Dwell Retreat Reflections II: Managing Expectations—(at both ends)
managing personal expectations, new beginnings, new friends, writers, writing,
The first of my Kansas Sunrise triad of poems, titled ‘First Impressions’, was one of those that I read as we flew into Wenatchee. In it, over 23 years ago, I had sought to capture the way in which this whole new world of Leavenworth, KS impacted my tropical senses—soil, normally rich and dark brown, glistened instead with sparkly bits, the sun did not come up from behind the mountains, and in fact, without my Blue Mountain ranges, I struggled to keep oriented ordinally—all of this being affected, of course, by my expectations.
Kansas sunrise happening to me
What a slow rising you seem to be
Half a Sunkist submerged in grey
Winter that loathes to let go of the day
Now you’re hot, now you’re cold
Dubious rays of folly’s gold
A bit more light, a bit more heat
Would make the fruit of your rising sweet
How tempted am I to spew you out
Corn syrup in my Carib mouth
But for a draught that sparkles, stings
Like juice of tropic fields and springs
And yet I’m told you have your day
To truly reign in a tropic way
I’m told that you can make men thirst
Make temperate humours flare and burst
But a-cooling is what you’ve been to me
Since I travelled across my Carib sea
Now like a mango half-ripe, half-sweet
I hang in limbo unfit to eat.
Denise Stair Armstrong
Ah, expectations, I took some of those with me to Leavenworth, WA, as well.
We were standing in the middle of a three-way crossroads when we met Christie. A woman easily in her early 60’s, given her matronly frame and gently wrinkled visage, she presented a surprising picture as she entered the intersection on a mountain bike in capris and helmet.
We had just come across the ‘footbridge’, one that was supposed to join the main road through Plain community ( a tiny township outside Leavenworth) to Grunewald Guild, where the retreat was to be held starting the following day. However, we just could not see which of the roads would take us there.
It was our first morning and we had headed out, after breakfast, to scope out the prospect of my walking from the lodging to the retreat each morning. To drive or not to drive: that was the question. All other participants were to be accommodated on site, but due to the dual nature of my trip (25th wedding anniversary plus retreat), we had taken lodging at the amazing Beaver Valley Lodge ( a place with a story all its own!).
Our puzzlement must have been evident to Christie for after sipping on her water bottle she coasted towards us. After initial pleasantries about the beauty of the region and our respective purposes in being in that spot, we were swept up with her into an amazing conversation.
I immediately apprehended the similarities between Christie and myself—veteran homeschooler, English Literature & Language teacher, Christian Drama/Theatre amateur and former eldercare-giver to her now, late, mother. But I soon realized this lady was in a whole other league: she had already ridden ten miles by the time she paused to talk with us and she was not panting! Her husband of 40 plus years was esconced ten miles away in their RV at camp Lake Wenatchee, this being a trip they took regularly driving from their home which was in an area further north. She still tutored and had a thriving business selling her homeschool curricula and lesson plans online!
Our conversation came around to the purpose of our visit and I wound up commenting on the sunflowers (even there evident) and their personal significance. She replied that Eagles were her thing, the mounting and soaring to ever higher levels, etc. I was in awe of her spirit and could not help but mutter internally, an almost envious, “You go, girl!”
That’s when I heard Him, “You go, Denise. You also have as much as you are willing to receive from My hand. I set before you, at this crossroads, Eagle Mom, Christie; metaphorically or literally come soar with Me also; let your faith in Me, not life’s circumstances, determine your altitude”.
By the time Christie rode away, our GPS had figured out that we were virtually on Grunewald property, the whole time of our conversation. The building to our right almost hidden by wild brush and natural foliage was the library—the historic schoolhouse where we would actually have our joint sessions. When we first approached it didn’t look like much. But I was fast learning that on this trip expectations were to be set aside: ‘Plain’ would not mean the Amish have been here, Guild would not mean ‘medieval monastic stone masonry buildings set in a mountainside’, and a matronly 60-ish-year-old is an eagle in disguise and a love note at the crossroads.