On Washing Clothes In A Creek.

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Women washing clothes somewhere in Eastern Europe, 1962. Photo: Wikipedia
Women washing clothes. Somewhere in Eastern Europe, 1962. Photo: Wikipedia

Here’s the thing about washing your clothes in a creek or river: when you’re done, they’re not clean.

Oh, they’ll be cleaner than they were, especially if you’ve been wearing those clothes three days in a row. But they will not be clean in the way most of us are used to. Our laundry, if we’re lucky, is gently, soapily agitated to purity and freshness then puffed into fluff by the warm air of the dryer. The river-wash (and subsequent tree- or rock-dry) is a world away. Indeed, one must be a world away to wash one’s clothes in a river; in a faraway country different from ours or, you know, in the country.

The road trip was three weeks long. I planned to go for two weeks with a possible one-week extension, but when I set out I didn’t figure I’d take the option. I don’t camp. I don’t rough it. I need things.

But then I found myself sitting on a rock on the bank of a real-life babbling brook outside Zion, hand-washing my dress. The sun was shining on the water, my skin, the water. Rub, dunk, swoosh, rub, dunk, swoosh. This was Week Two and it was right then that I decided that I wasn’t going home, that you’d have to drag me by my sleeping bag the whole way. No way, not yet, not leaving this.

Because Zion National Park is paradise. The early Mormons, when they were heading west, stopped the entire journey when they hit Zion because they looked at each other and said, “Yeah, so…it doesn’t get better than this.” They were not wrong. Lush vegetation, the modest-but-mighty Virgin River, the red mountains, the rich soil — it’s almost too much, especially if you’ve just come out of Death Valley, which we very much had.*

Butterflies were flitting around my head, goofing off as butterflies do, and I hung my clothes on the tree branches in the sun, basically creating a scene from an Ang Lee movie. The place and time, the reason, and the task were all in harmony. Harmony, as it turns out, is great.

Standard-issue life began yesterday. Sitting here, now, finally, I am glad to be back. Because washing clothes at the riverbank is good, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t miss you.

*One-hundred eighteen degrees our second day there.
Death Valley stories to come. Prepare to be entertained.