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With Hammocks in Mind

By Ferida Wolff

The trees my husband planted in the backyard when we first moved to our current house are large enough to provide shade and the illusion of country living. The maples were originally arranged in a triangle, with hammocks in mind. All of our other trees were set close together for a forested feel but these three maples would be just the right distance for attaching the ropes that would support hammocks. We had a vision of a hammock strung between each set of two trees, three hammocks in all, one for my husband, one for me, and one for our two kids who were small enough to share one. A natural family enclave where we could be together reading books, napping, snacking — sort of like an outdoor den.

Then we waited for the maples to do what they are known for, which is growing fast. And grow they did but not quite as fast as we had hoped. Our children grew faster, went to college, got married and set up their own households. They didnt have the chance to laze between the trees.

The trees are now sturdy enough to bear our weight and we could string up hammocks. We havent though. My husband and I sit on a wooden bench in back of the yard and watch the squirrels leap through the maples branches, yelling at us for our presence in their territory. We wonder if they would leap on us while we were lying in our, as yet, non-existent but still idealized hammocks. Or would they chew through the weaving as they have chewed through the patio lounge chair pads. We are in no hurry to find out.

Sometimes we fantasize about putting up a treehouse within the trees boundaries, planning how we would incorporate the branches into the structure so that it would feel like we were actually living in the trees. We would build a small structure, simple and charming. My husband could have a photo studio up there and I could have a woodland office. Only that, we realize, would mean bringing in electricity.

And then we would want a bathroom so we wouldnt have to leave every time we got the urge, which would involve pipes and fixtures. That seems a little complicated. Maybe we should just sleep in it on hot summer nights. We look at each other with the same idea on our minds. It would be great camping in our treehouse until the mosquitoes came out. They can be ferocious as they were this year, biting from the moment we stepped outside. They were so bad that we hardly spent any time in our yard at all. We think about installing windows and air conditioning but this leads us further away from our desire for simplicity so we do nothing, which is probably just as well.

My mother used to say that you can take a person out of Brooklyn but you cant take Brooklyn out of a person and I suspect she was right. As much as we appreciate natural beauty, there must be something of the city still in us.

Except that the hammock idea wont go away. Each spring as the maples start to leaf, I check the catalogues and try out hammocks in gardening stores, looking them over for beauty and testing them for comfort; they remain unordered and unpurchased. I cannot seem to find the one that says, Buy me!

Then one day a memory surfaced. It was of our first house, the one we bought in May shortly after our daughter was born. It had a lovely yard with lots of flowers but not many trees. So we got a free-standing hammock which was a symbol of our new home ownership. It was only one hammock but the three of us — me, my husband, and our beautiful little girl — cuddled together and watched the birds fly overhead. The memory brought back the joy and peace I felt lying there. Of course no other hammock would do. I have been yearning for a step-back-in-time hammock, a return to a place of beginning and exploration, where one hammock could embrace a whole family and that familys dreams.

It is winter, now, and the maple branches are bare of leaves. But May will come again and they will fill out and, I am sure, hammocks will again come to mind. I will welcome the thought, knowing its source. Perhaps this will be the year well get one — or not.

Maybe the remembrance is enough. Maybe its best to leave the trees to the squirrels.

©2009 Ferida Wolff for SeniorWomenWeb

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