North America

Lenten Retreat in Anza Borrego Desert

September 24, 2008

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SheepThis year was my 30th year going to the Anza Borrego desert for my annual retreat during Lent.  "Borrego" refers to the big horn sheep that are rarely seen but that are native inhabitants of the desert.

Every year, I spend a week to ten days alone, camping in a primitive campground, going to bed and rising with the light, hiking, resting, photographing, reading, drawing, reflecting.  It is my benchmark for the year.  I spend time reflecting on the past year, thinking and praying about the losses and gains, what I might want to change, what I am grateful for.

It is also spring in the desert, but every year is different.  I have gone when it has snowed in the nearby mountains, when the sky has turned black and a squall followed.  I have been there when it has been very dry and when it has been lush with flowers, vegetation, animals, and water.  Last year, my brother and sister-in-law came to visit on Palm Sunday.  We hiked to a mesa and found a rock altar and a cactus skeleton "crucifix," which we put on the altar.  We then read from the scriptures.  It could have easily been 2000 years ago in the desert of Palestine.

I have always considered the desert a metaphor for life itself.  And it has been one of my great teachers.

Elizabeth Devereaux is an artist in Chico, California, USA.