By Dom Cioffi
Years ago, between the ages of 10 and 15, I attended a summer camp on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. It was billed as a religious retreat, and while that was meant to be the crux of the experience, I was actually there for the outdoor activities and camaraderie.
The property was owned by a local diocese and encompassed several hundred acres of forest and fields. There was an old stone church, meeting halls with food services, several cabins, and enough room for abundant outdoor activities like capture the flag and football.
Part of the property abutted Lake Champlain, with a good portion being rocky ledge that made accessibility to the lake nearly impossible. However, there was one area that you could hike down into where there was a magnificent private cove, perfect for daytime swimming and nighttime campfires.
I took that private cove for granted for all those years I attended the camp, but looking back, I now realize how epic the spot was and how valuable the property that encompassed it must have been.
Time and nature had carved the cove into a spectacular retreat. It was shallow enough in some areas to accommodate younger campers and deep enough in other areas to allow for an epic rope swing for the more daring attendees. There was also a large sandy beach where towels could be laid out for soaking in the summer sun.
I remember loving my time at this summer camp, but that swimming area is burned into my memory given the amount of fun I had there.
However, my favorite spot was just above the swimming hole where a hammock hung between two pine trees overlooking the entire beach area. Made of thick, durable rope and chained to the trees in such a way that it could never be removed, it was obvious that the person(s) who crafted this hammock wanted to make sure that it could withstand the relentless abuse of summer campers.
Everyone wanted a turn in the hammock when camp first started but by mid-week, the thrill was gone. Most kids opted to lie on the warm, sunny rocks instead of being in the shade off to the side and far removed from the real action.
I came to love that hammock. I feel like it provided me with one of my first experiences of enjoying being alone in nature. I remember lying there, swinging in the summer breeze, closing my eyes, and just listening to the voices of the kids playing in the water.
I can’t be sure whether that memory is concocted or based on an actual experience, but it has been powerful enough through the years that I have always made sure to have a hammock in my yard so I can recreate that peaceful feeling.
I made the decision years ago to invest in a high-end metal hammock frame, so I didn’t have to be beholden to two trees positioned at exactly the right distance apart. That frame has moved with me four times and is still in use today.
In that time, I’ve had to purchase two hammocks because weather and normal wear and tear eventually render them unsafe, but if you buy a good one, they should last for years.
My current hammock sits just off my back porch in a nice shaded spot surrounded by oak trees. I tend to go out there after a long run, or when I need to catch a quick cat nap after work. Once I throw a blanket down and tuck a small pillow under my head, it’s usually minutes before I’m dead asleep.
Lately, however, a new neighbor’s dog has decided to bark relentlessly every time I go near my hammock. It’s gotten so bad that I’m starting to avoid the hammock, which doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not at the point of talking to my neighbor, but it’s getting close.
In this week’s feature, “Lamb,” a young farming couple also have a problem with an animal in their vicinity. What they decide to do, however, will ultimately bring unimaginable terror into their lives.
“Lamb” is a subtitled Icelandic horror film that has received critical acclaim since its release in September 2021. If you’re concerned about subtitles, don’t be. There is very little dialogue in this film, especially in the first half. However, what it lacks in talking it more than makes up for in tension.
If you’re in the mood for a slow brewing film that evokes confusion and strain, this might be a good selection for you. It’s got the fingerprint of M. Night Shyamalan with a subtle European tint.
A disturbing “B-” for “Lamb,” currently showing in theaters only.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]