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Photo by James Sprankle

Faith and Its Limits

1. Connor’s only two, but he’s big for his age. Healthy. Bumping and charging around Dr. Katie’s examination room like it’s play time. Terrific two. And he is healthy, except that he needs a new liver. Sooner rather than later. His blood t [...]

Alex Potter


Ahlam, twenty-seven, was visiting Germany for a conference in the spring of 2015 when war broke out in Yemen, her home country. Her family urged her to stay, so she applied for asylum. “For me, it’s a new life,” she said. “This is what I really want. Most of us, we just came for a safe place, a place we can really do something that we can’t do in our countries—maybe because of the war, maybe because of society, maybe because we don’t have freedoms. I never felt freedom and I never knew what independence meant until I came to this country. As a woman in Yemen, we can’t do anything. Independence is for the men.”

Michael O. Snyder

We All Travel the Milky Way Together

The Pizza Deck in Yosemite National Park sells beer for $30 a pitcher—a rip off in almost any situation, and I candidly told the bartender as much. Back at the tent site, my wife, brother, sister, and her boyfriend packed their gear in preparation for the next day’s hike. This was, admittedly, an odd choice for a honeymoon. Rather than doze on a beach, I’d asked my siblings to join my wife and me on the John Muir Trail, one of the most remote and challenging sections of wilderness hiking in the US. Named for the father of our national parks system, the trail crosses only one road in its 215-mile course through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Muir called them his “Range of Light.”

Saint Coltrane

October 3, 2016

1. A painted portrait of Coltrane—robed, with halo—hangs on the wall. Reverend Marlee-I Mystic welcomes the congregation, many of whom are here for the first time, hoping to catch this San Francisco institution (forty-eight years in the Fillmo [...]

Photograph by Sarah Khatry

An Audience with Wirathu

August 10, 2016

“Don’t publish the article with any adjective I did not use. If you want to use an adjective, use ‘Myanmar nationalist.’”

“That’s how you want to be described?”

“Yes.” He chuckles. “Don’t use ‘radical’ or ‘brutal.’ ‘Burmese bin Laden.’”

Photograph by Maggie Shipstead

The Truths of Antarctica

1. No ship had ever been so far south. S 78°43.971’. The Russian research vessel turned Antarctic tourist ship Akademic Shokalskiy set a new record, though not by much: less than 100 feet. The Ross Ice Shelf is a floating platform of glacial i [...]

On the Great Bear Sea

1. Here’s the basic idea: You must go out and be in it. Science demands this, and some souls respond. The captain, Eric Keen, always wants to know: What is out there? Why bother? There will always be a dark futility that presses in on the practi [...]

Photographs by Jerry Redfern

Resilience in East Timor

March 28, 2016

I remember this beach thirteen years ago, just after independence. East Timor had become the first new country of the twenty-first century, and Dili was its capital. Broken tiles littered the sand. A rusty sewing machine, car parts, bits of broken dishes—the detritus of war. 

Illustrations by Danica Novgorodoff

Problem Solving at the MacDowell Colony

1. Brent Watanabe has hung a system of cables and wires in a cat’s cradle that spans his studio. Suspended in the web, inside a plastic bag, something cat-sized is writhing—a creature fashioned from trash and tape, animated by a toy-car motor a [...]

Photographs by Randy Potts

His Faithful Servant

February 15, 2016

He hadn’t been back to this church since 2005, when he’d left his wife. “She was mean. She was spreading rumors, I don’t even know. She’d walk through church saying ‘mmmhmm, that one’s homosexual, yup, that one too.’ Because of how they talked. And you know sometimes you can tell but sometimes you can’t, not exactly.”