Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison’d in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world….

A sad tale’s best for winter.

—William Shakespeare, in Measure for Measure and The Winter’s Tale

When I was a classics major at Swarthmore College I lived one year in an off-off-campus dormitory inhabited largely by amateur mountaineers and professional Californians, a city girl among a very outdoorsy set. It was a harsh winter in Pennsylvania that year and for a period of about a month I had to walk the mile or so to campus every morning through abusive...


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