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New York City, April 22, 2014

★★★ The eastern sky above the buildings was blinding with cloud-scattered light. The barbershop door stood open; a man walked by outside trundling a cartload of catering food. Pink and white petals had fallen to the ground and were being trampled into brown smears. People stepped back in the reclaimed pedestrian zone to shoot photos of the Flatiron Building. The breeze was cool on the newly exposed ears. The clouds began to dim the sun appreciably. By afternoon's end, a shower had dampened everything. The air by the churchyard on Prince Street smelled like wet stones. Further on, the smell was wet metal, then wet grime. Even as the pavement was drying out, the discolored clouds promised it wouldn't be dry for long.

New York City, April 21, 2014

★★★★ Light slammed into the little plaza beside the apartment tower, beyond the riotously multicolored tulips. "A little too bright," the six-year-old said. The public was using the seating out there, just off the cross street. The sun got in among the crenellations of a midblock building, pulling the eye up to the previously unnoticed battlements. Down in the subway the trackbed was illuminated, both by direct sunbeams and by an indirect blue glow. A man on a downtown bench balanced two plates of baked goods in one hand, while in the other hand his foamy specialty drink tilted up toward the edge of its wide-mouthed cup. Caught between the warm light and the lingering chill, people wore shorts or cardigans or, for one man aboard the B train, shorts with a cardigan. After the light had left the streets, it was still up in the masonry, or passing through a high glass corner, or glaring through light clouds to make the supports of water towers stretch thin like molten candy.

New York City, April 20, 2014

★★★★ The turf in the churchyard and the bare trampled ground were just damp enough to be forgiving underfoot, without being muddy. The children exhausted the easiest eggs, then the more hidden ones, and then began to form designs on the daffodils. Long after every other child had given up and ceded the ground to a gleaming starling and a sparrow, the two-year-old was charging back and forth. Occasionally he stumbled over his basket and got up again. The afternoon temperature felt no warmer than midday, and it was chillier toward the river. The new leaves had a shine to them. On the sidewalk of 70th Street, two full carcasses of lambs turned on motorized spits over beds of charcoal. The pork shoulder at home was coming along slowly, but the light kept lasting and lasting, as the oven temperature notched up to chase the receding dinner hour. Finally, as bright pink streaked the darkening west, the meat was done.

New York City, April 16, 2014

★★ Thin new snow clung to the walkway that led from the construction elevator to the top of the tower, and coated the cars down below. In the cross-street shade, some of the windshield ice lasted into midday. A few daffodils were out in the sidewalk planters, and they seemed to be flinching. A bus lumbered right into a curbside puddle, splashing a stroller. A track fire at Columbus Circle had stopped the 1 trains, but the sun up Broadway, on the forced walk, couldn't help but feel warm. It was no substitute for a genuinely pleasant spring day, though, with more than half of April gone. The afternoon light glowed prettily through new leaves and blossoms, even while bare fingers were going numb.

New York City, April 15, 2014

★ There had been, at bedtime, one bright planet or star in the sky, but when the alarm went off before 3 a.m., all there was to be seen in the west was the quotidian rust-red glow of city lights off the cloud cover. Little lighter-orange bits of cloud blew along under the main mass. Could the moon, entering its eclipse, still possibly be discernible, maybe off behind a building? It was not worth going out into the dark to see. Certainly by dawn, the clouds were not even admitting a glimpse of the sun. Light rain dampened the dull scenery; people bothered with umbrellas, out of something less than necessity. The humidity was stifling. The office toilet tank was sweating up to the fill line. Outside was stuffy and chilly at the same time. Night fell and it rained harder, splatting against building. Then there were rumors, confirmed by sticking a hand out the window into the darkness: something cold and fluffy was falling. Gray snowfall or sleetfall blurred the view. Here was a phenomenon, after all.

Aberdeen, Maryland to Baltimore to Aberdeen, April 13, 2014

★★★★ The morning air was damp and smelled of the Chesapeake, a minimum of five miles away. Diffuse sun cast soft-edged shadows. The daffodils were up, and the hyacinths, and the forsythia was starting to blossom. A goldfinch was in full yellow now. Out on the highway was chalky brightness; the tunnel and then the Arena garage were befuddlingly dim by contrast. At eddies and crosscurrents to the orange southerly flow of pedestrians, there were cheerleaders in light-catching spangles and oversized hair bows, heading for the convention center. Meanwhile in with the orange were the fluorescent green-yellow sashes of the safety patrol, for Safety Patrol Day. The ramp to the upper deck looked out behind the ballpark to streets studded with pear trees in bloom. Up high, the heat and haze made for a gentle watercolor approximation of summerishness. The sun was still low enough for the short roof to cast shade down across the entire section. Even so, careless white people gradually acquired sharp shades of pink. While the sweaty two-year-old burned excess energy on the open concourse, the light almost washed out the television screens. It was, unfortunately, not quite impossible to make out the images of the road team circling the bases. A gust of breeze threatened to scatter the empty hot dog trays and napkins before they could be disposed of, but the line to the trash can was cut off by someone hurrying perpendicularly with melting ice cream cones. The steel kiddie thermos had gotten hot to the touch when it was retrieved from the checkpoint for dangerous contraband, yet the contents were still cool. Rims on a Corvette flashed so severely as to make its silver body look dull gray. Seated bodies were clinging to the top edge of Federal Hill, along with the cannons, while the wind stretched the 15 stripes above them toward the harbor. Over the clogged highway north, a pale red-tailed hawk fought the air currents to a brief standstill.

New York City to Philadelphia to New York City, April 10, 2014

★★★★★ Sun came in high through the leafless street trees and went glancing everywhere. The waters of the New Jersey wetlands were lightly ruffled. Someone's large-screen portable device caught the light and sent a retina-hurting beam across the train car. The phragmites and the trees and the gravel of the rail bed were all brown. A few miles later, dustings of pale green began flashing by, and  trees were tipped with red. Somewhere before Princeton, the lawns were green. Deer grazed on a field fuzzed green with new growth. The green smudges became patches; the patches became swaths. On the way into 30th Street Station, broken glass twinkled on the embankment. The cab driver let the road breeze battle with the Christian rock radio till highway speeds made it untenable. The college students had given themselves over to shorts. University-logo banners stretched and filled, conveying their intended unifying visual theme. The basement air conditioning was mortuary. There was day enough to absorb a missed train, and a delayed train after that one. Swarming shells of rowers darkened the river. The vernal gradient passed in reverse. A touch of haze kept the sky from being entirely flawless. Lower Manhattan showed in full color in the right-hand distance on the way through Newark. In town and uptown, outside Alice Tully Hall, a brass band flared, the white sousaphone fiberglass agleam. From the dinner table, the children exclaimed over the crossing contrails as they went from to silver to pink, then finally lost the light and vanished.

New York City, April 9, 2014

★★★★  Someone found it irresistible to start jackhammering in the earliest daylight. Downtown, a woman in a light dress and broad-brimmed hat posed for a photograph in the bicycle lane, after pausing for a cyclist to go by. The sun backlit the clouds into fierce whiteness–white puffy cumulus clouds and clustered white shreds, as if a whole cloud had exploded or been shot out of the sky. A brick-scattered glow filled the six o'clock streets, and the wind had a gently autumnal bite.

New York City, April 8, 2014

★★★★ Through the cool morning drizzle and mist, the shoe-repair shop was already showing an OPEN sign, ready to sell a replacement shoelace for the first-grader's earlier replacement shoelace, which had already exploded into parallel strands at one end. A thin film of water covered the concrete of the schoolyard, where a gravely misplaced earthworm slowly and intermittently twitched, first one end and then the other. The rain stopped; the partly built new scaffolding around the building kept its share of sidewalk damp well after the rest had dried out. The sun came through, and the clouds, now separated, formed a pixelated clouds-and-sky image in the north face of the glass apartment tower. The descending sun was joined by a second sun flaring white off a Trumpville building. Curving wisps of pink spread across the upper western sky. Far off and low down, the underside of a skinny purple cloud lit up in searing reds.

New York City, April 6, 2014

★★★ Falsely promising. The light sparkled on the waterslides atop the cruise ship docked downriver. Helicopters went up and down the airway above the Hudson, with the sun either showing off their color or showing off their somber featurelessness. The thin wool coat was simultaneously too warm and not warm enough, as heat bounced up off the sidewalk and a cold breeze blew. Motorcycles throbbed at a stoplight on Amsterdam, then roared away, only to have the hindmost one caught at the following light. Pedestrian traffic overtook it as it waited. The light changed and it rumbled ahead again, but no further than the next uncooperative green.