Surely there is a clothesline equinox too, the boundary line between indoor and outdoor laundry drying, when an ecstatic bloom of myriad garments takes place in the local dooryards. Alas, it used to be the sole way to dry. Now, it seems like the outlier.

Bring back the clothesline. It is more than the sum of its simple parts. My wife loves a clothesline. “It says, ‘Someone’s home.’ ” It flies the flags of the homeowner, indicating residence, like baronial pennants.

She’s not alone. “I counted eight, one for each day of the week,” said another clothesline aficionado, of her neighbor’s colorful shirts. “One security shirt and one for current wear. Planned like the true engineer Paul is.” A clothesline flies the flags of order, intention and purpose.  A clothesline exhibits a homeowner’s strategy. Shirts and pants hung out to dry practically fold and crease themselves. Surely Thoreau would appreciate the economy in that, like the firewood maxim attributed to him: My logs warmed me twice, “once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on the fire.”

A walk around town would aid the discussion, except fewer and fewer clotheslines survive. Doesn’t everyone know that good clotheslines make good neighbors? I won’t comment on your tighty-whiteys; you lay off my bleach accidents and long johns. We’re lettin’ it all hang out. Our unmentionables are airing out properly, roaming for a few hours in the sun.

And there is nothing like clean sheets, spinnakering in the breeze for an afternoon before battening down the mattress for a fragrant sleep. Clotheslines are backyard schooners, four sheets to the wind.

There must certainly be an equation to describe the air-dry, latent energy conservation coefficient of the clothesline at work (or is it at rest?) on a summer day in coastal Maine—after mowing the lawn? Inquiring minds want to know what the carbon offsets are for a week’s worth of, say, flannel shirts, hung with regulation clothespins, arms below, shirttails above, one morning in Maine. What is the drying time, divided by number of shirts, length of line, temperature and relative humidity, versus an equivalent bundle of shirts in a gas or electric dryer? On-shore or off-shore breezes? How is drying time affected by wind speed? Fabric must also be a consideration. Cotton, wool, polyester; a blend? Surely this too affects drying.

Fortunately, we have the Manning Line-Dry Curve. It synthesizes all these values: fabric, wind strength and direction, temperature, humidity and even line tension and length—a thorough assimilation of all the complex variables. The conclusion is clear: line dry your clothes. The carbon offsets are inestimable.

How about the emotional offsets? What the MLDC does not—indeed, cannot—account for is an aesthetic appreciation of the dooryard clothesline. For how could one scientifically account for what is an ecstatic emotional response to the fragrance, say, of a sundried flannel shirt? Sheets perfumed by adjacent lilacs? The loft of cotton pillow cases lovingly tussled dry near a spruce grove? Ah, now To sleep, perchance to dream.

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