Friendship · Lenten practices · retreat · women

Retreats Gone “Wild”

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness

Dear Susan,

I have determined that God must be speaking to us through Lin Manuel Miranda. You wrote a moving piece on forgiveness, based on his blockbuster musical, Hamilton.  At a retreat I attended this past weekend, the afternoon led off with a talk referencing “Satisfied,” based on a song from the same show.   I am sure the speaker (the incandescent Beth Davis) went on to reference other works, like the Bible and the writings of some saint or other. I wouldn’t know. Twenty minutes after she mentioned that Hamilton was being performed down the street, I was settling into my front row center balcony seat, as the curtain went up. Don’t judge. Tickets for the same show coming to Houston in April are $600, and I paid nothing like that.  Also, I made it back to the retreat in plenty of time for Mass and Adoration.

I planned this weekend in Arizona last fall, knowing I would need a mental health break after the holiday juggernaut, which in our house runs October through January. It would give me a chance to decompress from a grueling schedule, get re-focused for Lent, go to confession, and visit with you and our friend, Sharon, who lives in the area. Maybe the visiting with you and Sharon was not the best plan, as you pointed out that my state of grace only lasted about 24 hours once we were together!

One of the things that drew me to the Blessed in She “Wild” retreat was the location. The desert has been in my mind much lately. In fact, after Prayerful Consideration, I changed my word for the year from “sow” to “desert.” It’s is less open to misinterpretation, although I do love pigs. Although I always struggle with feelings of isolation, I have felt wiped-out this year from commitments, illness, and responsibilities. I felt like there was a constant buzzing in my head that needed to stop. I couldn’t focus. The desert seemed like the perfect place to get my head back together.

Attending this retreat solo was also a good plan. I loved going as a group, but I needed solitude and silence this time. By noon on Saturday, I think I had achieved my goal.  I had heard two great talks, listened to some wonderful music from Ike Ndolo, written in my journal, met some nice people, eaten some Chick-Fil-A, gone to Confession, and prayed through an hour of Adoration. The buzzing had stopped, and I was feeling re-charged and happy. So happy, in fact, that I felt God finally wanted me to see Hamilton.

I did not miss the second part of my retreat that afternoon. My retreat really continued when I met up with you and Sharon out in Rio Verde at her rustic wonderland, The Ponderosa (or as I refer to it, “Sharizona”).  Talk about desert being my word of the year. We were literally plopped into the wilds of the beautiful Sonoran Desert with all kinds of critters. And that’s the weird thing about deserts: they are full of life.   The desert does not have to be a place of loneliness or isolation. It can be a place of clarity and discovery. One of the best parts of my retreat weekend was reconnecting with you two, spending an unheard-of four hours Monday morning, loafing around the Ponderosa in our pjs, watching the quail go by.

Our conversations have changed in 30 some years. No more discussion of classes, boyfriends, or jobs.  We are already looked at mother-of-the groom dresses, talking about taking care of our parents, and our own aches and pains. And we went out and to walk in the desert together. I was so glad that I had to chosen to go on retreat to disconnect, because it allowed me to reconnect with you all without any interruption.

Susan in Cactus Pose?

As for Hamilton, it was great. Not all of us got to see it twice on Broadway (ahem) but it was very good. There are so many gems of inspiration to be taken away from the show, as well as some beautiful music. We may not be “young, scrappy, and hungry” any more, but I did come away from this weekend recharged and convicted of my own Hamilton truth: “Look around. How lucky we are to be alive right now.”



With Susan and Sharon



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