareness. To not always be thinking of myself. To run like a schizophrenic gazelle and not care. New Year's resolution, maybe?
So, what are yours? Does it include tackling more laundry, complete with a mile-high clothesline? My only resolute to-do for 2011 is this: quit using my children as my alarm-clock. In our house, we don't wake up to buzzers or radio newscasts--and never have. Joshua is programmed to arise at a time he predetermines the night before, sans electronic assistance. It's absolutely nuts, and I'm telling you I don't know how he does it. But if he needs to get up at six, he gets up at six, unaided. You may have seen this on an episode of Seinfeld. I on the other hand, have been cranking up at the bedside rooster crow of my children, who come in when they feel like it, to introduce the morning. Sometimes, this includes crawling in bed with me, other times the greeting is a bit more jarring. In either case, I'll say this: waking up to a four-year-old's predawn bedside rendition of Take Me Out To the Ballgame does not exactly make a person feel they've got the upper hand. So, my goal: to be up and around before the kids, to at least give the impression I'm one step ahead of them. And to start the coffee.