Friday, May 31, 2013

Perils and Joys of Retreat in the Sonoran Desert

We got out of school on May 23rd with students and May 24th with teachers. Sunday, May 26th I was on my way to make my annual retreat and I chose Picture Rocks Retreat House or also called the Redemptorist Renewal Center in Tucson.


 It is located on the outskirts of the city of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert. I made retreat here last year and loved the peacefulness and solitude of the desert.

My retreat this year started off differently than last year. Sunday night at dusk I was sitting outside my hermitage eating watermelon. I heard something coming through the desert right by me. I thought, maybe it was a person. I kept looking as I could hear the feet moving in the stones/gravel of the desert. Then lo and behold I was staring into the eyes of a javelin and he mine. I was the first one to get out of shock and move. I ran up the concrete porch and pushed the door open and as I was doing so I dropped the plate and it broke into many pieces. It was enough to scare the javelin away but my heart was still beating as I tried to pick up the pieces of the plate and the watermelon.  Enough for sitting outside in the desert at night. I was not able to get a picture of Mr. Javelina as you can understand why.

The next morning after Mass and breakfast I went on my daily walk before the temps hit 100 degrees. As last year I went out the back door of the hermitage through the desert to get to the road to walk. After walking in the desert amongst all kinds of cacti I noticed my shoestring was untied so I squatted down to tie it. OUCH! I sat on a piece of the cholla cactus that had attached to the heel of my tennis shoe. I quickly picked it out of my clothes, but I still felt the long needles.

That night, after dinner, I decided to take a walk to the main road to watch the sunset over the mountains. I got off the blacktop to what I thought was a path on the side. Yah-OUCH!  A cholla cactus -which is known for jumping on to things and people - had jumped onto my ankle. Here is what the painful critter looked like. ( I took the picture after the fact.) The 1st picture is the one that attacked me and the 2nd is the plant it came from.


Talk about acupuncture in the desert!! I tried to pull the whole ball of needles out but they stick really far into the skin. I had to pull them one by one but then some of them would attach themselves to my fingers as they jump from one object to another. I thought what am I going to do? I found a stick and started to pry them out of my ankle. It drew blood once I got the needles out.
Last year, I was here at the end of June and didn't have this problem. The cacti at this time of year are still quite fresh and green and just beginning to drop the cholla balls. Once I got them all out I saw the many needle holes and blood on my ankle. I thought, I don't have any antiseptic except mouthwash. Then I thought-the pool. So I stuck my feet in the pool with chlorine at 7:45pm.

When I got back to the hermitage I opened up the retreat center booklet, as I remembered from last year, it gave tips on what to watch out for and I wanted to make sure I had the right name of this cactus. Sure enough-cholla-very hard to get out once it is in the human skin. Try to avoid this. Also, tends to jump onto you!
The next morning I didn't go through the desert to get to my walking trail. I took the blacktop road. The cholla are definitely after me.
I saw lots of snake holes which I avoided or made sure I made lots of noise so they wouldn't dare think about coming out.

That evening I went to get another look at the sunset. As I was going through the bottom parking lot I heard lots of noise from up above and lo and behold there were three deer flying in the air from between the retreat housing down into the parking lot. I was shocked. All I could think of was the Christmas song-"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer". That could have been me if I was a few yards up ahead. They hit the pavement hard and ran into the ravine and then the same noise again and two more deer came flying down onto the pavement and quickly into the ravine. They are brave jumpers but very cautious once they realized a human was watching them.

This night I did get to see the sunset.
 It is beautiful to see a sunset change colors as it disappears into the horizon.

This morning as I was praying from inside the hermitage I saw a bird on top of a saguaro eating the fruit from the flower. I went to get a picture to show how they can sit on a cactus and not get pricked. As I stood on the back porch I heard noises in the desert (where the javelin was the 1st night) and in the early morning hours there were the five deer back to visit me again as they ate from the green desert trees. They moved slowly and weren't flying though the air.

They look like mule deer to me from the shape of their ears.
I did manage to get a few pictures of the sunrise.

Here is a picture of a cactus I thought having a bad hair day!
There is humor in the desert!
 The priests put this on their garage door. And all obeyed!!

1 comment:

  1. As I was surfing the web I came across your post re: desert retreat. I'be been going out to the House of Prayer (across the road from Redemptorist Renewal) for a zillion years, and each time come away refreshed, renewed and ready to go. Your pictures and descriptions of the Sonoran Desert are a wonderful intrusion into my NY winter day, with a blizzard revving up for tomorrow. Thanks for the memories. Sue Becker RDC