My first hammock came in a surprisingly small scuffed up brown box. It was the result of me getting my first paycheck from my job and a very tempting early spring sale on hammocks. I had chosen a solid cloth one that lacked a spreader bar for practical reasons. To me, it was what I hoped would be a place of many naps of warm summer nights of sleep.
Once I got it out of the packages and mused about the textual differences between the tasseled fringe and the soft cotton that made up the main body, I realized I have no clue what to do with. Our family never even had the traditional macramé hammock with wood bars- despite having dozens of old oak trees on the property. And none of my current friends had the same type of hammock.
It was time to hit google. But after all the guides quickly turned into something that sounded like a problem from my High School math class, I decided to cut my losses and run. After all, I’d spent years camping in the Scouts; I knew my basic knots! How hard could it be?
I already knew my ideal location. There were a pair of old oaks that had just about the right spacing. Spring already cloaked them with a thin veil of budding leaves that the golden sun easily slipped through. A combination of grass and moss covered the ground below and a fountain for birds was within hearing range. I had also brought a book- a collection on Japanese Haikus about the Spring Season- to help me fall asleep.
The first thing I wanted to do was, well basically hold a science experiment. I wrapped the attached ropes around the trees and just tossed my book- a surprisingly hefty tome onto the hammock. There was a sling bounce before all was still. I waited for the comic movement when everything broke apart; it didn’t come.
My inner 6 year old took that as a sign from the universe that this was the safest thing since sliced bread and I jumped on. I bounced (on top of the book, yes) and suddenly was still. I tried swinging back and forth but I had so tightly pulled and anchored the thing that it wasn’t going anywhere. It took a few more tries to figure out a happy point between slack and taunt. My second attempt involved my butt hitting the ground in a very swinging hammock. It also made me feel like I was wrapped up like a sausage.
Later I found out that 30 degrees, the standard recommended angle is the one for me. (Even later I would find that a slightly larger angle was needed for a nap for two.) As I laid in my hammock, the sides slightly curling over to cocoon me, all was good with the world. I read a few chapters in my book, enjoying the feeling of floating in a spring day. But sleep eluded me. It was a comfy seat to be sure, but it reminded me nothing of my bed.
I pulled out pillows and blankets on to the lawn. Thankfully, no adults were yet back from work to yell at me for getting grass stains on the cotton covers. I always had preferred a high number of pillows but found out that one sufficed in a hammock. And more and they started to feel like packing peanuts. Because I was in the sun, the best blanket was a slight cotton one with wide stitching. So, back to the book I went. Two decades worth of haikus later, I was still awake. I looked at my set up, trying to compare it to my bed. What was missing?
Then it dawned on me. The final piece missing was a skittish twenty pound Rat Terrier. The dog, named Atticus, had maintained a dedicated vigil on my bed each night since he was a puppy. Atticus had spent a few minutes watching me set up the hammock, before heading to the other side of our estate to harass rabbits trying to sneak into the garden. I called him over, yelling his name until the faint jingling of tags. He looked up at me from the ground, confused. I asked for him to come up, but despite being a great leaper the black and white dog just kind of spun around in circles, confused.
I kept on insisting but the best Atticus would offer was to prance on his hind legs, pawing at the side of the hammock. Apparently I had broken his little doggy brain.
To this day when I go home, I can’t get any of the small dogs to jump in the hammock. My college dog, a large black mutt, on the other hand always jumps up with me for an afternoon nap eager to snooze and shed on me.