Far From the Madding Crowd

"When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun." - First sentence of Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy.

Here's what you do. You stuff your head with the image of sheep running off a cliff before you trek through the woods and emerge into sunlight. Well, I've never been one for Victorian romance. They tend to cover the emotional gamut from here to the next man. I watched Far From the Madding Crowd mostly for the subtle work of Carey Mulligan, who is one of the finest actresses today. She's fiercely feminine and absolutely lovely to watch.

It turned out to be a good primer for a walk in the countryside. There were lots of sheep. No sheep jumping off cliffs, and mind you, much dirtier sheep with color markings. But finally, in the eight hours of trekking up, down, around, against wind, with wind, gritstone and pasture, you come away with a good wedding palette. You begin to understand why this was a country of poets and storytellers.