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We took an expedition out to the Three Sisters Waterfalls, in the Cuyamaca mountains outside Julian. One last hurrah for Mellie’s sick little thyroid. In a few days the doctors will chase away the cancer with their knives. The peaks are dusted white with snow. The gorge opens at our feet, a zig-zag scar narrowing to a box canyon in the distance. We can see the falls glinting in the sunlight. Who knew this place was here, just fifty-five miles outside San Diego?
One hour and we’re down a steep trail, from the car to the stream at the bottom of the gorge. Another hour of rock-hopping up to the top-most of the three waterfalls. With the recent rains the water is gushing. The top sister plunges a forty-foot freefall from a clean overhang down into a round echoey bowl, drumming and rushing, swirling and then squeezing into a narrow chute exiting off at an angle down the creasy face of the second sister, gathering speed, hitting her stone lip and spraying out in a bright arch down into a long rippled pool. Slowed, the sloshy water leans up against a wide edge. Slipping over, it spreads itself out across the bumpy granite all white and intricate like lace, twenty feet wide and sliding down soft into the lowermost green pool.
From the top, beside the misty bowl with the sun on our PB&J fingers, we rest and watch the stream make multiplication among the red and brown boulders, tumbling away silver along the canyon floor.
Then we turn to answer the challenge. We gather flint-jawed and scrunchy-toed to the edge of the elder sister’s pool. Into icy water, snow-melt squeezing lung aching groin clutching numb-fingered against the swirling current, fighting—winning!—to see what is behind the thunderous curtain of water. Stinging skin, squealing like little girls, standing knee deep on a sandy bank for a moment, finding it, wide-eyed, taking it for our own. Then flinging ourselves into the icy numbness again, rib cracking pushed by the flow toward sunny rocks. And out, breathless, steel nippled, hooting and blowing. Spread out flat against warm stone, pasty white February bodies goose bumped and cursing the shreds of cloud obscuring the sun. Laughing together with her, I feel clean.
Before church the pastors and elders gather with us in a quiet room upstairs. Oil on her forehead and prayers over her. Reasoning with God. My hand against her back is warm and moist. God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received. The sufferings of Christ that flow over into our lives. Later, downstairs, the water leans up against my eyes, and then slipping over, it spreads itself out across my face, intricate like lace.