In Brazil, everyone seems to have a hammock. In the city, in the suburbs, in small coastal towns, hammocks hang in back yards, on porches, and on high-rise balconies. They even hang inside sparsely furnished huts along the Amazon. On a recent trip to this Portuguese-speaking country, I read and sipped rum in a friend’s multicolored living-room hammock. In a pousada in a fishing village north of Salvador I listened to the sea and watched the clouds drift by while in a hammock hanging on the porch of my second-floor room. I was not alone. Hammocks outside the other rooms were filled with readers, nappers, entwined couples.
Hammocks are, quite simply, irresistible. They hold you tight, sway with the wind, fit any physique, have their own air conditioning and whisper slow down - not a necessity in Brazil, where everything moves slowly except the cars.
So it makes sense that Christopher Columbus first encountered hammocks in the tropics, along the Yucatan peninsula on the northern end of South America, to be exact. By most accounts, he traded goods for “hamacs,” the Spanish word for suspended beds, made by the Maya. However, according to a brochure put out by Hatteras Hammocks, one of the top US manufacturers, it was Alcibiades, a student of Socrates, who actually invented the hammock in 450 BC.
Another top manufacturer is the Original Pawleys Island Rope Hammock company in South Carolina, which credits Joshua John Ward with creating the first North American rope hammock in 1889. A riverboat pilot who barged rice and supplies up and down the South Carolina coast, Ward found sleeping on the grass-filled mattresses on his boat much too hot for a good night’s sleep in the summer. So he decided to fashion a cooler bed and voila! - after much trial and error he came up with the cotton rope hammock with wooden spreaders.
Ward’s brother-in-law thought the hammock so comfortable that he began making them for family and friends. Then, during the Depression, he sold them to vacationers. Today the company sells more than 100,000 hammocks annually.
New Englanders, unfortunately, can enjoy their hammocks only during the lazy days and nights of summer. That is unless they hang them in their apartments or condos.
Angie Cerruti of Jamaica Plain has her hammock set up on a stand in her back yard.
“I love to hang out in it,” says Cerruti. “I like the outdoors, and if you have a back yard, well, I think you should use it. Because it’s on a stand I can move it from sun to shade or whatever. I’ll go out in the evenings just to relax, I’ll read the paper out there on Sunday mornings, and maybe take a nap in it in the afternoon. It’s also a great place to lay back and play fetch with my dog.”
Kristy Olson, who works for Exotic Hammocks in Leucadia, Calif., outside San Diego, says she has seen a steady increase in sales.
“It doesn’t matter where you live,” says Olson. “People want to be outside in nice weather. If they’ve worked hard on their gardens, they want to be able to sit back and enjoy them.
“We have three at our house. I use them on weekends to read or take naps. And I love to snuggle up with my 3-year-old nephew and read to him or watch the animals in our garden - we have lots of skunks and raccoons.
“The latest trend is that people are buying the more elaborate hammocks,” says Olson, “like the ones we sell from India, and hanging them inside.”
xxxx WHERE TO FIND HAMMOCKS Hammocks come in all shapes and sizes and materials. There are also various accessories available such as pillows, canopies, pads, and storage bags. Following are some stores that carry hammocks: Common Sense, (617) 298-5717. Handmade cotton hammocks from Curtiba, Brazil ($135). Exotic Hammocks, (800) 426-6255. Call for brochure. They import hammocks from five countries. Prices range from $25 to $125. Cape Cod Hammocks, (800) 900-8989. Cotton hammocks ($99).
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