How To Enjoy a Trip to the Laundromat — a Fable Reveals

When I first read the fable I’m about to recount I thought, yuck. This is like eating lima beans when I was a child. Eat this. It’s good for you. I felt like I was choking on virtue. I’m never going to write a fableog about this one, I thought.


Here ‘tis:

Work is worth the effort. It’s the foundation that disappoints least.

A wealthy laborer, feeling his death approaching, summoned his children to his side. He spoke to them in private:

Guard against selling this land that has been in our family for so long. A treasure is buried on it. I don’t know where, but I know that with determination you will find it. You will succeed in the end. As soon as August comes, work the fields. Dig. Sift through the earth. Turn it over. Leave no spot where your hand hasn’t passed and passed over again.

The father dead, the sons worked the fields.




So well that at the end of the year their harvest was the best ever. Money — no point in hiding it. But their father had been wise to show them, before he died, that work is the treasure.

I was frustrated the other day. Nothing big. Just for the daily kind of reasons. During my workout I was tired and I was looking forward to being done.

And then I thought, I’ll never be done. I either like doing this, or I don’t like doing this, because there’s no finish line. Well at least none other than that ultimate one. My attitude adjusted, because I do like my runs. I know I’m on the road or trail (or that day, on the cobblestone banks of the Seine) because I enjoy the work of running (or yoga or cross country skiing or all sport I do).

Then there was writing. I was stuck on my novel and the writing refuge I’d been escaping to in the fables was also blocked by a couple that were just not opening their hearts to me. I’d decided that what I needed to do was a free writing session. Go back to basics. Let my brain pick itself, like one of those birds that clean crocodile teeth. Beginning again with a fundamental can be disheartening. Can cause me to question my legitimacy as a writer. So there was that.

Then there were my dirty sheets. In Paris most everyone takes sheets to the “pressing”. Ours was closed when I went to exchange my dirty sheets for the clean pressed set I’d dropped off the week before. November 1st is a holiday. Toussaint. We only had two sets of sheets and I was adamant that I did not want to put the dirty sheets back on the bed. I can get a bit zealous about cleaning. Another regular chore in Paris was sweeping the floors, which had become a semi-daily soothing ritual for me. After much agitation on my part about the sheets situation, I determined that the right solution was the laverie (aka Laundromat), several blocks away. I hate laveries. All that time wasted sitting on uncomfortable chairs in a dismal environment. Now I wouldn’t even be able to get my free writing done.

Well, the chairs were uncomfortable, the seats cold plastic and canted at a forward angle. No chance of falling asleep on one of these chairs. I stewed for a bit in the juices of my own frustration, watching my laundry spin. I took out my writing journal. The nib of my pen touched the blank page. I wrote the date. I thought, I have nothing to write today.

Then my pen and my conscious brain disconnected and within five words I was writing about this fable, realizing all the ways in which my life had shown me just in the previous few days that work was my joy, including that very moment, sitting in the laverie, when I gave myself over to the simple, profound pleasure of letting go and writing. Doing the work. My heart opened and allowed the fable to pass through me.

I wasn’t wasting time. I was bursting with the energy of the unexpected. A friend recently sent me this charming short piece by Ursula Wills-Jones that imagines a band of time sweepers, cleaning up all our wasted and lost time. I wasn’t making any work for them in that laverie. The fabled Labourer who so annoyed me with his overly nutritious advice was right. Work is the treasure.

Forget the “pressing”. I went back to the laverie the next week with my sheets. I’m back in NYC now, where the laundry is in the room next to my desk at home. We were out of detergent though. Instead of resenting the immediate trip to the grocery store, I took pleasure in the task. Oh, and about lima beans (now “rebranded” as fava or gigantes) — love them.

What are these Fableogs?


Originally published at on November 13, 2017.

Tagged in Writing, Work, Laundry, Letting Go, Fable

By Mina Samuels on November 13, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on March 17, 2018.



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