the joy of small things

Spring is just three sweaters and one pair of long johns away. That's all the clean clothes I've got left, and I refuse to do another cramped, torturous laundry session inside the cabin when breakup is just over a month away.

Spring is just three sweaters and one pair of long johns away. That’s all the clean clothes I’ve got left, and I refuse to do another cramped, torturous laundry session inside the cabin when breakup is just over a month away.

No matter how long it will take for things to warm up and the snow to melt, I won’t wash any more pants and sweaters before I can do it comfortably in my outdoor tub by the creek. After all, a pair of long johns can last an amazingly long time when need be.

The beauty of measuring time in increments other than days and weeks is that it’s more accurate. Spring cannot possibly be late since I must make my clothes last until it’s here. I guess it might catch me early, with one sweater still to spare, but that’s OK.

Thanks to my laundry calendar, it’s in no way disconcerting to wake up to minus eight degrees Celsius and look out at the expanse of white that seems to melt in slow motion this year.

Swans as well as other birds are already passing through, but the rocks and shrubs, downed tree trunks and underbrush are just now starting to eat through the snow with noticeable speed. And that’s just on the south side of our clearing: everywhere else, the snow is retreating only grudgingly.

Despite that, it only takes a short glance at my shelf of clothing, almost bare except for those three sweaters and the pair of long johns, and at the mountain of dirty clothing that has long overflowed its two hampers and is spreading across the floor like multicoloured fungus – one short glance and I’m reassured spring is almost here. Those migratory birds are timing it just about right.

Ah, the indulgence of waiting until breakup when not only the living is easy, but the washing too. When there is no danger of wet sweaters and pants freezing into modern fibre sculptures before you have a chance to wring them dry. Water in easy abundance, water without ice chunks floating in it. The ability to hang everything outside instead of turning the cabin and sauna into a clothes dryer. To be sure, it is a somewhat daunting pile of laundry that needs to be tackled then, but on the upside, it can be spread out over a couple of weeks since there is no urgent need for all these woolies and the fleece anymore.

A wonderful system for those of us with washboards and rubber plungers: simply amass enough winter clothing to last an entire winter. Besides the deferred laundry bonus, it comes with an additional perk. There lies voluptuous variety in those huge stacks of sweaters and pants, which is great when choices are limited in other aspects of your life (canned this or canned that for dinner? Get water now or later?). What luxury to pick out one of 20-odd sweaters and later toss it into the laundry hamper, knowing you won’t have to wrestle the endless buckets of water for washing it through the snow. Knowing you’ll deal with it accompanied by bird songs instead.

Every morning now, a robin sings promises of summer trailing in its wake even though so far, the only things that have arrived with the robins are the birds of prey that use them as fodder on their migration. By midday, both the robins and hawks are gone again, only to be replaced by a new batch the next day. What is it like to push your way up into snow and ice and endless daylight while being constantly shadowed by your own death?

It’s like that for all of us in a way, cancer, heart attacks, and car accidents lurking somewhere off to the side, but watching the hawks arrive with the song birds each year, swooping through the sky, never fails to make me wonder about this. How we’re tied to what gets us in the end in perhaps a deeper, more symbiotic way than we can really grasp. And that’s alright, I find, as long as we celebrate the time we have with grace like the birds – full of exuberance at the beauty of the world. Revelling in the joy of small things, like tossing the last pair of long johns aside.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.