Zen and the Art of Ironing
It took months of living in the ‘burbs before I finally reconnected with the fine art of ironing.
We’re going on seven months of living in the ‘burbs and I feel every moment of every day out here. I miss Kensington and my routines; life is just different out here, the vibe is disconnected. Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely place to live and the house is the right size, and the garage can hold Jenn’s car and many, many motorcycles, and I have a workshop, and then there’s my secluded office space, and a larger kitchen, and a really cool Northern Flicker that has adopted the tree out front as its home. It’s not bad. It’s just not the same.
When I moved to Kensington one of the ways I would stay fit was to walk about 10km a day through Kensington and surrounding areas — I’d stop for a latte at The Roasterie and chat with folks, I’d wave to Jeremy as I walked past Starbuck’s where he was working, Ken of Kensington was a really great homeless fellow who used to hang out with my dog Billy to keep him company when I’d go into Safeway to shop for my food for the day, and I used to drop off a sack full of shirts to be cleaned and pressed at Tower Cleaners once a week.
Up here in the ‘burbs, I guess I could try to find a similar groove, but it just isn’t designed for walking and meeting and hanging out. Part of that could be COVID, but mostly I think that all these places out here are designed for people in a hurry with cars. I’m tired of being in a hurry.
Regardless, I need to find a new way to stay in shape so I’ve opted for pumping iron — that’s a lie, I’ve opted for pushing iron. It’s no longer fun to drop my shirts off for laundering, so I’ve decided to start washing and ironing them myself. This meant I needed to go buy an iron and an ironing board because I haven’t had to have one for years.
I’ve got a pretty sweet ironing setup. The ironing board opens behind the couch so if I want, I can watch a show, listen to music, or watch the birds fight for seeds in the backyard. I have a spiffy new iron with a cool red light; I don’t know what it means but it looks fancy, has 1700 watts, and the steam shoots out of the bottom like Apollo 11 taking off. It can spray water out the front like a laser cannon which then gets run over by the iron which causes even more steam and a really satisfying hiss-crackle sound. It’s all very Zen.
There’s an almost spiritual connection now with my shirts. Before I’d just stuff them in a bag and send them off and a week later pick them up in neat plastic bags all nice and clean. Now we actually spend time together, the shirts and I, and I can see wear-and-tear starting to happen and am in a place where I can help; I now have a chance to alter my wicked ways and sew that new button back in place before it falls off and becomes just another button on the bedroom floor of life, rolling under the bed to be forgotten with so many cat toys.
I come from a long line of ironers: my mom and my grandmother. I remember my grandmother on my mom’s side had one of those old-timey washing machines and when the clothes were clean we’d roll the laundry through something that resembled a giant pasta maker before the ironing took place. I’m fairly sure the iron was an actual hunk of iron that was placed over an open flame, but I might be misremembering that part.
When I was growing up my mom would spend Sundays doing the laundry and ironing, it never dawned on me until now that the activity of ironing was meditative and my mom was probably enjoying the serenity that comes from smoothing out the wrinkles — an allegory for living a complete and serene life. It doesn’t hurt that those who iron are protected and cherished by their tribe, “Leave your mother alone, she’s ironing.” — a knowing, soft smile playing at the corners of my mom's mouth as she irons the same shirt for the third time, “just a little more time” she whispers.
I now take up this mantle, I too smooth out the wrinkles of life, and say with the calm of a morning pond, “Go away, I’m ironing.” For I am Iron Man.