06 April 2009

Yogic harmony & Zen abide in the iron

My wardrobe has changed, perhaps for the better. The result: I've discovered that I don't hate ironing a shirt. In fact, the act of passing a steaming handheld iron over the woven cotton of a collared shirt brings a sense of peace that perhaps I never knew existed before.

As a youth I have watched my father, younger then maybe than I am today, methodically layout sleeves, collar and body of shirt over the padded board, carefully removing wrinkles with steaming metal. Although I know our housekeeper in Turkey ironed most of our clothes, and I know that on occasion he took shirts for professional pressing, I still have this image of him next to an ironing board, smoothing dress shirts to a crisp finish.

Maybe it's as much age as the need not to look like I slept in my clothes.

Interestingly, the process often matches my mood. When I'm a bit agitated, some shirts seem to fight the iron. Instead of removing the crumple left by the dryer, I add new creases that I have practically to beat from the shirt with the iron. It's also a time for deeper discovery: the tomato sauce stain that didn't wash, the missing button, the tear at the seam. These small moments of reflection lead to moments of renewal: scrubbing and mending.

Ironing lets me see that it's never going to be done. There'll always be wrinkles. Examination always finds flaws. Constant reflection has to require constant renewal. New shirts don't solve any problems uncovered by ironing. Eventually, even the "wrinkle free" fabrics demand attention from the iron. Nothing is free; nothing is easy. At least my Black & Decker Quick 'n Easy 365 (how ironic...ha!) helps me find a little yogic harmony in the contemplation of wrinkle removal. Perhaps I can take it all to a deeper sense of balance by alternating tree poses as I press my shirt sleeves.


erik_susan said...


This is one of your BEST postings ever. Not only was I touched by your memory and visions of dad ironing but you beautifully captured my own thoughts about ironing.

While we were living in Japan I read a short story by Tillie Olsen titled "I Stand Here Ironing" I think you'll find it's autobiographical elements interesting - that is if you're not already familiar with it.

Have a great Spring break.

Hugs and prayers,

Anonymous said...

Yes! A fun read. I like the hiss of the iron's steam. Very peaceful.

And as I read, I could picture your dad's shirts way back in the mid 80s. Good memories.