★★★ Scarves were ubiquitous in the hard, bright morning—scarves with matching hats, scarves in loose elaborate double loops, a scarf wrapped outside the coat to cinch the whole outfit shut at the neck. Earmuffs followed giant headphones. The bodega was being rearranged, the flowers safely inside but still looking cold-weary. Getting a cab in the chill after eight at night was a competition; by the 11 o'clock hour, there was nothing even to compete for. Every cab was dark and snugly occupied, or lit to show the figures already climbing in. The crosstown walk to the subway was bracketed by glowing skies: moonlight coming down through thin clouds off to the [...]
★★★★ Litter levitated and swirled chest-high, or went tumbling end over end. The thin wires and tiny bulbs of holiday lights, wrapping a tree on Broadway, were conspicuous in the sun. The deepest puddles had not finished freezing over. Light shone through the wall of a sidewalk film-catering tent, through someone's plastic takeout food bowl, and through the leaves of a tree in the middle distance that had still not let go. Late in the afternoon, a lilac glow appeared out the window, calling for further attention. From the icy roof, the downtown sky was purple veiled with orange, the Freedom Tower dark and dotted with lights against it.
★★★★★ Dark figures scurried across Broadway down in the brown light of a morning without sunrise, activity in the stillness like the audience unwrapping cough drops and turning off cell phones. The baton and… snow! A swirling vista of it, all at once, a multitude of flakes turning everything pale gray. Heavy and then, in the next movement, heavier—undifferentiable now, the morning turning twilight blue. Flakes stuck to the window, melted, and trickled darkly down. Now the nearest flakes were tiny, like a darting swarm of insects; now they were fluffy, slow-floating shapes like cones or bird's nests. The banging noises from the construction site below carried on through it all, [...]
★ The darkness made it possible to imagine that the week hadn't really started yet, and crushing to realize that it had. It was raw outside, in the diminishing rain, and suffocatingly, claw-at-the-coat hot in the lobby of the preschool. Whether the rain had stopped seemed beside the point as the moisture hung in the air and dripped from the scaffolding. Drizzle was not falling so much as materializing in space all around. Brand-new copies of the Manhattan white pages, spilling out of their plastic wrapping, were soaking up the dampness by the curb, accompanied by wet flattened cartons.
★★★ Exemplary seasonal grimness. The morning sky was heavy gray with clear air below, too cold to hold any aroma from the Christmas trees bundled for sale on the sidewalk. Inside the Park gate, a bank of plants was dun on dun, discouraging the eye from focusing on it. The Sheep Meadow was chained shut; the nearest playground almost empty. Leaves clogged the sand pit. The toddler clasped his rubber ball tongwise between his mittens, his fingers unable to grasp, and heaved it down the frigid metal baby-height tube slide. Freezing parents negotiated with their small children for a way out. In the afternoon, news came from other states and cities [...]
★★ The fog closed in from the sides: from Amsterdam, Broadway seemed to be missing, and from Riverside Boulevard there was no visible river. When it finally lifted, the clouds and dampness stayed. A group of tourists, speaking Chinese, held up a shopping bag to ask where to find Uniqlo. The humidity chilled the skin, but the chill sank in no deeper than that. In the night, down below Rector Street, a ship's horn reverberated. Neon lettering bled color onto the thick air. The fog was returning, this time from above, the building tops dematerializing into the blur of their own lights.
★★★★ The ordinary sky over the routine walk back from preschool had, if you looked straight up, a rainbow in it—a short, bright arc just off the zenith, convex sunward. It was mild again; the toddler's monkey mittens had dangled unused on their string from his sleeves. A glow filled the old glass phone booth on West End, where a woman was on a phone call. Gradually, white clouds gathered, reticulating the sky, and by the end of the downtown ride the reticulations had closed over into solid gray. The sun came back briefly out the office windows, but was gone again before there was time to go looking for it. [...]
★★★★★ Manhattan receded in shades of blue, like a mountain range. Building windows flashed in the sun to the west of the train, while the east lay in haze. Thin clouds and clear sky bled together, borderless. Faint dampness and a faint chill hung on the morning suburban streets. It was fine for walking. Good for walking. Old leaves lay matted down by the curb, and a stray plastic Easter egg, battered and grimy, presumably forgotten in someone's shrubbery till a rake had found it. The light was brighter on the white pillars of the temple on the way out than it had been on the way in. Roofers hammered away [...]
★★ Dim, dim, dim. Birds moved like airplanes against the lowered morning sky. A street sweeper raised a choking cloud of dust in the still air. Near midday, a golden glow found the elevated expressway, then faded out again. The color of the haze gradually shifted, sometimes amber, sometimes grim brown; bright rifts and even some blue appeared in the clouds, then went away again. By late day, the spectacle was entirely jumbled: white dots of cloud, in sizes varying from small to minuscule; a blank gray overlapping them from below; a zigzag of bright orange, above stairsteps of the same orange. Before it could resolve itself, it just went dark.
