A story about our life on the road from March:
Life on the road seems have an especially undulating nature for me. The good and pleasant and sweet times exist in a way they never seem to when I’m tethered to a normal life in the city. Perhaps this is because as each day begins there is nothing I really must do except the basic necessities of continuing to live and heal. This leaves my mind open and calm to observe the landscape, wildlife and enjoy the companionship of my husband and fellow campers.
On the really hard days, of which I had two this weekend, I just want a home again. I want a steady paycheck and my own bathtub and a cat. I want to know that there is somewhere safe for me to go if the world falls out from underneath me again.
Life on the road also has this sense of connection back to the old ways of humanity. I’ve become convinced that when we look back at the way women did laundry at the river for thousands of years and think, “What a pain. Life must have been so awful before modern conveniences!” we are way off.
Laundry is not so much of a chore if you are outside watching the cotton-tailed bunnies bouncing around the desert as you work. Especially on the calm and sunny days, it’s more of a meditative practice. One which leaves you a bed with sagebrush-scented sheets. Oh, how I love sagebrush-scented sheets.
Our process for doing laundry takes, in total time, not much more than doing them with a standard washer and dryer. It is just that while doing laundry, it is the only thing we can do. We use our own energy for the agitating, and the sun does the drying on the line. Each load goes through our little spin-dryer and I every time I use it I feel like I am watching something magical happen. Five minutes in the spin dryer and 30 minutes on the line is all it takes for my sagebrush-scented sheets to be ready. The steady focus of my mind and the minimum amount of electricity and water used feels right. It feels like how laundry is meant to be.
Cooking is similarly meditative on the warm and still days. On the cold and windy days it feels like eating couldn’t possibly be worth all this trouble. Perhaps this is why we are both slowly losing the extra pounds we backed on in our sedentary Phoenix year.
It seems like at least once a week, we run into a day when laundry must be done on a cold and windy day. And we must eat, but we have nothing easy to eat. Nothing fun. We were too responsible and purchased only real food at the grocery store.
Last week we ran into such a day. The sheets had to be washed. They’d picked up something funky at a different campground. Something funky which was keeping me and my overactive immune system from being able to sleep. It seemed like everything that could hurt was hurting.
The pain and sickness that I had been in had kept me from eating, too. My husband gets understandably worried when I feel too sick to eat. His plan was to make us a simple meal of lamb and potatoes. Lamb…the gentlest protein for me and potatoes the gentlest starch.
And so starts the game. I’ll do the sheets. He’ll do the stew. Can we get it all done in 40 minutes? With the wind whipping as it is…I think so.
I hang the clothes line up on the posts which support our picnic table’s shade cabana. At first I extend it out towards the trees on either side, but reconsider when I see the dust blowing across the campground. If I keep the line just near the cabana it is protected by our van.
I furiously work. Agitate. Rinse. Rinse. Spin. Hang.
Peter furiously works. Chop. Saute. Chop. Simmer. Stew.
Lamb stew which Peter has dressed up with dried apricots perfumes the air and I feel hungry for the first time in days.
I start to laugh as I realize the sheets are drying in literally minutes. The longest to dry is the fitted sheet because of the elastic. But it, too, is nearly dry in 20 minutes. The wind is so strong the sheets sound like cracking whips and they feel like cracking whips, too. As the duvet and pillowcases get finished, it feels as though I’m walking a gauntlet to get them on the line.
Then we are done! We did it. Warm nourishing lamb stew on a freezing cold day and clean sheets in under an hour. What a triumph!
Oh, that stew was good.
Except for here is the thing. The rub. The minor detail I did not consider when hanging my bedding above a pot of stewing lamb.
The scent of lamb cooking two feet from one’s sheets trumps the scent of just about anything else, including, especially including, the mild and gentle sagebrush scent 15 feet away.
Oh, well. A bed that smells like lamb stew…which really kind of smells like stinky feet beats a bed which leaves one wracked with pain. It ended up being a great night’s sleep.
I slept like a lamb.