Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Ten reasons I love my hammock

My hammock is one of my relatively new loves, though certainly a highly seasonal one. My Mum and Dad gave me a cheerful red hammock with multi-coloured stripes years ago, but we could never use it in our rental house in England. So when we came here and bought a house with a big ‘back yard’, I was disproportionately excited to have somewhere to hang it at last. It is slung between two trees in one of the far corners of our plot, and I love walking down the length of the lawn to reach it. When we got it out this season, we couldn’t work out why it didn’t feel as relaxing as it did last year. Was this just in our heads? Then we realised that, sadly, it had shrunk a bit because we’d left it out in the rain a few times, and so Jeremy – aware of this other love of mine – thoughtfully gave me a wonderful new double hammock for my birthday. I can fully stretch my arms and legs out in it, a luxury I don’t get sharing a Queen sized bed with another six-foot adult! But it’s too difficult for kids to get into, so we’ll keep, and sometimes hang, the old one for them. You know, maybe my excitement about finally being able to hang a hammock wasn’t disproportionate at all; I mean, I found TEN things that I love about it. That’s a lot of love! I’m hoping I can spread a little of this amour du hamac around and convince some people to get one themselves! Here are my ten things:

1) My hammock gets me outside even if it’s a little too hot or a little too cold; on the first sort of day, my hammock is pleasantly sheltered by dappled shade from tall trees, and on the second I can take out a blanket with me and wrap myself in it snugly. In fact, it’s one of the first ways I can enjoy being outside when the snow has all melted and the grass is just green, but there are still hardly any leaves on the trees, as you can see in this photo (the hammock - with my daughter in it - is the red splodge in the distance!):

2) I don’t feel guilty about sitting or lying down in it for a quick rest – it somehow feels like an event, an activity, rather than just the lack of… It’s also easier to relax outside because I’m not surrounded by all the tasks I need to do and messes I need to clear up. Even if I only have ten minutes, a little rest in the hammock leaves me feeling remarkably refreshed.

3) Ordinary activities somehow become more special when they take place in a hammock: reading a book, sharing an afternoon snack or ice lolly, sitting down for a chat… I even slept the night in my parents’ hammock one balmy summer night many moons ago; it was wonderful to watch the stars as I fell asleep, and be rocked as I slumbered, but I don’t know how the sailors did it, because my back complained in the morning!

4) I can watch the seasons changing by looking up at the trees overhead. In the spring, when I first lie looking up, there isn’t a single leaf on the trees, but slowly the green appears and soon there’s a veritable canopy above my head, and only glimpses of blue sky peaking through. Then in the autumn, the greens gradually change to fire – a treat for the senses.

5) Naps are far better in a hammock – the motion lulls you to sleep like a mother rocking a cradle. I hate napping in bed, and don’t mind a couch, but the hammock is my siesta-site of choice, and is conducive to the only-just-drifting-off kind of snooze that I prefer.

6) I feel more aware of and connected to the trees and the wind, especially when the wind blows and the trees bend and move the hammock. I understand why those free-standing metal frames for hammocks exist – it’s a good idea if you don’t have any trees – but I do think you’d miss out on one rather glorious aspect of real hammocking.

7) Although at first I wished there were trees closer to the house that I could hang the hammock on, I am now very glad that it’s at the bottom of the garden. I can survey my ‘territory’ from afar, and get perspective on my life and my faraway house, which helps me go back into the fray more grateful and more centered.

8) It’s a great place to pray because I feel instantly ‘treated’ and more relaxed when I climb into the hammock. This means I’m more likely to approach prayer as the treat and joy that it is – relaxing into being known, loved and delighted in – rather than with anxiety, duty or too much effort.

9) I have the most wonderful conversations with my daughter Amélie in the hammock. It’s usually difficult to get her to stay still for very long, but perhaps it’s the motion of the hammock that allows her to stop and rest with me for a moment. The hammock is the place where we’ll often talk about important things, or where she’ll tell or ask me things that might not have come up in the busyness of everyday life.

10) For kids, a hammock is like a communal swing, and how much more fun could there be?! Amélie can sit and swing in our hammock with three little friends, or lie flat in it with one friend and claim to be a stripy banana, or be pushed until she screams (an ambiguous pleasure!). Alone, she can swing and sing, or hide from me, or torture the cat. Yes, the hammock is probably as much of a joy for her as it is for me. In fact, she wanted to write a few lines in a Word document today, and this is what she chose to write:

"Me and my family just got a new hammock.

Soon I hav to get a filleng"

I love the chance to hear what is on my daughter’s mind and rocking her world. Right now, my hammock is rocking mine – the reclamation of a simple, physical, childlike pleasure.

What about you? I’d love to hear if you have a hammock. If so, what do you love about it? And if not, why not?!


  1. yay! what a great list! wish mine was a huge one - but I am content :) it looks so pretty all the way at the end of your lot! splodge - that is an AWESOME word! i'm going to adopt it!

  2. I always love hammock, love the simplicity of a piece of cloth can bring you so much joy.
    I met a guy who is the master of hammock, he had widen my perspective, maybe affection too towards hammock. In fact, he is from St. John, not too far from St. Stephen. He made hammock for humanity sake. He made hammock that can be use for all kinds of weather. You should check out the one he made for winter, extra fur and extra wide. He made hammock for the people in Uganda, it keeps them away from the heat and he made hammock to raise money for the poor. He also teaches people how to made one.

    My most memorable hammock experience was when he hang it up high between two tall trees. We had to get a ladder to climb up for it.
    It was a starry night, I was lying on the hammock, up in the trees, watching the stars blinking theirs eyes to me.

    Well, that's my story with hammock.

  3. I love all that you wrote about your hammock. As I read it I was reminded of Easter Sunday when we were all hanging out in the backyard, some of us relaxing in the hammock.
    I like how you made the point about how hammocks invite people to relax in nature and enjoy it from a new perspective. What a simple luxury they are!

  4. Thanks for all your thoughts and memories - so wonderful! Let's have some more of those moments when you return to St. Stephen, Chelsea!

    I think I found the guy Clarice was talking about:
    Check these hammocks out - so cool!