There is something particular about the air in these mountains. It isn’t just the mingling of the pines and cedars, the dusty desert weeds that always bloom some shade of yellow from hues of watery pale sunlight to deep egg yolk orange. There is also the scent of granite as it decomposes, the dust and the tang of coyote urine, the remembrance of water on the undersides of all the leaves that manage to stay green through the long dry season.
When the year turns and the air is chilled and sharp, these scents make a single scent, the smell of visiting my grandmother’s house when I was very small, of scuffing my feet in the heaps of dried brown cedar fronds at the edges of the asphalt on the driveway. The scent of decaying oak leaves in piles that gather in all the creases where the shape of the mountains folds in on itself. All of this a single scent, that I can call up in my imagination no matter where my feet stand, the unique fingerprint of the place I was born.