Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hammocks can occasionally be difficult.

Especially if you only have one tree.

I'm not sure why I settled on getting one. I had just scored a 46 out 50 on the how stressed are you quiz in the Dummies Stress Management book and it's getting on towards summer. It sounded like a nice way to relax.

Obviously, reality doesn't always match expectation.

I purchased a reasonably priced nylon model and a hook I could screw into our tree. We have only one tree in the back of our house. It's a variety of maple commonly planted in late 70's subdivisions around here. If trees could talk, this one would whine incessantly about the neglect and abuse I've heaped on it. Have you ever seen the joke "lost dog" posters looking for a one eyed, one eared, three legged dog named Lucky? We have the tree equivalent. It's also slowly destroying our fence. I should cut it down, but it's our only tree.

I tied the other end of the hammock to the A-frame of our swing set. We have one of those big wooden ones that home improvement stores do their best to convince you your kids will give up TV for. This worked well until my daughter decided to join me in the hammock. At which point it became very evident that the swing set was not designed to handle static loads at that angle and that the load was about to get very dynamic in a bad way.

So I left my hammock after about three total minutes of relaxation. I plunged into the retail strip in our town, the area where all the big box stores congregate. Dragging my son with me (after a short detour to get his stitches removed) we hit every sports and outdoor store and home improvement warehouse in search of an affordable hammock stand.

This sounded like the ideal solution. I could move the hammock anywhere in the yard to take maximum advantage of the shade from our one tree. I balked at the idea of dropping $50-$60 on a cheaper metal stand. I reckoned that I could do better with a little bit of lumber. I reasoned that even if it didn't work properly I could disassemble the hammock stand and use the lumber for another project.

So $40 later I drove home with a load of 2 x 6's and some hardware. 45 minutes after that my contraption was built. The difference between a contraption and a hammock stand is the amount of intelligent design work that goes into the planning phase. A contraption has little to none. A hammock stand has at least a half hour put into it before you pick up a skill saw.

After finishing my attempt at carpentry I had another blissful two minutes of relaxation before my rear started to graze the 2 x 6's at the bottom of the stand. Thankfully the wood didn't let go all at once. After a minor redesign resulted in pretty much the same thing I resigned myself to having to sink a post in the yard. I had collected an old street sign post somewhere. I'm not sure how or why I collect so much "useful stuff" as I frequently wind up hauling loads of it to the dump (ask my wife about my collection of tires). At least it came in handy during this ordeal.

You should note that the Contraption/Hammock stand is still in one piece. During my foray into retail madness Hammock fever hit my six year old daughter like a ton of bricks. I'll admit to being a huge marshmallow of a father sometimes. Shortly after I finish writing I'll be heading to the store to pick up a pink hammock for my daughter. She and her brother fully load tested the hammock stand contraption with their 112 pounds of combined weight during my second run to the local home improvement labyrinth and it held up well enough for me to agree to her request that I keep it around.

At this point I had more than three hours invested in "relaxation". I was dirty, tired and hungry. The hammock and the hook for the tree, which originally cost me about $27 had now rung up an additional $50 in lumber, concrete and various hooks, eye bolts and hardware. But at the least, it was done. The real win is that through most of it, I didn't get frustrated as I so often do. Just being aware that I do often over react has helped me avoid it. My wife and I did start to bicker about another issue, but as I took a deep breath she looked at me and joked, "I know, I'm the reason you had to buy a hammock." This sent us both into hysterical laughter. 

On the left is the contraption formerly called a hammock stand, to the right my "$20" amazon style hammock.

Flash forward a couple more hours and the concrete was dry enough to support my weight and a short workout had been completed. My daughter and I spent a mostly relaxing half hour in the hammock. Although as you probably know, a six year old's idea of "quiet" is very different from a 35 year old's. Because of children's natural curiosity about the new, the quiet, blissful meditation on the canopy of our old maple tree I had imagined may not fully materialize for a few weeks. However, spending a few minutes contemplating the world view of a six year old who lives more completely in the moment than most other kids her age does some good for the blood pressure, at least until it's time to get her ready for bed.

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