RufiThropeVela4

Why I Didn’t See the David (and other methodologies of heartbreak)

When I was twenty and graduating college, my grandmother gave me the kind of balls-out crazy gift-of-a-lifetime that characterized her gift-giving oeuvre. It was a three-week trip to Italy for myself and a friend. A shoestring trip to be sure: two coach tickets, enough money only for the cheapest hostels and maybe one meal a day. But it was Italy. I had been studying both ... [Continue Reading]

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“Lenin Was Half-Jewish and So Can You”

My grandfather, Israel, always claimed it was my doing. I was nineteen and I was getting restless. My studies at the Moscow Oil and Gas Institute were entering their third year. Thermodynamics was replacing Math, and Pipeline Design was replacing the History of the Communist Party. If it didn’t dawn on me before that I was on my way to becoming an engineer, it was ... [Continue Reading]

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Somewhere on a Disappearing Path: Photo Essay by Iveta Vaivode

“Come, child! Let’s listen to the bees singing,” my aunt would say every evening before we went to bed. Her white hair always reminded me of dandelion heads, so beautiful and delicate you almost fear to touch them. I remember her singing songs about the natural world while working in the garden. She would also spend long hours with me talking about the family I never ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Richard BH

Lilac Stitches

I met my future stepmother in a Leningrad subway when I was eight. Luda was a twenty-year-old transplant from a small Ukrainian town, painted with shiny scarlet lipstick and heavy eyeliner and hanging out with her best friend, prowling for adventure and male generosity. Instead of finding easy fun, she got hit on by a single father in a fake fur coat, thirty-five kopecks ... [Continue Reading]

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From the Hearth in Périgord

When I first approach the five-hundred-year-old farm, I am not sure I’ve come to the right place. The address Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch had given me a month earlier when I called her for an interview was simply “La Borderie,” the name of her French home and cooking school sewn into the fringes of a diminutive village in the rolling hills of the Dordogne, a region of ... [Continue Reading]

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That Spanish September

When I graduated from college, in the spring of 2001, it seemed to me that where I situated myself, where I’d been and wherever I went next, indicated who I was. Place was like fashion, a signifier like a college sweatshirt. But place was also a passport, a record of collected stamps and visas, sure, but a ticket elsewhere. And since I had always admired beyond limit ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Arcady Genkin

The Purest Form of Play

"Place begins with embodiment. Body is a place, and it shapes our perceptions." Malcolm McCullough I grew up with a view of the ocean. When I was little my father used to take me out in the evenings, past the breakers, into deeper water; it was quiet and soothing. I took swimming lessons over the course of a number of years. My memories of these lessons are physical, not ... [Continue Reading]

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The Size of Regret

Crammed in a small phone booth, I gripped the receiver in my hand like I was afraid to let go. The sounds of the chaos outside— screaming, half-naked men and women running through the street —were muffled, and I felt, with the glass doors closed around me, sheltered for the moment. “I’m so sick, Mom,” I said. I was 17 years old, it was my first time abroad, my ... [Continue Reading]

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Family Farm

1. Let’s begin with the rainbow, even though, in an ideal world, it would probably come at the end: It has been a wet summer, worst in twenty-eight years. Mud and gloom. The old family farm, Fjederholt, empty for most of a decade, grows damper and mousier by the minute. “Remarkable,” say the curious neighbors, “that it hasn’t all fallen ... [Continue Reading]

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The Wind’s Keeper

We smelled the island before we could see it. The pungent acid scent hit us like a wave. “Oh my God,” I said, scrunching up my nose. “What is that?” It was past midnight, and we were heading to Volcano, a volcanic island in the Aeolian Islands blanketed with black, sulfurous ash. In the distance, I could see the faint glow of lights as we motored through the ... [Continue Reading]