★★★ The sidewalks were fairly empty, in the mild morning, except where people crowded outside waiting for doors to open on a clothing sale. The light was gray in the shade and flat but dazzling in the open, and the children had no objection to being out in it. Down in the subway, the cool and damp air had a quality not entirely unlike freshness. As the day went on, an unassuming high, thin cloud layer gathered, letting blue through overhead but suppressing the southern sun. Gradually the clouds thinned out again, and briefly the light was golden—till the sun was cut off abruptly by a solid gray sheet of cloud [...]
★★★ After the brutality of the day before, a sort of apology. The slashing wind was gone, the Hudson glassy. The illness had lifted from one child and landed back on the other. Outside, the air still numbed the hands, but it was not cold enough to stop sidewalk canvassers. Shadows cross-hatched the sidewalk as late sun bounced back and forth across the avenue. The light was the color of dry bones. By now the air was pushing along the cross street, and the river was gently ruffled. The sun lowered and the light suddenly went golden; the dormant colors in the landscape revived. Pink speckled the sky, a final congenial [...]
★ Cruel and bleak. The trees were all but stripped, the bright part of the season gone to dull brown. The Hudson was olive, with white dashes of whitecaps moving sideways. When the toddler barged through the bathroom door, chilly air darted around the shower curtain and cleared out the warm steam. There seemed to be snowflakes dancing by in the sunlight, snowflakes or seed puffs. Neither one seemed like it should be plausible. The wind blowing in through the apartment entrance was so cold it felt like a wet blast of sleet, though the afternoon was bright and dry. The garden had been chopped to stubble. The floating white specks [...]
★★★ The blue morning with decorative clouds looked inviting from the sickbed, in theory, but what got the body up and out was the sight of the clouds closing over in the afternoon, threatening to finish off the daylight early. Outside was not as bad as it could have been; veins of light were in the clouds, and the temperature was decent. In the time it took to walk to the store and halfway back, the remaining good points of the day had mostly worn off, the rising wind meeting the ebbing energy.
★★ Light wasn't getting down into the streets at all at 9 in the morning. A shelter of clear plastic sheeting had been set up outside the movie theater on Broadway where the premieres are. The thin clouds allowed sun through, but seemed to strip if of color. Only the churchyard maples were still vivid in the otherwise faded day. Sidewalk tables were out, empty in the deep cold, glasses overturned on napkins. They were still empty hours later, as a man on a cell phone stood beside the tongue of flame of an outside heater. The cold was misery-making—even indoors, when the elevator, in transit to the basement, let in [...]
★★★★ There was still enough light getting through and there were still enough leaves on the trees to make bursts of color, interrupting the shadows and bare branches. Gum spots gleamed like coins where the sun skimmed the sidewalk. In the early afternoon, with the scarf forgotten on the desk, it was cold enough to discourage walking any further than the pizza place. After sundown, and not long after, the cold was sharper still, enough to make eyes water.
★★★★★ Where the forecast had promised drenching rain and howling wind, daybreak instead brought a pale blue sky, with gray and white shreds of cloud blowing away. All that remained of the bad news was wet ground, quickly drying, and a few trees stripped bare, and an ugly green line offshore on the radar app. The sky cleared out entirely; the construction crew, not as far down below the window as before, steered the hose from a pumping boom as it spewed a floor's worth of wet concrete. The power trowel cast a sharp shadow as a lone worker, trailing the rest of the crew, steered it across the smoothing and [...]
★ The sky was a white-gray blank, seemingly depthless and inert, defeating the eye that tried to find something to focus on. Then a heavy, fine rain began, restoring distance and perspective. The playroom filled up with children as the rain soaked the terrace and dripped from the railings. A toddler drove off in the kiddie car the older children were using as a soccer goalpost. An older child grew angry and defiant. A warm damp wind blew the door open and held it open. New Jersey and uptown were all but gone; the mist closed in on the top of a not-particularly-tall apartment building. The trees, at least, were still [...]
★★★ Blood seeped out from a tiny crack in the dry skin of one thumb tip. Trash bags rattled stiffly in the wind off the river. The light was bright but low, skimming the surface of the sidewalk grates, shooting down the subway stairs to smash blindingly into the station floor. A delivery man on a bicycle wore a black balaclava. It was hat weather now, hat after hat down Prince Street. Where was the hat, anyway?
★★ Up went the shade and there there were: snowflakes, zipping sideways or doing loops against the dark, drab background of the wet city. Straight, heavy rain replaced them, and then a new burst of snow, thicker and roiling, making a white blur of the river. The first-grader's boots came out; the preschooler wore his hat. Before long, though, the symbolic performance had passed, in favor of mundane gray and cold. A swath of blue appeared over New Jersey, and stayed there, coming no closer, through the afternoon. Manhattan remained overcast, the exhausted clouds going nowhere. The clear sky to the west became a full spectrum, picturesquely dotted by dark clouds, [...]
★★ A sunny morning presented itself through the windows, while sausage browned in a pan. For the first time, the logic of putting hardboiled eggs into a lasagna almost made sense—nothing seemed too dense to feed the body now, with the cold and dark closing in. A little past midday, dark gray swept over everything, with pale glowing patches where the clouds were torn and the torn spots occluded. The building made sharp creaking noises; the Hudson, which had been a bright-blue green, went slate gray. The Monopoly board lay in dimness on the rug. And then the eventful short afternoon turned again; clear blue overtook the sky, and the murky [...]