My father told me that our family turns off lights. I’ll be walking outside in the evening, and notice a street lamp go out. I’ve always taken it as a sign that I’m exactly where I need to be, a message from the ancestors that perhaps it’s time to look up. The sky is a grounding presence that helps when life can feel so consuming, the moon expels any other noise from the room no matter what part of the world you’re in. Any time I’ve needed to come back to earth, I look to the sky.

In March 2020, I was working on my first solo show in Peru: I was fulfilling a lifelong dream of showing in a place that was so dear to me. On the 15th, the president closed the borders and the whole country closed down. Grocery stores, pharmacies and banks were the only businesses that were open. No private cars were allowed on the street, it was illegal to go to a different neighborhood. I was locked down in a home by myself in Barranco, and could not finish my work. Perhaps we flew too close to the sun.

To be alone in such a crazy time is hard to describe, but my roof proved to be my paradise. I noticed how empty the sky was after the border closed. Before, you could see planes punctuating the clouds, but now only birds sailed through the air as the streets echoed in their emptiness and fear.

My roof became my laundry room, studio, living room, bar, social barometer. It made a particularly lonely and scary time feel bearable. For weeks I waited to hear if I had been placed on a flight home by the United States embassy. The night I finally got the call, I enjoyed some Pilsen Callao on my roof for the last time in the thin night air beneath the moon. Down on the street, I saw one of the street lamps turn off.

Sarah Zapata was born in 1988, in Corpus Christi, Texas, she lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Zapata is a Peruvian-American textile artist who delights in using a wide range of colors and materials. She received a BFA in studio art from the University of North Texas, Denton. She has had solo shows at the Museo MATE, Lima, Peru; Performance Space New York; Institute 193, Lexington, Kentucky; Deli Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; and El Museo Del Barrio, New York.