California

Sierra Spring in Late Summer

There are rain curtains everywhere, flicking over and around the mountains. The air here is that crisp desert air at high altitude: like the focus has been set to infinity and if you could just concentrate you’d be able to see clearly the albeit microbe-sized things on the distant hills.

It’s like one of those hyper realistic Dutch paintings that capture light and composition perfectly. The only clue that this isn’t a window to another fully realized world are the rain curtains: they are the tell-tale brush strokes that thatch the background. Or in some places, the careless smudges of the wrist across wet oil paint.

But I haven’t yet mentioned the green. So very green. It’s that tender color of burgeoning life so that even on the cusp of August the groundcover looks delicate and new. Even craggy granite upthrusts are softened with lichen and moss. The play of light and shadow across the ripples of the Sierra’s topography makes the verdence of the area even more striking. The mountains are clothed in the soft folds of a pale green carpet or, in rare cases, slate grey silk.

Living where the desert meets the sea, I often forget just how the river valleys that wind at the feet of the Eastern Sierra welcome travelers to marvel as their contrasted beauty but also invite them to stay. Here the water and grass are sweet. Here you can rest sheltered from deep winters and killing thirst. Fed by the record-breaking snow pack we have from this winter, everything promises life. Make your home here, at the feet of the Sierra, and  you will thrive.

Even the mountain air–miles removed from cattle ranches–smells fecund. Slightly sweet, repulsive but you keep taking gulps of smells becuase each one tickles your senses in a primal way. Like stinky cheese. Or the smell of your sweaty lover. You can’t help but open to the promise.

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