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Day Seven: For Mary

Day Seven: For Mary

Photo by CBCK-Christine/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by CBCK-Christine/iStock / Getty Images

Today's hits: 13 hours in the car, riding dinosaurs, and posing with presidents 

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When: Friday, Aug. 19

Where: Glendive, Mont. to Omaha, Neb.

Highlight: Mount Rushmore

Miles Traveled: 800

Best Thing We Ate: Peperjack Grilled Cheese Sammich at TJ's Cafe

Song of the Day: "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison

Today we drove. 

And drove. 

And drove. 

After Kathy’s heavenly breakfast, which happened to include a glorious cheese-to-egg-ratio, it was time to knuckle down and start cutting back the miles between Magellan and his new home. 

Speaking of Magellan, someone may or may not have happened to forget the poor little dude on top of the car last night.

Someone may or may not have been laying in bed, the air temperature to blanket weight at a perfect cold to heavy balance, thinking to themselves just how wonderful the the rain outside the open window sounded. 

Needless to say, when I loaded my bags in the morning I was greeted by a very displeased, very wet little cacti. 

I recalled Magellan’s meeting with the bikers, and decided to let mom deal with him while I packed our snacks. 

“He’ll be fine,” Grandma Roth, caregiver of stray pets, plants, and people, comforted me over the phone later. “It will be good for him to soak up some Montana rainwater and get all refreshed.”

We had a 13-hour rainy drive ahead of us if wanted to make it to Omaha in time to stay with my Aunt Revecca, but like every day we’ve experienced so far we had to squeeze in a few unplanned stops for the sake of whimsy. 

Our first stop was in Newell, Mont. where we made a sharp U turn so we could see if the lettering mom thought she'd seen on the side of the small brick high school was accurate.  It was. 

The sign proclaimed “Home of the Irrigators” in boldface letters. We laughed harder than we probably should have, but it was a great photo-op all the same. 

The next impromptu stop in our 13-hour drive was Mount Rushmore. I had no idea it was even on our route until our hosts from the night before mentioned it. Once more, we started out thinking we didn’t have time to stop, but the closer we got the more we wanted to go. 

When we climbed the state-flag lined steps to the grand terrace that overlooked the monument, I basked in some of the best people watching of my life. There were women in hijabs and men in tall cowboy hats. I heard two French teenage boys debating over which face belonged to which president, and a group of American school girls debating over which French boy was cuter. 

I met a group of older ladies from England who shared their favorite ice cream flavors with me, and I even got to do some advertising for the Cowboy Dinner Tree in a conversation with a Texan couple about visiting Oregon. 

After taking in the silk scarves and leather fringe along with cotton and denim that humans from every walk of life sported in different ways, I took one last look at the carved faces up above us. 

I thought about the audacity it would take to embark on such a project. I thought about Cary Grant clambering about on Abe Lincoln’s eyebrow and Nicholas Cage getting awfully familiar with George Washington’s ear. I looked out over the hundreds people from every corner of the world who had found it important to stop here, of all places, to look at the same rock faces staring back at me. 

Danish Immigrant and historian, Gutzon Borglum, must have sounded like a total loon when he started the Mount Rushmore Project. I mean, who looks at a 60-foot chunk of rock and says I’m going to plaster four faces across that?

I stared up at the smooth stone that held our forefathers’ likenesses, searching in their carved eyes for any excess morsel of that gumption, and I did my best to bottle it up. I wanted to have it in my pocket for a day when a crazy, whimsical idea of my own looks far too mountain-like to carve into any kind of masterpiece. 

The rest of the day was mostly made up of watching the thimble-sized raindrops on the windshield as we passed through acres and acres of United States agriculture. Magellan and I stretched our limbs a few times, and I got to ride a dinosaur, but other than that we kept East-bound and down. 

It was a little before midnight when we arrived at my aunt Becca and her husband Chardale’s home in Omaha, Neb. We quickly tucked my utterly exhausted, nonsensical mother into bed and tiptoed up the stairs so we could catch up. 

Becca and I talked about the burden of having a creative mind, of how the need to “make,” though important, is difficult to form a life with. How do you sink any form of roots into the ground when the need to create can be all-consuming. Relationships, routine, and reality are often hard to balance when your brain is wired in such a way. 

I can’t imagine the turmoil that Gutzon must have faced in the creation of his enormous masterpiece. From on-site supervising, world tours, and fundraising, did he ever have a moment to sit at the dinner table with his son Lincoln? Did he know which flower his daughter, Mary, favored? The history books rave of the extroverted sculptor’s accomplishments, but say little of his two lacking marriages. 

Day Seven of my journey East reached out and grabbed me by the arm.

Although I consider the gift of creativity to be one of my largest blessings, this day made me understand that it is not the thing in which to find my identity. 

The desire to build and the gumption and audacity to do so are tremendous gifts, and they have the potential to impact the world. Such forces pull me from sleep in the morning, eager to meet the day. Beauty is important to the human soul, but is all beauty equal?

Is it more beautiful to look back at what you’ve built in your life, seeing an incredible masterpiece in the sky? What about the name of a little boy’s favorite dog or the memory of a daughter being walked down the aisle? 

Is it possible to have it all? 

Before falling asleep that night, I opened my bottle of gumption that I’d stolen that day. I knew I could have kept it for a dress constructed from feathers and beads, or a painting that could explain the condition of the human heart, but I didn’t.

I decided to use it to help me sculpt a life to serve. I want to mold the stone corners of my heart into a likeness of Jesus Christ, using the twin gifts of creativity and gumption as pillars in which to do so. 

Like a woman long before me, I emptied the entire bottle at Jesus’ feet, falling asleep to the continued drumming of the rain outside my window.


Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

John 12:3

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