An image of hammock swings brings to mind the lazy, hazy, crazy days of late June through the end of September. Maybe it’s the students’ months away from school, or the tradition of summer vacations, but there is a free and easy quality to summer that humanity doesn’t confer upon any other time of the year. Autumn is about harvest, spring is for planting, and winter is all about the holiday season and the bright new year. Summer, however, gives people an opportunity to slack-off a little, cool down and kick back. The weather is hotter, the days are longer, and the sun is brighter. The summer solstice, or the first day of summer, is the year’s longest day. The sun reaches its most northern point. People can see the world through a more narrow lens and a slower refreshing rate.
Whether they are called porch swings, rope hammocks, air chairs, sky seats, snooze saddles, bliss cradles, swing chairs or any of the other countless names they’ve been given, they are a fixture of the more laid-back times of human life. They are made of many different types of material. They come with hanging poles, hammock apparatus, or just the hammock itself between two lengths of rope tied to trees or posts. A hammock usually consists of cloth panels or woven rope networks strung between the two anchor locations. Though the configurations vary, the result is the same. Whether the hammock is a portable beach type chair or a stationary fixed kind, there is little in life that feels more carefree and relaxing than a hammock on a breezy summer day.
It’s believed that hammocks were invented by the native people of the Americas as a bed for sleeping. They have been in use by native people for centuries. In the heat of a summer night, a hammock makes an excellent sleeping place. Historically, hammocks were preferred because of their ability to remove the sleeping occupant from the ground where snakes, bugs, and other biting and stinging creatures dwelled. This was especially true in the jungle. Forms of hammocks were also used for tree sleeping in case of flood or similar hazards.
By the 16th century, canvas sling hammocks had become the sleeping arrangement of choice aboard sailing vessels, due to the obvious advantages of hammocks where sea motion is concerned. The Apollo Lunar module featured hammocks for sleeping too. They have also been used in other forms of spacecraft. They are a regular feature of coastal towns where outside sleeping in summer is a cultural norm.
Although there have been attempts by Anglo-Saxon language scholars to lay claim to the word hammock, the name in fact derives from the hamack tree that provided the bark for the earliest kinds of hammocks. While there have certainly been historical cases of beds hung from ropes and fabric slings used as chairs, the hammock itself as a sling or net in which a person sleeps was unknown before its appearance in the Americas.
For modern people, hammock swings are indistinguishable from an easy, more relaxed lifestyle and the gentler days of summer.