When 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.
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.