I'm a fabric fanatic. Give me yardage and I'll be happy. Love feeling high thread-count cotton, peering at intricate damask, feeling smooth ridges of twill, nuzzling the lambskin cuddle of wool, anticipating the regal primness of ironed linen. I really like turning strips of fabric into clothing, table ware, purses, curtains and toys. One of my favorite fabric constructs is the hammock I made last summer. It was an emergency. I was having an outdoor party and one of the planned lounging sites was a hammock, a wonderful green cotton hammock suspended from two thick wooden rods on a green metal frame. I had inherited it from my dad, who used it, on the rare occasions that he rested, on a deck in mountain pines.
Testing the hammock to make sure I had the tension set right, I ruined it. My frame split the canvas, worn by lots of summer sun, and rendered it useless. What was I to do?
Seeing a heroic moment in the making, I rushed to my favorite fabric store, Caledonia, and sought the assistance of one of its beautiful owners, Dorothy. She helped me find high quality, tightly woven cotton decorating fabric (Waverly, I think) in coordinating plaid and toile prints of forest green and ivory. Perfect! Dorothy gave me wizard's counsel: here's how to do this, and this, and this. And don't forget this. I rushed home, sewed it as she instructed, mounted it on the green metal frame and had a beautiful, handcrafted piece of furniture in my sweet summer yard. It was perfect!
I tested it out. It was ideal. I was set, not just for this party, but for lots of summer time. Since then, I've savored my shifts in the sling. I have grown to really appreciate those ingenious folks who first strung a swath of fabric from one outdoor point to another. Hammocks have been used in lots of settings, from lush jungle to varnished boat deck to palm-studded beach. They're very practical: protecting tropical snoozers from insects, reptiles, and disease; helping nautical dozers sleep in high seas; and enabling "light touch" campers to enjoy high mountain stays with minimal impact.
But the practicality of the hammock isn't why I like it so much. It's the view. When I'm in my hammock, I look up, up into the canopy. When I first got my dad's hammock, I tested it out under various trees in our big, riverside yard. Apple tree shade is different from walnut tree shade and those are both different from that spread by ponderosa pine, apricot tree, and aspen. My husband thought I was a bit crazy, dragging the hammock around from spot to spot, reclining for a bit, then moving it to new shade. I learned a lot about shade, discovering that my favorite shade was that of the apple tree.
Now I'm sheltered by a huge elm tree and that canopy is a universe in itself. A few days ago I watched a squirrel take a nap for nearly an hour, tucked in a crook of branch and trunk. I have traced the amazing stunt flights of house sparrows zipping through branches to land in the chickadee nesting box. I have chuckled at the gilded blitz of goldfinches, dining upside down on the thistle feeder. I have tracked delicate drifts of leaves as breezes meander through the yard.
One of my favorite hammock times is when the sun exits. Dusk is a lyrical hammock time, as birds finish their sonatas and the sky becomes a pale quilt appliqued with dark leaf shapes. Once the ink covers the sky, the hammock spot is even more enchanting. Through the canopy pop stars and planets and cloud drifts and planes. I slept in the hammock for part of the night this week, comforted by the golden retriever asleep right next to me. I was safe that night, protected from insects, reptiles, rough seas, and boredom. The sling in the yard suspended me above the mundane of everyday routine, a precious gift I'm going to enjoy often.