The hammock of regret

Jughead-186When I think of a hammock, I think of Archie and his pals. It’s usually a setup for a gag. If someone’s lying in a hammock, cartoonishly contented, you can be sure that Hot Dog is going to charge through in the next panel, or maybe Archie wrangling a runaway lawnmower. You just know that the hammock and its contents are going to go spinning like a berserk rotisserie and cause poor Mr. Andrews to suffer an upheaval and possible spinal trauma.

The chaotic comedy springs from the upending of expectations. A hammock, after all, is the epitome of relaxation, verging on Jughead-level sloth. In the suburban ideal of the golf-green, white-picket, backyard kingdom, the hammock represents refuge from all domestic chores, a reward for a lawn well done.

I have a hammock. It doesn’t spin crazily. It just lies there limp, its hanging arc like a mocking grin, and every fall it sneers, “So-o-o…, how was your summer?”

Each spring, with great optimism, I take the hammock out of the garage. I check it for mice, spiders, neighbour kids, and I rig it between the big shady maple and the back of the garage. A long nylon strap keeps one end in place around the tree trunk. The other end relies on a hook that I screwed into the garage wall years ago. Once the hammock is hung, I tentatively sit in it, slowly putting all my weight into the mesh to make sure the old hook doesn’t pull out of the even older wall. It never has, and I’m no expert on physics, but I can imagine if it ever did, it would come shooting out at considerable speed. “Death by hammock hook” is not something you want in your obituary.

Once I’m certain everything’s going to hold, I push off the ground with a dangling leg and have a little springtime swing. I let out a little “Ahhhh…!” and wonder how long I can lie here before the mesh imprints itself into my skin or someone notices I’m missing, whichever comes first.

And that’s about it for hammock time until I take it down in the fall.

This past summer, I spent not one afternoon lazing in the hammock. And that’s not all. Summer’s over and we barely had any backyard campfires that we’re supposed to get a permit for but, honestly, who’s going to bust us? Summer’s gone, and I swam in our pool three times, which is approximately six times fewer than the number of times I vacuumed the bloody thing.

Summer: kaput, and I didn’t fix the screens that the cats have spent years shredding in order to get on and off the porch. They look terrible dangling there and flapping in the wind (the screens, not the cats), and I said that this would be the summer I replaced them with sturdy cat-proof screens. There was double motivation there; not only would it look better but there was the prospect of watching the cats trying to jump into the porch and instead bouncing off the new screen, which you have to admit would be a hoot.

But no.

I didn’t watch a meteor shower. I didn’t take a cycling trip. I didn’t sit in the garden and contemplate a carrot.

I thought all the things I didn’t do in this short Quebec summer as I took down the hammock last weekend, rolled it up and threw it into the garage on top of other stuff thrown in there. (I didn’t de-clutter the garage this summer either.)

It has felt like fall for a while but now it’s officially so. This transition from summer isn’t like New Year’s Eve, where we look back at all that has happened and the occasional celebrity death. Instead we look back at summer’s potential unfulfilled – the hammock of regret.

Thank goodness Canadians have shoe-horned Thanksgiving into the fall to transform this funk into gratitude. So why not start now: I swam in a lake. I saw turtles in a swamp. I wrote a book. I feasted on raspberries. I visited a new city for the first time. I visited another new city for the first and last time. I trekked off the highway to a hidden waterfall. No one bombed my house or tried to behead me and I didn’t catch Ebola. I saw a cabin in the woods named “Camels Hump” and thought “Yes, they do… yes, they do.” And that, surely, is enough.

Originally appeared in Life In Quebec.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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39 Responses to The hammock of regret

  1. kerbey says:

    Camels do hump. You made me laugh. And you posted this on Hump Day. All the better.

  2. Paul says:

    I feel your pain at the passing of our short Canadian summer Ross. Your “garage decluttering” reminded me of a funny story. I once lived in a sort of higher class (or at least the residents thought they were) neighborhood with the ex.We had had some renovations done and the contractor had just piled the detrius of the work in the garage, unsorted and unbagged. I was known in the neighborhood for my eccentricities (things such as hanging coconuts in the maple tree in order to tease the kids) and was not highly regarded by those whose job it was to rate the neighbors (I also liked the “natural” look of a primidoral lawn). Anyway, I finally decided to “declutter” the garage (as you so euphemistically put it) one day – but had fallen afoul of the local by-laws often enough that I first secured a set of the rules of what could be put at the curb for garabage pick up. I slaved all day, cutting drywall into acceptable lengths, bundling sticks by weight and size, bagging the small stuff and piling all the materiel by the curb. My pile was quite amazing and stood proudly high enough that the street was no longer visible from the front window, and stretched half the length of the property line. When done, I even washed the garage floor and made new hooks for stuff that needed to be hung on the walls. They were works of art, both the pile and the garage, When my wife returned from work she found me sitting proudly in a lawn chair just inside the garage having a beverage. I was surprised by her negative reaction to my astouding pile by the curb, and I assured her that regardless of what the neighbors thought, it was legal. She expressed her doubt. The neighbor across the street came out of his house and looked at our pile (and us) with disgust as he delivered his week’s garbage to the curb – one neatly tied bag of regulation dimensions and one apparently no longer desired wooden cask which he neatly aligned with the bag.

