Summer is here and the living is easy if you’re in a hammock. The slight summer breeze, the gentle side-to-side motion, the chance to nap – or pretend to nap so as not to be disturbed.
“A hammock lazily suspended between now and forever is a natural attraction. A hammock can teach marvelous lessons like how to ignore the phone, the buzzer on the dryer and that long to-do list,” the syndicated newspaper columnist and author Lori Borgman once wrote.
According to history.com, many anthropologists believe that the hammock dates back some 1,000 years and has “a rich and varied history – from its Mayan origins to its adoption by the military to its present-day status as a summertime backyard fixture.”
Let’s focus on the latter.
Today, you’ll find hammocks made from a variety of materials including cotton, DuraCord or polyester rope; quilted all-weather fabrics; quick-drying open-weave polyester, and nylon. They hang from trees or frames, and come in a variety of colors as well as different sizes to accommodate one or two people.
Hammocks create lasting impressions and memories. Nancy LaChiusa of Grand Island said she always looks forward to visiting friends in Sardinia who have two hammocks on the wrap-around porch of their cabin overlooking Cattaraugus Creek. They’re more like hammock beds because they have mattresses, she said.
“It’s the first place people want to sit. They nap there, they read books, they sit and talk,” said LaChiusa, who is on the committee for Grand Island Garden Walk, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 9. (Maps will be available at the Town Commons Gazebo, 2255 Baseline Road at Whitehaven Road.)
And while porch and backyard hammocks are what may first come to mind, there are other types:
• There are hammocks designed for campers, hikers and other outdoors enthusiasts, including the specialty designs by Hennessy Hammock that are lightweight and feature such things as attached mosquito netting, detachable rain fly and “Tree Hugger” webbing straps to protect the bark of trees.
• Let’s not forget the hammock swing – a close cousin of the traditional hammock. It can be outfitted with pillows and hung from a stand anywhere in the yard.
• Ever hear of yoga hammocks? These are part of aerial yoga, which uses yoga poses and incorporates this type of hammock. Erica Cope, founder of Buffalo Aerial Dance in the Great Arrow Building, makes them using 40 denier nylon tricot. They are suspended using steel cable wrapped around a strong beam and locking carabiners, like those used by rock climbers.
“Most of the time your hands or feet are still in contact with the floor although parts of your body will be suspended in your hammock, which is only about 3 feet off the ground,” Cope said.
At the end, participants relax into a savasana pose – their bodies fully extended off the ground and surrounded cocoon-like by the hammock.
“It’s very relaxing,” Cope said.
• Hammocks aren’t just for people. There are hammocks designed for dogs and cats and leaf hammocks for betta fish that are equipped with suction cups so the fish can rest near the surface of the water, which they like.
There’s more: One study at Liverpool John Moores University in England found that hammocks apparently make hamsters happy. Scientists there published a study revealing that hamsters in cages enriched with hammocks – as well as extra bedding, ledges and chews – “show shifts in their cognition similar to those seen in people when happy.”
(Of course, the internet offers many DIY easy ideas for making a hammock for your hamster – so both of you will be happy.)
Some people even use hammocks indoors. One writer, after living in Caracas, Venezuela, for four years, adopted the custom of having hammocks in the home. He wrote that he had three of them in his New York City apartment.
“Once you get used to having one around, a hammock isn’t so much a design option as a necessity. It practically imposes a different rhythm on your life. You walk into a room and see it hanging there, and it’s hard not to fall into it, even for just a few minutes. And once you’re there, suspended, swaying, the process is automatic: Cares evaporate,” wrote William Neuman in the New York Times in October 2016.
“I read in it. I nap in it. I text in it. I lie in it while talking to my children or they lie in theirs while talking to me. I don’t sleep in it overnight but I do lie in it sometimes during bouts of insomnia,” he continued.
Wherever you like your hammock placed, proper assembly, safety checks and proper use are key, of course. Hammock-makers provide essential information on installation, maintenance and safety precautions including not exceeding stated weight limit, always supervising children (not letting them jump on the hammock or swing aggressively) and other safety guidelines.
Follow these and prepare for a summer of hammock bliss.