Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hand Wash Cold

by Karen Maezen Miller

English PDF - English MP3 is happy to present a video excerpt from 'Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life' by Karen Maezen Miller. Her first book was called "Mamma Zen: walking the crooked path of motherhood"

My grandmother was simply beautiful. Elegant at every age, in her ordinary pin curls and homemade clothes. Only now do I see the secret longing in her smile. Only now do I know what she must have wished for. She must have wished for beautiful things because she wished the same for me.

She had an old-fashioned ringer washer at the back of the house. On wash days, she hauled wet laundry from one tub to the next. The clothesline filled up over morning and past noon when the soft shapes fluttered like prayer flags in the dry breeze.

When I was thirty-five, I looked up one day and realized I hadn't had a life. Oh, I had had a lot of things. But what I did not have was laundry. Someone came to my house each Wednesday when no one else was home. I never saw her come or go, or what she did in between. She washed my underwear. She soaked my stains. She emptied the trash and the hampers, and filled the house with a heady haze of lemony pine. She left everything in its place. Only it wasn’t my place, because the truth is, it never seemed like my life. My life was going to begin on some other day, when I had myself situated somewhere else.

When I was thirty-five, I looked up one day and realized what I had been missing. Laundry. And not just laundry, but what laundry gives us. An honest encounter with ourselves, before we're freshened and fluffed and put together again. Laundry tells us everything when we take a close look. Hand wash cold. The trouble is worth it if you ever want to wear it again.

I started to look for all the old teachers and our own grandmothers what we can find at the bottom of the basket. I went looking for a change of clothes and found the path to peace. It took time but I brought myself all the way home. I can tell you how - it begins with the laundry. And leads everywhere you thought you'd never go.

A full excerpt from "Chapter 1: Full Basket"
Or here is an audio excerpt called "Stacking Up"


Errant mother, delinquent wife, reluctant dog walker, expert laundress, and stationmaster of the full catastrophe. Author of "Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood" and the forthcoming "Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for An Ordinary Life.

Her blog is at


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