6-19-13 5:10 pm Mountain time
We left the campground around 8 a.m. this morning on the motorcycle and headed out to Mt. Rushmore. What an amazing sight it is even from the road. Once in, we rented the audio self-tour of the place and it was great. It would have not been nearly as informative if we had not done that. So, there they were, old Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln looking out from the rock they were fashioned from. I’m a very patriotic person and proud of my American history and all that we have accomplished, and western expansion, but I also feel such sorrow in the way America pushed the American Indian out of their homelands. Mt. Rushmore is in the Black Hills, which to the Indians who inhabited the area, was sacred ground. The United States promised these lands would not be taken from them, but of course, once gold was discovered there by Custer’s expedition, out the Indians went onto reservations. So I always have mixed feelings of patriotism for our country’s accomplishments, but shame for what we did to the native peoples of the land. I consider this trip there very exciting.
Then we got back on our motorcycle and rode through the Black Hills State Park, then on to Custer State Park. There is where we saw many, many buffalo. I was scared we would never see them, but toward the end of the park, there were fields of them, many of them with their babies. This was the thrill of that park, along with its beautiful, rolling, grassy countryside. I was not leaving there until I saw a buffalo and I got to see plenty. We saw 1 deer and 1 sheep. All the animals in the park are protected of course.
I saw these purple flowers all over Custer State Park and they reminded me of Kaitlyn. She use to love purple.
So, here I go again, I’m thinking of the wonderful buffalo herd, but also that if It had not been for a few people’s vision, there would not be one single buffalo left because we almost killed them into extinction in the 1800s for their hides and to simply starve out the plains Indians onto the reservations where we could keep them all nice and in one place, to the worst places in the United States usually. I see in my mind the many skinned buffalo lying to rot in the hot sun, fields of them, shot by people that were greedy. But for today, I see that beautiful herd, and it made me feel good.
Then we rode onto Needles National park where they have these mountain type formations that look like needles. Beautiful and strange looking all at the same time. We enjoyed this also.
So here I am, back at our campsite relaxing, still smelling of motorcycle exhaust and I’m tired. I reflect upon my day and all that I saw and experienced. Of course, no matter what I saw, did, experienced, every single second still had Kaitlyn in it and at one point I cried in the bathroom stall and at another point behind my sunglasses at Mt. Rushmore. I wondered if Kaitlyn would have ever gone to these places if she had lived. She was not into history as much as I am, so I don’t know if she would have or not, but she always loved new experiences.
I saw her in the beauty of the land, in the wind that blew through the great ponderosa pines that cover this area, in the trees that miraculously grew from rocks. I felt her spirit in this land that she had never been to before, because her spirit follows me everywhere I go and she has become all the beauty of nature to me. She’s in everything I see. Just as the Native Americans honored the spirit of their dead, and felt their presence in this land, so do I with Kaitlyn. Her spirit surrounds me.
So now I reflect on this trip of a lifetime we are experiencing right now. A trip we always wanted to make, finally making it come true. But, such as the paradox of my life has become, the wonderful trip is mixed terribly with the horrible loss of my beautiful daughter, who was even much more beautiful than this land and anything I can experience here. This trip is not the trip it was meant to be. The happiness that it was to give us has been replaced with it being a distraction to the horrible grief we are experiencing. On the way here, I wondered if this was the worst decision of my life. How can I go on vacation when my daughter took her life 2 months ago and I can’t even cope with it? How can I do anything, I can barely get dressed at home and can’t even get out into social gatherings, so what the heck am I doing here? I feel that I should not even attempt to enjoy anything with her gone, but I know she would have wanted us to go. Sometimes on the way here, I fought the urge to scream and say “NO! I can’t do it, take me back home! I can’t do this.” But I didn’t, and I am here, enjoying it as best I can and every morning that I wake up in this beautiful motorhome that I’ve always loved, is greeted with the horrible realization that my youngest daughter, in the prime of her life, with so much to give this world, is no longer here. This morning I woke up from a senseless dream to a reality that made even less sense.