Nothing sounds quite as relaxing as kicking back and relaxing in a hammock — and during the Dog Days of Summer (July 3 though August 11th) — there is no better place to slow down and relax. Or is there?
Tomorrow, July 22, we celebrate Hammock Day. Yes, another one of those made up holidays no one knows the origins of, brought to you by Hallmark and Target. Nonetheless, it’s a good excuse to share a little story and a couple tips, should you find a hammock to relax in during the dog days of summer.
Hammocks and I have a love-hate relationship. I love them once I’m in them, and had one of the best naps in my life in one (above photo, in the Amazon, Brazil), but I’ve had my fair share of hammock mishaps, too. I thought I was relatively coordinated, but as I came to learn in Fiji last year, getting into a hammock safely can be a bit dangerous if you’re not careful!
Clearly overjoyed at the hammock which hung from two trees in front of our beachfront bure, the first thing I did after dropping off my luggage was hop right to it. Lesson number one: take your time to find your balance before “hopping” into a hammock. I got in, and before I had time to realize I was off balance, the hammock spun, sending me into a spiral to the ground, landing on my shoulder on the pile of rocks underneath it. Lanee saw the whole thing, but was laughing too hard to notice that blood was dripping off my shoulder! The fall left a deep gash and eventual bruise on my shoulder for the next week. I still have a scar from it! Lesson number two: hammocks are best with sand or grass beneath them, not rocks!
Lanee still makes fun of of my injury “glam shot.” No joke, there were at least 20 photos taken before this one was determined instagram-worthy.
But that was then. I’ve since perfected the proper technique to get into a hammock – slowly, butt first in the center, then gradually bring one leg up at a time, and use your core to balance! Do not go in legs or feet first. And don’t swing in them or you risk looking like some of the people in the below video of what NOT to do! It sounds silly, but hammock accidents are actually very common! The same is true of getting OUT of a hammock — find your center, swing your legs over the side one at a time, and go slowly.
What exactly is Hammock Day? A made up holiday! According to a variety of sites and resources, the bottom line is that it exists to remind people to enjoy summer as it should be enjoyed, by relaxing in a hammock as much as possible. Some say it is not a day for work and that cutting the lawn is forbidden, but good luck telling your boss that you need the day off to relax in a hammock.
Where did the Hammock Originate? It is generally accepted that the origins of the hammock began around 1,000 years ago in Central America by the Mayan Indians, though most Central American countries (like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Nicaragua) and South American countries (like Brazil and Ecuador) have a rich, ancient heritage associated with hammocks, too.
The Mayans had an advanced culture which produced the Mayan calendar, one of the most intricate calendar systems in the ancient world. The Mayans built architecturally perfect pyramids and stone palaces, created their own writing system, and were some of the ancient world’s first astronomers and mathematicians. Their web-like hammock design is still produced today and considered one the most ingenious and comfortable of all hammocks.
Because of extensive trade routes between Central and South America and the East, the hammock found its way into the rest of the world. Hammock design evolved from its origins (woven from the bark of the Hamak tree) to include indigenous fabrics and materials, and eventually into the classic cloth and fabric hammock, typical of Brazil, and cord and rope hammocks similar to today’s most popular styles.
Above photo: hammocking (is that a word?) at Pacific Resort, Aitutaki, Cook Islands.
What are the dog days of summer? With three dogs, every day is a dog day to me! But as a space geek with a telescope and a space camp alum, the explanation is actually pretty cool, especially if you like astronomy.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Orion, or at least you know his belt when you look to the sky and see three stars in a row. Often referred to as “The Hunter,” the constellation Orion can be seen throughout the world. Nearby is Canis Major, which in Latin means “greater dog.” As legend has it, Canis Major is one of Orion’s hunting dogs.
Within that constellation is a star named Sirius, the “Dog Star.” Next to our sun, Sirius is the brightest star visible from Earth (a white-blue color for the stargazers). Early astronomers tracked it and studied it, since it was easy to spot, visible in the southwest after sunset between April and May, and rising and falling with the sun during mid-summer, thus getting lost in the daylight. However, astronomers knew it was still there and ancient cultures believed it was adding to the heat during those days, the hottest time of the year.
Though Sirius is a bright star, the effects of its energy do not affect Earth much, if at all, being about half a million times farther away from our sun. Some have made the analogy that if the sun is a traditional light bulb, Sirius would be an LED light.
Wishing you a relaxing (and safe) hammock day of relaxation, and some down time during the hot dog days of summer!
PS — here’s a great tune: