Have we forgotten the pleasures of dangling snugly, like orioles in basket nests, swaying on the gentlest of breezes? My son Alex pulled this lightweight hammock out of his suitcase one day. He explained that he had taken it out to Central Park and hung out there for a while, before he was shooed out of the trees by monitors, who claim the hammock is harmful, which it isn't. Whenever I walk through the park on hot summer days, I think of the time before air-conditioning, when hundreds of people used to sleep in its cool tree-sheltered embrace. Was the description I read so vivid, or could I have seen a photograph?
At home, Alex is welcome to use the old swamp maple that has been gracing my backyard since I've owned this house. People suggest, from time to time, that the tree is blocking my view, but I have plenty of view of the marsh from other parts of the house, and my view into this tree's depths is equally breath-taking. Hummingbirds nest along its branches, every other bird visits at least ten times a day. And the tree has that strange, horizontal branch perfect for my son's pendant cradle. He spent hours there, studying for his bar exam; I'm sure the peace of his retreat was good for his mind, and his soul.