Like most people who love the outdoors, I have had brief and tumultuous relationships with hammocks. We usually start off well enough. I try to be on my best behaviour, things seem to be going well, and then without warning I get dumped – usually about three feet.
I’m not sure if the reason is that hammocks are predisposed to disliking me, or gravity just likes me more. All I know is that I could probably stay atop an ornery rodeo bull for longer.
This is a shame because, like most people, all I want to do is to be on friendly terms with my hammock. For time in a hammock can be the highlight of summer.
The problem is that I have the height of a short man and the weight of a tall man, which is probably confusing to the hammock.
You see, as far as I can tell, when you set up a hammock what you want to do is place it at a height that is easy to climb into but not so low that you hit the ground when you deposit your full weight into it.
Basically, if I were to set my hammock up at a comfortable height for my short legs, once I got in it, my weight would make the hammock slowly lower to the ground so that I might as well be lying on a ground sheet. That is why I usually set my hammock up at chest height and make a futile effort to hop into it.
What follows is something that might greatly entertain fans of professional wrestling. It begins with me approaching the hammock in a calm and focused Zen-like state. In my mind, I see the hammock and me becoming one sentient being; it is cupping me lovingly, both of us focused on congeniality and swaying softly in the shade under a cloudless blue sky.
The hammock generally has a different viewpoint. It looks upon me as a virus that needs to be forcefully ejected.
And so it begins.
I climb in backwards, sitting down on it calmly as hammock aficionados prescribe. This, I have learned, is a brave act akin to turning your back on an angry lion. But at least I am presenting my best side first.
I slowly lower my weight onto the hammock, which gives a bit and creaks in an ominous way, remarkably reminiscent of your best horror movies just before the knife-wielding doll leaps from a high shelf upon the unsuspecting victim.
Then I ever so gently lie down until I am, miracle of miracles, being cradled precariously by the hammock. For a second, I find balance – and the hammock and I participate in an unstable and fragile truce. I dare not move or breathe. Even relaxing too much might be a fatal mistake.
This is, for me, classic hammocking.
After a few seconds, I start breathing easier, knowing that all I need do is avoid sudden movement or shifts of weight.
That’s typically when the mosquito lands on my left or right arm and tips the scales.
One second I am looking at the sky hanging above, the next I am making a sudden and shallow dent in a wall of sod.
After I stand and spit out the dirt, I try again.
Because,when it comes to getting ejected from a hammock, I won’t just lie down and take it.