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Proxy Falls · Proxy Creek · Willamette National Forest · Oregon · USA

If there's a vision of heaven on earth for me, it might be this: Proxy Falls--a majestic and misty waterfall cascading down mossy columns of basalt in lacy reticular fashion, beset in a forest of old-growth Douglas fir and western hemlock rocketing skyward to dizzying, intoxicating heights. It certainly would not be the harsh, jagged rocks forming the convective lava flow from nearby Collier Cone that comprises the falls' doorstep. Fortunately, the traverse is brief, and colorful lime-green vine maples have peppered the otherwise barren and unforgiving landscape with signs of life...vibrant, undeniable, and miraculous life.

Could this have been the journey two fallen high school classmates of mine took recently? Or any of my other friends comprising the growing list of people who from this earthly perspective seem to have gone well before their time? I don't know...contemplating the travails and trivialities of life and death is something I try to reserve for my work as a palliative care doc, but it inevitably seeps into my other pursuits every now and then as well.

What I do know is that I can't worry about what the proverbial pearly gates might look like, or worry about what I might need to do to get there. Because then if I find myself baking in the heat of a rugged lava flow, I might miss out on the sprigs of color those vine maples are offering as well as the lesson there for the taking: the journey can be harsh at times, but look around and you'll see life in all its splendor.

Vibrant.

Undeniable.

And miraculous.

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