Wind, Fire, Water, Earth- the elements of our life, that when in balance, they bear great riches for our life. When they are out of balance, they cause great disruption. We are at the mercy of these elements every day and when out of balance, they remind us of our vulnerability. Monitoring wind has been the focus of our week as our power was shut off for several days due to a forecast of high winds. Our water source is from a well that has an electric pump so when we lose power, we lose running water in our home. We were more prepared for this power shutoff, stocking up this time on more water in various containers throughout our home. We take all these comforts for granted until we experience days without them. Air, fire, water, and earth are all precious gifts that we grow more aware of and grateful for every day. Our heart goes out to those in Louisiana who have been hit this year with hurricane after hurricane. The once a decade storm is now four times a year.
Hanging my clothes out on the clothesline this week and watching them rise and fall as they are caught in the wind brings me back to my childhood memories during a time our family did not have a clothes dryer. Growing up in a family of eight without a dryer may be inconceivable today for many of us, but it was the reality in my past. We had a washing machine, but when it came to drying the clothes, we had an umbrella style clothesline in the backyard. Once we were tall enough, we all pitched in to hang the wet laundry. I remember making a fort under the drying sheets and towels and while lying there my imagination was free to create a variety of foreign lands that I would travel to.
Once the laundry was dry, we would bring it in to fold and return it to its place. The towels were stiff and crisp as we put them in the linen closet. They, little by little, softened as we dried ourselves after a bath or shower. The sheets smelled so fresh as we changed the beds each week.
Keeping up on the laundry for a family of eight was quite an undertaking! In the winter, we used an indoor folding drying rack to hang the clothes, but in the morning, when the clothes were still damp, we used the oven to dry our socks, undergarments, and school uniforms. We knew they were dry when we would smell the aroma of toasting fabric!
Now, as I hang laundry, a task I surprisingly look forward to, my mind clears from the business of the day, I get a chance to gaze into the sky, and I find a space is created in me for new inspiration. Before going back to work, I ponder, how long before the clothes are dry? They are the measurement of sunshine, wind velocity, and humidity as I estimate whether I can get a second load dry on a given day. Practical Life activities always have science, math, language, and sensorial elements all wrapped up into them and they are the heart of the Primary environment.
This week I posted a series of Practical Life videos, one involving opening and closing clothes pins. This is an ideal activity for young hands as it gives the child the opportunity to develop hand strength and fine motor control all which leads to more success with handwriting.
Who invented this spring-hinged everyday tool we use to dry our laundry and is so perfect for young hands? According to Tom Schierlitz of the New York Times, “The first design that resembles the modern clothespin was patented in 1853 by David M. Smith, a prolific Vermont inventor….and was later improved by the 1887 patent of another Vermont inventor, Solon E. Moore whose great contribution was the ‘coiled fulcrum’ made from a single wire, which joined the two grooved pieces of wood at the center of the clothespin. Moore’s version had the advantage of being both sturdy --- it kept clothes securely on the line---- and easy to manufacture.” According to Barbara Suit Janssen, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, “The earliest clothespins were just handmade, carved from wood.”
I take so much for granted, something as simple as the spring-hinged clothes pin that has always been in my environment and the wind that has faithfully dried my clothes. May I grow in gratitude for all these gifts I take for granted and may we each be blessed with a balance of the elements of our life- Air, Fire, Water, Earth.