    The next day the garbage men came, backed their truck up to my pile, and the two men loaded everything aboard, pausing for a break and to slide the truck back half way through. While they were there, one ran across the road and grabbed the neighbor’s single bag, pulled a measuring tape from his pocket and checked the barrel. He shook his head and returned to the truck, where he filled out some paperwork and returning to the neighbor’s, stuck a bright red “Unexceptable Garbage” warning in the neighbor’s mailbox, positioned half-way out so that it was visible to any passers-by. Later my wife came home, marvelled at our clean lawn and then giggled when I pointed out John’s (our neighbor) garbage infraction and the offending barrel. Numerous neighbors stopped to look at the barrel and the infraction before John returned home. As he stood at his mailbox in his suit with his infraction in hand and stared at his barrel and our pristine curb front, my wife had to physically restrain me from walking over and casually commenting to John about those dastardly garbage men.

    Cool post Ross, I commiserate with your sadness at the passing of our summer. I once had a friend from New Brunswick who swore that our year was, in fact, 10 months of winter with two months of hard sledding.

  3. …and you made a whole bunch of people smile reading your words.

  4. Ned's Blog says:

    I’d consider writing a book a good enough summer accomplishment. Although if you’d written it while in the hammock…

  5. franhunne4u says:

    We have a saying here: The North-german planes are ininhabitable for five months of the year – and the rest it’s winter … Seems to be even worse in Canada.

  6. Wow….my hammock stand sits empty on my lawn. I didn’t even replace the rodent-nibbled cloth that should have cradled my body at least once this summer. 😦 At least you have a book to show for your time.

  7. Jill's Scene says:

    Now that summer’s gone, and you missed the chance to write in your hammock, you could always do as Edith Sitwell did and write in bed. (Although, with a name like that sitting at a desk ought to have come naturally.)
    Congratulations on the book BTW.

  8. ksbeth says:

    and what a wonderful list of things you did do. besides, you can always buy the ‘banana hammock’ for your kitchen. (not the kind for the beach)

  9. Elyse says:

    Not getting Ebola is a triumph! Don’t discount it one bit.

  10. List of X says:

    For a week, I rented a summer house with a hammock pre-installed, and spent a few days there recovering from an infection. Which was not Ebola, by the way. I even conteplated a carrot – or more specifically, its puny size and unwillingness to grow larger.
    So no regrets for me.

  11. pinklightsabre says:

    Queer, I have a hammock too: also, screens the fucking cats have destroyed that I taped up with packing tape, which looks really bad. And I won’t do much more about it. But I did use the hammock more than you, I think. But I didn’t write a book. You got me freshly pressed I think. I need to write you a heartfelt email of staggering gratitude (AHEOSG).

  12. So your hammock became backyard sculpture? I was given a hammock just this past Father’s Day. I put it to good use. Laying in it made me regret giving up smoking weed all those years ago.

    You mention the book as an aside but that should be at the top of your list. Don’t be so modest. Many try. Few succeed.

    You turned camels hump into a verb. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

  13. pieterk515 says:

    The mere fact that you wrote a book, excuse you from ANY other activity or task you didn’t get to during summer. Because you wrote a FRIGGIN BOOK! Respect bro, respect.

  14. markbialczak says:

    Great and fulfilling summer, Ross. The cats are safe, the pool is clean, nobody’s been impaled by a hammock hook and you kept your head on straight. And on at all. Congratulations on the book. Job well done north and east of us here in Syracuse, sir. I got some simpler outside house projects done, shamed into it by a skunked dog and house peak laughing at me with its triangle of dropped vinyl siding sitting on my porch for too long. But my favorite thing was still the spare backyard moments shared sitting in the red plastic fake Adirondack chairs drinking a beverage and relaxing with my dear wife Karen.

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