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Nature & Environment

The Lifecycle of Butterflies

When I began to see monarchs fluttering by my rooftop in Morelia, capital of the state of Michoacán, I felt as if I were greeting old friends from home in this most improbable place. Like me, these monarchs were foreigners. None of them had ever been to Mexico, where their great-to-the-nth grandmothers had abandoned their spent grandfathers the previous spring. So far as these butterflies could possibly know, they were simply obeying an itch to fly a few thousand miles, as if by some collective whimsy.

Up Ilamatepec

In El Salvador, this will really happen: Seeping earth. Bitter rainwater. A yellow-green pool turns coffee brown. Incandescent rocks as big as cars hurtle through the air. I had come to El Salvador to understand the world, and I had climbed Ilamatepec to understand El Salvador. But even standing so close to the steaming marrow of the earth, it is hard to know what one is seeing.