If all goes well, then the sun will be shining. The temperatures will be cool and delightful. There will be a light and refreshing breeze. I will be on a small island in Alaska among friends that are very much like family. There will be several of us enjoying the afternoon. And I will be between two trees—hangin’ out.
July 22 is National Hammock Day. Now this is a holiday that I can really get behind! I’m not so sure about lots of these other ‘national’ days and weeks that are supposedly marking other occasions. Truth be told, I do not know many of them and I celebrate but few. But Hammock Day is diﬀerent. Here is an activity that is very special to me.
Several years ago I had to have surgery on my back. As someone who loves to hike and camp, this was not a good turn of events. So I began searching for ways in which I could keep the outdoor activities I loved without the distress of camping on the hard ground. In the process I came across hammocks.
It seems that lots of folks were of a similar mindset. Hammocks can be used to get one oﬀ the ground. Hammocks can be insulated with quilts to keep one warm while sleeping the night away. Hammocks solve the problem of dealing with rainwater getting under one’s tent. Hammocks are light and easily packed. Hammocks leave little impact on the site when hung properly. Hammocks can be hung between two trees, or even other possible attachment points when needed.
The greatest advantage to hammocks, however, is that they are exceptionally comfortable. Being suspended between two trees with but a thin sheet of nylon or polyester underneath is about as near to feeling weightless as you can get on this planet. The hammock gives when you twist or turn. The hammock does not have the pressure points that even expensive beds present. You can stretch and swing and sway in multiple directions. Oh yeah, there are also no roots, rocks, or sticks pressing against your spine. This was the selling point to me. I could be outside and be extremely comfortable.
I looked online and bought a very inexpensive hammock to get started. I wanted to see if I would like it. I loved it!
I have heard folks tell me that they cannot sleep in a hammock. I have heard the same people wake up later saying, “Oh, I must have fallen asleep.” It’s happened numerous times. For those deeply into the hammock culture we call it a “hammock coma,” an intense period of napping that comes unexpectedly to the uninitiated. I believe there is something about the swinging and swaying movement that reminds us of being held and rocked as infants. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have awoken in a hammock without realizing I had drifted oﬀ. Ah, sweet slumber.
It didn’t take me long to learn that people make their own hammocks. This also intrigued me. I started researching DIY suppliers (who doesn’t enjoy Do-It-Yourself?). Before long, I was ordering fabric and cordage and taking my ﬁrst steps into “thread injecting” (It sounds more realistic that ‘sewing.’ I’m not making clothes—I’m making gear—big diﬀerence.). My ﬁrst eﬀorts looked fairly shabby, truth be told. I was learning the techniques needed and gaining the skills to do better. I put together some rough editions that I used to experiment with.
I tried all kinds of designs. I made double-layer hammocks so that I could slip a foam pad between them to try to keep warm. I made gathered-end hammocks that were basically large blanks of cloth that come together at a point. I made bridge hammocks that use tent poles as spreader bars on the ends. I made hammocks in all kinds of color schemes.
I discovered that making hammocks was somewhat habit forming. As one hammocker has said, “Hammocks are like narcotics without the danger of kidney failure.” Swinging and swaying between two trees is what I call a “Life Sustaining Activity” or LSA. I made my own hammocks to satisfy my craving for such refreshment.
I also discovered that others were curious about my hammocks. I let others try mine out and they liked them. Other folks started asking if I would sell them. I have been very hesitant to do so. I do not want to take something that I do for enjoyment and turn it into employment. That would take a good bit of the joy out of it. I truly am an amateur, which means that I do it for love, not money.
But that is not to say that others have not benefited from my habit. I have given away many hammocks, often to dear friends. These are literally the people I hang out with. My Alaskan family has been the beneﬁciary of my hammock habit. Lots of them have Les Rust hammocks and accessories. There is little doubt that I will continue to make more in the days to come. I will pick and choose who gets a hammock—mostly because I have my own limits. Trying to do too much would change the whole dynamic.
If all goes well, then my National Hammock Day celebration will be beautiful and include some beautiful folks as well. Some of them will be hanging out in hammocks that I have created so that we could share such experiences. Hopefully, we will all be having a great time of relaxing and renewal.
I hope you’re able to get out and ﬁnd a couple of trees and string one up to celebrate National Hammock Day as well. This is a holiday that does a body good—at least it has for me.