Notes from the Hammock
Upstairs in our barn hangs a hammock. Upon moving in, all the family, except for me, tested it out, expressing delight that the family before us left the hammock behind. For months this woven nest has beckoned me, a simple pleasure I told myself I had no time to enjoy, until this week. On a delicious and unseasonably warm day, I mounted the barn stairs in search of some already forgotten item stored there, and I noted how serenely the hammock swung and how appealingly balmy the lofted air felt, and I decided I would pause in my search long enough to grant myself a few moments suspended and cradled beneath the rough, hewn beams.
I wonder if , like me, your previous experiences with hammocks have not always been comfortable. Perhaps it was the fact that, as a child, I was often wearing only shorts and short sleeves as I swung with my childhood friend in her family’s hammock, and the rope's coarseness would cut into my soft child flesh. It didn’t help that we seldom floated there still and calm but rather liked to treat the hammock more like an oversized swing, vigorously pumping our legs or twisting our bodies from one side of it to the other to create movement rather than stillness. So, it really is a wonder that I still held out hope that this hammock experience would be serene and pleasurable. I suppose the widespread depiction of the hammock as a symbol for relaxation and blissful idleness was a persistent enough notion to give me hope. And I was not disappointed because this hammock experience was nothing like those chaotic and rope burning jostles of youth.
This was lightness and peace. And as I stared up at the chestnut hued vaulted ceiling, at the window streaming in afternoon light, I thought about how many others have looked upon those beams, how many others have felt the spring warmth gathering in this upper space and been thankful for it. This barn that I could never construct, the skill required and the stamina: certainly things I will never possess, providing shelter for me in this moment and protection for our possessions throughout the year. I felt the humility that comes with recognizing one’s life is so very short across the march of time as well as with the understanding that so many strong, skilled, hard working people have labored to provide the dimensions of a single modern life.
What reservoir there is for gratitude in this life, despite all there is we could cite to the contrary. How utterly simple it is to dip into the reservoir to draw out thankfulness in the shape of nature’s beauty and bounty or in the form of a friend, or in a recognition that the food one eats, the building one lives in, the tools we use on a daily basis come to us by the labor, the learning, knowledge and skill, energy and time of others, most of whom we’ll never know and never thank. The magnitude of this realization, if we will contemplate it for a while, is enough to make us giddy. How outrageously blessed each of us is for the copious ways we reap from the love and labors of others daily: this often unseen, unsung miracle of interconnectedness that passes unnoticed through an ordinary day.