Having grown up in Iowa, I enjoy the smell of the outside, particularly in the early morning. As an adult now living in Texas, I typically rise in the early morning and open a window, allowing myself to breathe in deeply. If it is overcast and threatening rain, I enjoy the heaviness of the air mixed with dew on the grass and trees. If it is to be a sunny day, the air seems lighter and crisp. Either way, those smells of the morning air, in the quietness of early morning, become part of me.
Later in the day, one of my family members assuredly will come by and shut the window. They will cite allergens or humidity as a reason to close it and run the air conditioner. Such is the way of modern life. Sealed in, safe and hygienic.
When I was quite young, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, I would visit my grandparents on their farm in Bedford, Iowa. Once a week, my grandmother would wash the clothes outside in the shed when it was first light. She did this to spare herself the heat and humidity of the Iowa summer. After the clothes were washed, she would run them through a wringer to remove the wetness.
The clothes were then hung on the clothesline, one by one with wooden pins. I’m certain my grandmother viewed this chore as a routine part of life on the farm, but I saw it as a dance. My grandmother always wore a loose cotton dress while doing the wash outside. She would stoop and take hold of a shirt, shake it twice, and pin it to the clothesline, seemingly in one fluid motion.
The clothes would dry slowly, as if enjoying being there at that point in time. Hours later, when the clothes were dry, my grandmother and I would remove them and place them in the wicker laundry basket. We did this slowly, methodically. I would be on one side of the clothesline and my grandmother on the other. As I unpinned a shirt I would breathe in the smell. To this day, I can recall it. It was somewhere between that crisp Iowa air and the sunshine, like an open window.