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The Lifecycle of Butterflies

In Michoacán, the migrating mariposas appear with November, as if trailing the marigolds trucked in for Day of the Dead. They come by the fragile millions, fluttering a few thousand miles from el norte to the transvolcanic range of their own origin. As such, the monarcas are seen to symbolize the annual returning of souls, they are the mascot of the local soccer club, and ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: NASA

The Storm and the Beast

The morning before the typhoon hit, I sat down for a Skype date with my parents: my morning coffee and their evening wine, the usual football and grandchildren updates punctuated by the cut-outs of the faltering wifi connection. Until my dad said he had something to tell me: for the first time, he was struggling with depression. Or anxiety. He wasn’t sure, really. No ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Dr. DeNo

Walk It Down

I caught my first salmon off the seawall in Kotzebue, Alaska in the very early morning of August fourth. I used a snagging hook: a three-pronged weighted beast of tackle that bent my rod backward when I cast. I worried about those standing by and what a rogue hook this size could do, how it might catch something on land instead of in sea. Snagging is illegal in most ... [Continue Reading]

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Writers Respond to Typhoon Haiyan

On ordinary days, this is a magazine of creative nonfiction, inspired by travel, written by women--by which we mean that Vela publishes writing that endeavors to express what is real in a manner that is both curious and connection-seeking, and we do so in the spirit of solidarity. And when but in the wake of faraway disaster does such work matter most? As everyone knows, ... [Continue Reading]

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An Unwanted Guest

I didn’t see the jellyfish, but I felt it—a searing pain at my ankle that shot up through my leg, bringing me, in a matter of seconds, to my knees in the sand. I looked down and saw its limp, blue body floating away from me down the rivulet I’d stumbled into when the sand along its border collapsed under my step. The creature had gripped me with its tentacles for ... [Continue Reading]

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Homing Instincts

Selected as notable in The Best American Essays 2014 There are five types of navigation, five ways to find your way home: topographic, celestial, magnetic, olfactory and true. Topographic is used by the lowest forms of life, your mollusks and your limpets. Celestial is the rarest, used by some species of birds, some species of seals, humans, and the dung beetle. ... [Continue Reading]

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Yo Soy Perú

The toucan lifts its lobster-claw bill into the sky over and over, releasing its whooping, loonish phrase like a persistent question. It wears a penguin’s tuxedo plumage, yet with flair—a yellow band at the base of the bill, bright blue just around the eye, a flash of red beneath the black tail feathers. It sits alone and throws its two-note song into the sky. For over ... [Continue Reading]

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“God Bless Big Oil”: Field Notes from the Land of Industrial Tourism

“You want to know why they always name a blast furnace after a woman?” asked a stout woman in dark sunglasses and a hardhat. “Because they’re hot, fiery, and temperamental.” A few in the gathered crowd laughed. It was a joke that both the overt tourists with their expensive cameras and the men who’d come together in their work boots and camouflaged caps, ... [Continue Reading]

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In the Bush

On the other end of the line my mother’s phone was ringing, but the familiar tones sounded distant, thin and faded. When she picked up and said “Hello?” her voice could have been coming through a child’s tin-can telephone. I held the satellite phone tight against my ear and tried to stand as still as possible, double-checked that the antenna was pointed skyward, to ... [Continue Reading]