This past weekend we were able to go on a retreat to the town of Cascabel, which is about an hour and a half's drive east from Tucson. Cascabel has a great story behind it and the people in the town are extremely unique. To get into town one must drive on miles of dirt road and a four-wheel-drive is a requirement if you're going to live there. The focus of the community is to live ecologically friendly and simple lives. The first woman we met, Barbara, built her house out of recycled materials and is a self proclaimed hippie who moved to the community in the '60s. She now sells pottery to make a living and heats her house with wood-burning stoves. We also met a man, named Daniel, who lives in a sweet tent for a good portion of his time and facilitates hermitages for people who want to get away from the noise in their heads and find God in nature.
It seems like a perfect place to clear one's head and find God in the stillness; the canyon is gorgeous. This weekend was the first time that I've seen large trees in the desert: Sycamores, Cottonwoods and popplers. It was so strange to see the white bark and vibrant fall leaves of a Sycamore tree in the canyon contrasting against the background of jagged cliffs and Saguaro cacti. It also just so happens that the only time it has really rained since we came to Tucson was this weekend... the entire time. The three guys and Brandon slept under a tarp that was strung up between some tree branches and managed to stay fairly dry, despite Nature's attempts. We only got kind of wet on the second night when the rain was blowing in from the side. I woke up at some hour of the night to discover a moat flowing around our sleeping area; luckily we built up a mound of dirt around us before going to sleep.
On the last day we were there we helped run a Christmas Festival that the community puts on every year. Local vendors come to this festival and sell their pottery, art, jewelery, leather etc. and tons of people from the surrounding area come to check out the festivities. As I sat on the grass listening to some local folk music as people perused the tents, children ran around in the dry river basin and I ate chili made by the local fire department I was struck by how much I felt like I was part of a story from Lake Woebegone. Garrison Keillor always focuses on the community feel of his imaginary small town and I definitely felt that in Cascabel. These people are pretty isolated from urban life and have given up many conveniences and luxuries that we have, but they have a wonderful community and seem to be living fulfilling lives. How cool would it be to have a YAV house in Cascabel!?