“I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing when one has a motive; only three miles. I shall be back by dinner.” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 7)
With blizzards about to bury the mid-west in a couple feet of snow, I’m feeling pretty lucky to be living in the northwest. This morning was absolutely beautiful – cold, crackling crisp, but clear. Still, the winter sun traces a low arc in the sky this far north, and it drops behind the trees alarmingly early in the afternoon. So, I wasted no time. I put on my hiking boots (for, like Elizabeth Bennet, I knew I would have a great deal of mud to contend with) and went for a long walk. In the incident quoted above, Elizabeth was anxious to see her sick sister Jane, who was at Netherfield. My motive was just to get some fresh air and exercise.
Jane Austen used a person’s activity level as a clue to his/her character when telling her stories. She made her favorites lively and energetic, while those out of favor often demonstrated more indolent habits (think Elizabeth versus Mr. Hurst). The fact that she expected her heroines, as well as her heroes, to be physically active, puts her ahead of her time since fine ladies of her day were not generally encouraged to much exert themselves. Elizabeth’s walk to Netherfield surprises her family and positively shocks Mr. Bingley’s sisters.
That she should have walked three miles so early in the day, in such dirty weather, and by herself, was almost incredible to Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and Elizabeth was convinced that they held her in contempt for it. …Mr. Darcy was divided between admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to the occasion’s justifying her coming so far alone.
I didn’t have to worry about public censure when I hiked my three miles this morning. If anything, I’m in danger of being chastised by my doctor for not exercising often enough. Writing is a very sedentary occupation. But I inevitably find that getting the blood moving allows the words to flow more freely too, and a brisk turn out of doors is the best cure for writer’s block I’ve yet discovered.