Cool days just right for naps

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 13, 2004

Commentary by Bill Brown

It is hard not to be contented in a hammock.

When a few cool days passed through recently – my Minnesota friend would laugh at our definition of cool – it seemed a waste not to be outdoors, so on a Saturday afternoon my wife and I strung the hammocks under the trees near the water’s edge.

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We equipped ourselves with a book and a pillow; it is obligatory, I think, to pretend that you are going to lie in the hammock and read.

Not many pages got turned in either hammock.

There is something about being cradled in a hammock, suspended in air, that invites you to let the open book drop to your chest and rest your eyes for a moment. Perhaps the insides of our heads are like those in the dolls my sister had when we were kids. The eyes were connected to a rod and a weight inside the head.

Whenever the doll was put down on its back, the rod moved and the doll’s eyes closed.

In a hammock, when your eyes close, the breeze tickles your cheek and arms and legs, and sounds seem to recede.

You drift into sleep and float back to consciousness without opening your eyes, aware that you have been asleep and that you are going back to sleep.

And you are just awake enough to be aware that what you are doing is wonderful.

For some reason time doesn’t seem to matter in a hammock. You think about getting up, but it is difficult to think of a good reason not to linger.

The cool spell has passed, and the heat and humidity have returned. I removed the hammocks from under the trees to keep them from mildewing.

But fall will come – the sourwood leaves are already turning, and I picked up a gum leaf the other day that was the color of a golden delicious apple. What better thing is there to do on an autumn afternoon than kick back in the hammock listening to a football game on the radio?

Our hammocks are of the cotton rope variety that generally is identified with Pawley’s Island in South Carolina. We like them because they allow plenty of air circulation, but there are hammocks of every description. As with so many things that seem to be attuned with nature, hammocks originated with the natives of the Western Hemisphere.

They are said to have been an invention of the Mayas, with the first ones being made from the bark of the Hamak tree. From there they spread along trade routes north and south.

European explorers who were looking for gold recognized another kind of treasure when they saw it and took hammocks home with them.

Most of us got a greater benefit from the hammocks they took than from the gold they plundered, although we could claim that hammocks have a corrupting influence.

I am one of those people who feels guilty if he is not doing something productive; it is a trait that I am trying to overcome.

I ran across an interesting quote from Cicero the other day that helps: “He does not seem to me to be a free man who does not sometimes do nothing.”

Who am I to argue with Cicero? On to the hammock.

Bill Brown writes a weekly column for The Times. He can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at