With the colder nights I’ve noticed that my donkeys are growing their cute shabby bangs again. The goats too, have puffed out with winter coats and our summer chicks have been looking less awkward with their real feathers coming in.

Last weekend I decided it was time to light the first fire of the season in the woodstove. I had been holding out, wearing warm socks and hoodies to bed. It was my lame attempt to hold on to the long warm days of summer. It’s not necessarily the cold I fear, it’s the short days. For someone who likes to pack their days with activity, winter feels a lot to me like being put on a time out.

What I do enjoy about winter is the cozy feelings of sitting by a warm fire wrapped up in a blanket with a hot beverage in hand. It’s not surprising that great novels have been written, true love confessed, and unforgettable family memories have all been created around fires. There is something about those flames that inspires the human connection, it’s quite romantic.

One winter on the Taos Mesa my neighbor declared that anything romantic was actually a pain in the butt. We had the romantic inclination to live off the grid. Winters off grid on the Mesa are tough, having solar power with less daylight equals less electricity. But it was the hauling of water and pouring it into the cistern with frozen fingers, boiling water for a bath and night visits to the outhouse in negative degree temperatures that required a certain strength. On the mesa when it snows, the roads turn to a thick clay that I’ve never experienced before or after. There is no vehicle immune to the level of suck that mud has. You have to leave your house before it thaws, and you can’t go back home until it freezes again. You are reminded constantly that you are at the mercy of the environment. It’s all so romantic as my neighbor would say. But there is something to be said about living that way, you gain a sense of gratitude and the kind of deep sleep only achieved through exhaustion.

It’s interesting that with all the conveniences our modern world has to offer, we seem to be the most miserable we have ever been. It makes me think that maybe earning our keep and working hard for the basics leads us to the type of life satisfaction that we crave. Maybe cutting corners on our daily lives is hurting us ultimately. Are we denying ourselves the satisfaction that comes from a hard day of physical work? Is suffering the secret to happiness?

Just last Friday I did the M Mountain Run and I suffered more than I care to admit, and it made me happy. The race is only two miles, but the elevation gain is over 2,000 feet. What I thought was a run, turned out to be more of a climb. I have a photo of my grandparents as Tech students posing with a burro and it dawned on me that maybe that photo had been taken before their trek up M Mountain. Although the run only took an hour, I did feel a sense of self-satisfaction for the rest of the day. I would say the experience was romantic.

Jessica Carranza Pino, Editor