Once when a friend brought up some internet quiz that was supposed to tell you which Jane Austen heroine you are, I opined that I didn’t need the quiz. I already knew I was Elinor Dashwood.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Austen oeuvre, Elinor is the most sensible of all the main characters Austen ever penned. The whole point of her book Sense and Sensibility is that Elinor needs to loosen up and let more of her feelings show, even as Elinor’s sister Marianne needs to tone down her romantic sensibility and be a little more cautious.
So, as an Elinor, I don’t tend to do many foolish things. I look before I leap, I plan ahead, and I carry around lots of items “just in case.” (You need dental floss? A calculator? An umbrella? A train schedule? I've got 'em.)
But the sensible among us can find relief in occasional foolishness.
One April day, when I was at college in Philadelphia, the temperature soared into the 80s. My friend and I had spring fever, and she suggested we drive out to one of the New Jersey beaches. I love the beach, so I was game. Dressed for the sunny 80s day we were experiencing in the city, we hopped into her tiger-striped Volkswagen Beetle and set out for the coast.
And we discovered that in April, even when it is warm inland, you will find a brisk wind whipping off the icy waters of the Atlantic. We did not have the carefree loll in the sun we had envisioned.
A year or two later, I befriended a guy at the school gym (we both played intramural volleyball). On an unusually warm spring day, he suggested we head out to the New Jersey beaches.
This time I was prepared. Elinor Dashwood does not get fooled twice. I wore my winter coat. I think he wore a short-sleeved shirt.
We may have made a sand castle just so the trip wouldn’t be a total loss, but it wasn’t long before we sought the refuge of boardwalk shops. The weather that day merely confirmed my conviction that it is a foolish thing to go to the beach in April expecting it to feel like anything other than winter.
Yet we can’t always be sensible. The ocean in winter has its own wild beauty. The memory of these beach trips provided me a good laugh afterward, and one thing is for sure: these are days I remember. They weren’t ordinary.