An acting teacher once told me people in elevators always look up to the numbers that announce the floors to avoid making eye contact with strangers. Thank goodness the numbers are there! I read somewhere that some buttons, like “close doors,” “open doors” work purely as placebos to offer a sense of control, but in fact, have no effect on the operations of the elevator.

The other day while waiting for the elevator, a man was dancing to no audible music in the parking garage, dancing like he was rehearsing for a performance. I gave him a wide berth and thought, at any moment he may stop dancing. I was alone waiting for the elevator, carefully monitoring the dancing man in my periphery. A woman walked up and joined me at the elevator. She said, “I’m so glad you’re here,” referring to the dancing man. I said, “I’m glad you’re here, too” and though I was wary of the dancing man, my “here” did not refer to him, but to being alive.

It occurred to me that if this scene were to happen in the New York city subway it wouldn’t have been something to mention. In turn, the woman wouldn’t have walked up to me and thanked me for my presence. I think there’s something to be gained by being around all those people. A dancing man, a proselytizing crowd, a trumpet player aren’t seen as unordinary. Their presence is as common and expected as the yellow that demarcates where you cannot step, the oily smudge of the subway fumes, speedy walkers.

Coming out of the subway, through hallways, up stairs, not only do you end up in a different part of the city, but the light has changed. Like coming out of a matinee during which buildings traded places.

In contrast to the city—hills, meadows, mountains, forests—are landscapes one can practice comfort with silence, or at least its close cousin, quiet.

An element of anxiety accompanies the first step onto an elevator. Perhaps the doors won’t open, perhaps it will get stuck. Sometimes the elevator jolts before it stops.

But to swing, slip down a banister, sled down a hill!

An article in the travel section of a widely read newspaper reports that it’s common for parents in Germany to leave their kids at some playgrounds. They run errands, go to appointments, and then pick up their children. Parents in other cold climates visit each other in cafés, while their babies, bundled and in carriages, wait outside.

I’ve wished that Americans greeted each other with kisses, instead of handshakes and hugs. A quick, brush brush against someone’s cheeks, the rush of apprehension at intimacy with a stranger.

In a short scene from a film, an older man takes medicine to counter the effects of cancer. Each time he swallows, he uses a spoon to clink against his glass of water—a small commemoration that his medicine-taking is over. Cheers!

A dear friend of mine is dedicated to light—perhaps she inherited her reverence as the daughter of two photographers, but she carries it uniquely. In her opinion, candles offer the height of illumination second to that of the sun. She places them throughout the house—the kind you’d see in an old picture book from Sweden. Whatever the evening, Annie lights candles freely as if they were as abundant as air.

I’m learning to watch my thoughts the way a sailor studies wind.

Don’t you just like thinking about a lake so still you can’t distinguish between the reflection and the reflected?

I am passionate about discomfort—a possible stripping away of identity, maybe a confrontation with fear.

Ice cubes tinkling so often connote an uncomfortable dinner party. But add varied tones of voices and laughter and they become jovial accompaniment.

In his house in Santiago, Chile, Pablo Neruda built a secret door and passageway that led from the dining room to a study so that if the company became too much, he could slip out discreetly. When I learned this, I was in his home and I took offense at the idea, as if I were one of his guests, while also envying his foresight.

Trains are a setting for reflection with a continuous rhythm.

Suppose that snakes do not represent evil. Instead, they serve as reminders of imagination, creativity—and creativity and its impulse, may lead to the unknown which unfortunately can be equated with danger and thus, fear.

A drawing by a six-year-old which hangs on the wall of a house I know, depicts a girl with a blue hat, green skirt and roller-skates in mid-jump. The girl’s face is expressionless, but because of the gap between her feet and the grass she exudes elation.

To recognize light by studying the darkness.

On the shortest day of every year, a group of people gather in a bookstore. They listen to each other read surrounded by books, illuminated only by candle-lit lanterns. Light reflects from the glass of the lanterns onto the book titles, the faces of the readers.

A narrow path to walk, lit only with a lantern.


Sarah Leslie holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts. Her fiction was named a semi-finalist by American Short Fiction and her nonfiction earned Disquiet International Notable Mention. She is a former resident of Bread Loaf, Sicily and her writing has been published in Barnstorm Journal, Notes on Looking: Contemporary Art in Los Angeles among others. Sarah lives on a farm in Northern Italy.