Hammock season: The allure of a shady retreat in the dog days of summer

As the heat climbs, a small boy and his grandmother find a secluded hammock to listen to summer's soundtrack.


So much work waits to be done, work at the job, work at home – cleaning, buying groceries, paying bills. How can it all get done? Seize the day, but can I really do that? Do I have time for fun?

The day unfolds hot and lazy with lots of summer activities – planting annuals, removing those pesky weeds, and sweeping the pine needles from the patio. But back in the corner of the yard the hammock sits still in the shade under the trees. It quietly calls us over, my grandson and me. He extends his small hand to me, and we run to the cover of the trees, the grass cool underfoot. We laugh as we try to get us both in the hammock without toppling over. We're all arms and legs as we flop into the middle, and the hammock starts to swing. A mild breeze brings faint smells from a neighbor's outdoor grill.

I pull a pillow under my head. My grandson tickles my leg with his tiny toes as he moves around. When he is comfortably settled with his head on my shoulder, he says, "What do you hear, Sunny?" That's our game. I answer, "The wind blowing the tree leaves."

The sky appears high and soft blue way beyond the sweet gum leaves, pine needles, and oak leaves. The trees rise so high they make me almost dizzy when I look straight up. I push against one of the tree trunks, and we swing high again. He squeals with delight.

When the hammock slows he taps my arm and asks again, "What else do you hear?'

I respond, "I hear a car coming down the street."

"What else do you hear?" And it goes on like this until I ask him to tell me what he hears. Usually he repeats the things I say, but occasionally he stops to listen, hearing something new. He loves to hear the cicadas sing. Sometimes we get a jar and look for cicada "shells."

Often we will be interrupted by the squirrels playing in the trees. Sometimes they will knock loose some pine cones or tree bark, which pelt us. If we are very still and quiet, the squirrels will run across the fence top a few feet from the hammock.

Once in a great while we even close our eyes for a quick 10-minute nap, but not today. My grandson sees the squirrel feeder is empty. "We need to get some more squirrel food," he declares.

So we are up now. I ask him to get the squirrel food, while I get a bowl of cold watermelon from the refrigerator. We eat chunks with our hands, while juice runs down to our elbows. Then we spit the seeds near a cat that pounces at the movement. We laugh when a wet seed sticks to her paw, and she shakes it off.

When the squirrel feeder is replenished, we drink from the water hose and wash our sticky hands before returning to our activities, he to his sandbox and trucks, me to my flowers.

Sure, there are still bills to pay and the house still needs to be cleaned, but kids grow up so fast. I want to be a part of his growing-up time. I want him someday to think back with fondness to these days.

In the dog days of summer, we two are content and happy, neither needing nor wanting more than what this day offered... except, maybe, another day just like it.

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