Spring came early for me but right on time for the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I had moved from New York City the October before, ripe and ready to escape the crime and grime. I hoped this rural, isolated area of the country would grant me some solace: an uncomplicated, quiet life filled with birdsong and gardens. I was filled with anticipation. Carole King’s “sweet tasting good life” was right outside my back door.
It was early March and the daffodils and crocuses opened their yellow and purple faces to the sun. The grass was still brown but the weeds flowered. The lawn was dotted with tiny blue flowers like confetti spilled on the rug. The warming sunlight filled the yard as the native animals began to awaken after their winter’s sleep. The birds sang, announcing the return of spring as they prepared to make their nests. They gobbled up bugs emerging groggily from the ground. The spring peepers chirped in unison.
Bunnies loped, stopped to twitch their pink noses and moved on. Box turtles made their way slowly across the road, sometimes helped by passersby who whisked them safely out of harm’s way. I saw a deer swim across the creek. I thought it was a dog but when I grabbed the binoculars, I saw antlers. I didn’t know deer could swim. Why would a deer swim across the creek? To get to the other side, my father answered.
As the weather warmed, I opened the windows, letting the fresh scent of the breeze in and the smoke and dust from the house out. That spring turned out to be a particularly wet one. More rain than sunshine came through my windows. It was good for the plants and good for my skin. I was noticing its effects on my skin when I noticed its effects on the dried eucalyptus I kept in the vase by my make-up mirror. Some of the leaves had a white, patchy coating on them. I ignored it and went back to admiring my skin. When the coating turned into white patchy balls, I checked my cotton ball drawer. They were all there. Was it cat hair? I looked closer. It was some kind of mold multiplying while I stared at it. I left the room disgusted. Later I checked the other eucalyptus plants and various dried-flower arrangements I had so lovingly made. They were all moldy. Oh my, this seems like foreshadowing. I like it.
The rain continued and the mold grew in black, green and white variations. It was all very color coordinated actually. Black mold grew on my white refrigerators. Green mold grew on my brown window frames and white mold grew everywhere else. It was most noticeable on my black shoes. I didn’t notice it on my clothes until someone at work wondered what I had sat in. It was in the drawers. It grew on the junk in my junk drawer. It was in the cabinets. It was on my sugar jar. It was on my box of pasta. It was everywhere except on the food in the refrigerator where it usually was. Since I wanted to adjust to country life, I got used to it. I just made sure I moved around enough so it did not take hold of me.
Needing to wash the mold off my work clothes, I next attempted to learn the art of hanging clothes on a line. The old dryer that came with the rental house was electric and unpredictable. I soon gave up trying to use it. The warm weather and constant breeze would dry my clothes. Once at the store, I stalled, uncertain, about what kinds of rope and clothespins to buy. There were more choices than I had anticipated. I picked the plastic rope because I thought the wet clothes would not ruin it. Why was I worried about the rope? I picked the wooden clothespins because they were more traditional and I wanted to follow tradition.
I was a new and inept clothes hanger as I hung my first load of laundry. Was I supposed to attach one piece to the other in a string to use fewer clothespins? Why was I worried about the number of clothespins? What would I do if I ran out? Hang the clothes over the fence or a tree? Was that an acceptable practice? I then worried that the clothes wouldn’t dry properly if I overlapped them so I decided to separate them. It took me two hours to hang my first load of laundry, paying close attention to proper spacing to allow for maximum airflow, as if I was expecting the art-of-hanging-clothes-on-a-line police to show up in my yard.
It was a warm, sunny day and the breeze was blowing when I left the clothes hanging on the line to return to the store, to buy, among other things, the clothespin bag I forgot to buy earlier. While there, it rained on my clothes. Now what was I to do? Wash them again? It was only rain. Did they have acid rain here? Would they melt? I decided to leave them. The sun would come out again and I had other things to do like measure the amount of oil in my tank with a 14 foot pole marked with magic marker that would tell me if I needed to call the Oil Company. I also had to clear the ever expanding spider webs out of my outbuildings so I could walk into them without feeling like I was a prime player in Tales of the Crypt. I went on with my country business. The sun came out and dried the clothes. I went back later to check on them. They were almost dry. They were stiff and rough, not Downy Soft. They were also covered with bird poop. Now, I had to wash them again but I was busy locating wasp nests and watering the gardens so before I knew it, it was dark and I was tired. I decided to leave them for tomorrow. What harm could that do?
I went out the next morning and Mother Nature had reclaimed my clothes. Didn’t she know they weren’t all 100% cotton? The dew had made the bird poop soggy and assorted bugs played in the pockets. My careful spacing was perfect for the spiders as they made bridges from one piece of clothing to the next. The wrinkles had crinkles filled with yellow pollen. Hanging clothes was an age-old tradition. How could I go so wrong?