Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Beauty as Bread: Mount Rushmore


A park ranger at Mount Rushmore shared a 1912 quote from naturalist and author John Muir during the evening flag and lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. I didn't have pen and paper, but I jotted down enough notes on my phone that I could find the quote later:
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. 
John Muir, 1912
John Muir believed there was healing and sanctuary in beautiful places. We certainly found that to be true as we experienced the moving Mount Rushmore ceremony at twilight. Randy had spent the day at the hospice with his brother, Lyle. But he wanted to attend the ceremony.

We've been to Mount Rushmore twice before, but this would provide a different glimpse at the monument.  (See photos from those daytime trips here and here.)


There was still snow on the ground from an early-season storm as we nestled under a blanket to wait for the start. The cold and Covid combined to reduce the crowd for the ceremony, which is held beginning in late May through September 30 each year.  That made it easy enough to social distance.

Sunset doesn't occur directly behind the Founding Fathers. But the sunset sky still provided a splash of color as the sun sank below the Black Hills of South Dakota. 

Before it started, the park ranger said that veterans would be invited to come to the stage at the end to retire the flag for the evening. Looking at the small crowd, she was a little concerned, adding that veterans who weren't able to make the trek to the stage could send a representative.

But there was no need to worry. When she asked the veterans to congregate, 34 men and women streamed from the bleachers to the stage.
"The Star Spangled Banner" never sounded so beautiful as it did as our voices drifted upwards toward the lighted Founded Fathers. No, not every voice was in tune. It certainly didn't have the flourishes and frills added by most soloists these days at football stadiums or baseball venues throughout the country.

Instead, strangers from every region of the country sang together with one voice piercing the cold night air. With the giant flag slowly descending, the veterans stood at the feet of the flagpole, hands over their heart. The Founding Fathers seemed to peer wisely onto the scene. Considering the current atmosphere of political contention and intolerance for others, it was a moving moment in time.

Two days later, as we left Rapid City to head toward home, we decided to take a winding road on the outskirts of Custer State Park. It was another overcast day, but as we walked up to the viewing point, a little beam of sun highlighted the mountain. I didn't realize at first that I was looking at Mount Rushmore.
But as I used the Zoom on my camera, good old George, Thomas, Teddy and Abe popped into my viewfinder. It was another reminder of celebrating history and beauty.
It would do us all good to remember both.

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