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Cry Hammock

We have a hammock now, my daughters and I. Itís slung loose and low between two big oaks in my backyard, right near the raspberry bushes and beneath the neighborís genuflecting branches of pine.

I wasnít really keen on buying it. I didnít want to be wrapped up in the kind of string used to tie white paper around rib roasts and then suspended in the air like one of those inflatable bunnies you see in trees around Eastertime.

The girls and I stood looking at hammocks in Loweís when it was still muddy and rainy, upstate New Yorkís poor excuse for spring. One thing we donít need is a hammock, I said.

The one thing we do need, Madeleine said firmly, is a hammock. She was convinced that buying a hammock was good way to symbolize our faith that summer would eventually come.

I found her optimism irritating. We didnít need a hammock. We needed two freaking days in a row without rain. We needed to finish raking last fallís leaves so the dandelions could make a fresh assault our scrappy lawn.

We needed the damage from the ice dam repaired. We needed to take off our snow tires. We needed the glacial cirques winter had scoured into our driveway mended with some hot tar and tamped down by someone with the strength of a behemoth.

I bought the hammock.

I bought it, muttering all kinds of warnings in the checkout line.

ďThis is really not necessary. Just consider this part of your birthday present. And Iíve already spent too much on your birthday present. And I donít know where weíre going to be able to hang this. Or whoíll hang it for us.Ē

What a pleasant shopping companion I was. Then I hauled the cumbersome box out to the car like Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross to Golgotha. We shoved it in the Camry, then stored it in the garage and then one day we managed to get it hung.

And one day the rain stopped. And one day the kids got out of the hammock long enough for me to get into it. It was still cold out. But it wasnít raining. And I brought a blanket with me.

And then it happened: I fell in love with my hammock.

It doesnít really work to lie in a hammock with a blanketóit leaves your bottom cold. But that didnít matter. A cold bottom was a small price to pay for that dreamy feeling of suspension, the cradling grip of the mesh and the slow and steady rocking as the breeze moved it back and forth, back and forth.

At last spring has made its way into full-blown summer. Iím discovering there really isnít much worth doing that canít be done in a hammock.

For example, Madeleine and Linnea can wait in the hammock while I go to the grocery store. Then, they can carry in all the packages and put them away while I curl up with this weekís copy of People magazine.

But you donít have to do only lowbrow reading in the hammock. Iíve got a lot of serious reading to do for the classes Iíll teach in the fall. Lutheran theology, world religions, the rise of fundamentalismóif you have to read this kind of stuff, isnít it best done in a hammock?

The same goes for the checkbook. Yes, itís tricky. The bills do tend to blow all over the yard. The Zebra mechanical pencil that I use in my checkbookómakes erasing my errors in subtraction all that much easierófalls through the mesh a lot. Getting in and out of the hammockófirst because I forgot the stamps, then because I forgot the return-address labels, then because I need a refill on my seltzeróis tedious. But not nearly as tedious as doing bills on the dining room table with the light fixture swinging over my head like an interrogation lamp.

And there is a lot of fun stuff to do in the hammock. Madeleine and I have learned how to play backgammon in the hammock. Thatís a mouthful to say and even harder to do. It requires balance and poise and the skill to resist sneezing. I like backgammon in the hammock because I win more often this wayówhich is to say Iím less of a loser than usual.

Hammocks are custom-made for cuddling because your arms and legs are thrown together willy-nilly like a supine version of Twister. The Puritans could never have enforced bundling if they had slept in hammocks.

On the other hand, I think hammocks are pretty chaste environments. Iíve heard tell they can withstand the slings and arrows of fevered passion, but Iím not sure I trust my sources.

Which gets round to things that canít be done in the hammock. And if Iím honest, thereís a lot I have to get out of the hammock to do. Like writing this column.

But Iím finished with that right now. And I donít want to think about the other things I canít do in a hammock.

Instead, I want to think about fixing a little plate of stinky French cheeses and fresh blackberries. I want to think about pouring a glass of icy vinho verde. I want to think about balancing all that on a table with a citronella candle, and all of it within easy reach from my swaying, mesh womb in the trees.

óJo Page

 You can contact Jo Page at jopage@graceniska.org.


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