★★ 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. The damp evening air had a rustic smell of smoke on it. Lights gleamed on the long needles of a strand of pine rope so intensely it had to be fake.
★★★★★ 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 on up one of the houses, crawling over bare rafters, the only sign of what it took to keep everything trim and fresh-painted and gracious. Sun, chalky but strong, silvered the grass in the park overlooking the water and raised the grain of the slippery ancient rocks underfoot. It was warm now, where the light fell. Now and then another handsome dog would stroll through the scattered clusters of people in their dark dress-up clothes. A Newfoundland wore a terrycloth bib to catch its drool. A stone seat, inscribed with a 9/11 memorial message, was too chilly to sit on in suit pants. The wind picked up and the sun went behind a cloud, breaking the gentle calm. From a car, coming back down the BQE, the approaching city was first a pale set of cutouts, ideal shapes out of reach. Then the gold tower tops gleamed, and it all achieved solidity again. The sky was clear over Brooklyn. Stepping off a curb, toward the inbound subway, brought a sudden cool shock to the foot, as if stepping in a puddle. The black dress shoe, after more than a decade of serious duty, of job interviews and serious reporting and memorials, had at last come apart under the strain.
★★ 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 coming up from New Jersey.
★★★ 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 gesture, before the day abandoned everyone into another long, deep night.
★ 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 were seed puffs after all.
★★★ 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 the lobby air.
★★★★ 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.