DuMaurier, Walking and Me

Having read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and loving every gothic paragraph, and then seeing the old film of the book with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, I went on to read about the author’s life. She had a good solution to the problem of writer’s block: simply leave your home and take a long walk. For du Maurier, it was a brisk walk along the beach as she straightened out the writing problem with her current book.

I adoped walking a long time ago to solve problems, writing and other kinds, before Americans became obsessed with being fit. Nowadays, I walk regularly on a trail that starts behind the place where I work out and winds through a subdivision of upscale homes. It is more than just a walking trail: Children, teen-agers and adults run or ride their bikes on it and exercise their dogs. As I walk along, a new character might appear in my mind demanding to be used in the novel, or I think of an incident to bridge a gap in time. I look up as other people approach and say “Good Morning!” Even though it is quite early–in my part of the country you have to exercise early–almost everyone replies cheerfully. Little do they know they’ve entered my mind, too, all grist for the mill.

This morning I saw a mother striding along and carrying one of those tiny dogs so much in fashion, preceded by her two children on bikes; a large sweating man who just managed to nod wearily to my greeting as he galumphed along; a couple chattering happily as they ran; an elderly lady sitting on a bench by the trail reading a book before resuming her walk; a town employee cutting the grass; and a large dog on a leash bounding toward me followed by his owners, also running. All three were in perfect rhythm.

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