On Hammocks

dreaming of hammocks

Dreaming of Summer

          It is thirteen below this morning. The bay froze solid all the way across last night and the ragged jack pine at the end of the driveway is shivering with the cold. The loose eavestrough is rattling against the house like a set of chattering teeth. It is winter. If I close my eyes, I can imagine that the steady dry heat is not coming from the gas flame at my feet but that it is from the rays of the hot summer sun I feel as I recline in a hammock in the lee of the wind. 
 I didn’t grow up with the understanding of hammocks. I always associated them with exotic places or tropical climates where they were strung between date palms or inside primitive huts, keeping the babies off the dirt floor (but not out of danger – tarantulas could easily drop from the thatch or snakes slither down the supporting ropes). Indeed, lying down outside in the summer was not something regularly done growing up in Newfoundland. If the weather was nice enough to be outside there was always something which needed doing; gardens to be tended, cars to be washed, tidal pools to explore, or bumblebee funerals to be organized. Maybe once or twice a summer one would lie in the sawdust pile at the abandoned mill and feel the heat radiate up from the deep composting wood dust. Or on a calm day one could lie on one’s stomach on the rough planks of the wharf at stage-head and watch the slyconnors vie for a sibling’s hook. Lying down in the daytime was otherwise done inside, on the daybed, or outside in a bough whiffen.

The Veranda at Bauline

     My first hammock was aquired in trade at a flea market at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s Nfld. I exchanged a DC adaptor for it from a blues musician who had picked it up in Mexico during his hippy days. It was of faded navy and white cotton, woven using the Ikat technique. (I also recall selling at that flea market a piece of pottery made by the wife of the local expert in serial killers and a vinyl copy of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”) The hammock had a good long life – it hung every summer on the veranda of the house I rented in Bauline, where I would swing in the shade reading B. Traven novels until I became mezmerized by the sound of the bumblebees diving for nectar in the crowns of the monkshood by the veranda rail and dozed off.

hammock at Prospect

Overlooking the Bay

      The hammock moved with me to Nova Scotia. It still hangs in the closet though it is now not safe, given that many of the threads  have rotted through. It served me well when the children were small. I considered myself quite talented in that I could clamber into the hammock holding a newborn baby and a pile of snacks and Noddy books, without dumping out the toddler I had already installed. We would lie there in the shade and swing and I would nurse the baby and we would read and feed until everyone fell asleep. One such day I was lying facing the backyard, my son at the other end facing the road, and we made up stories about the things happening on the road which I could not see.  “It’s a band, Mommy!” “I don’t hear a band.” “That’s because they’re all asleep!” “Must be Alexander’s Sleepytime Band. Are they wearing their slippers? Do they have their teddies?”

Sung as a Bug

     I later went through a phase of hammock swinging in the late fall, wrapped in a sleeping bag and a woolen blanket and hat. I loved to feel the cold air on my face as I snuggled deep into my cocoon with a good book. I even slept all night in a hammock at a campsite at the Lunenburg Folk Festival one August. It was a rare night when there was neither dew nor mosquitoes and I slept so soundly, curled up with the sides of the hammock folded in over the top of me, that in the morning my friend Nancy had to poke me hard to ensure that I was still alive.

Under the Garden Feature

     These days I reserve hammock swinging for lazy summer afternoons. Now it takes me a lot longer to settle enough to doze; flip the blanket off when the sun comes around to shine on my legs, flip the blanket back on when a cloud passes over, flip the blankets off when I have a hot flash (or as I like to call it, power surge), flip the blanket back when the air becomes chilled by the four o’clock sea breeze. I still burden myself with an armload of accessories: a cold water flask, a Sun magazine, sketch pad and colour pencils, a camera, but they usually end up on the grass beside me as I practice the three D’s of hammockdom. Dozing, dreaming, and drooling. To my left I can see through the gaps in the tangerine honeysuckle and the kiwi vines the hummingbirds flitting amongst the beebalm. To my right is the Mersey River, idling its way along to Liverpool and my beau in his own hammock; swing low sweet Lancelot. Ah, summer.

Summer by the Mersey

Bough Whiffen:  a dome shaped temporary tent made of boughs.

Hammock:  a hanging bed, consisting of a large piece of canvas, netting, etc, suspended by cords at both ends; used especially by sailors on board ship, also in hot climates or seasons on land.

Banana Hammock:  defies description. 

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