★★★★ The sun was a grand, universal spotlight, raising a glow from the fair hair of a child in a stroller, the white hair of a woman nearby, the creamy top of a panama hat crossing the street. Cornices cast grave and solid shadows. A fried egg tilted atop a sandwich or burger on a sidewalk table. The shift-changing taxis scattered an orange-yellow glow over the gas station lot. A rat worked its way along the dry and only slightly littered rail bed of the uptown B/D, ignoring the soggy garbage lake on the downtown side. Had it rained recently? Was it even possible, rain? Topside, at rush hour, the air swelled the ribcage and straightened the spine. It felt clean, even when flooded with waves of a misguided pedestrian's cologne.
★★ A flake of gold reflected briefly from somewhere, in the gray morning. Then rain took over, dutifully, on schedule. The expected end came and the clouds lifted in the west. The showers, successfully outwaited, had left sheets of water on the pavement, and the east was still gray. A rich blue opening appeared in the clouds above the stairs into the subway, and the subway stairs downtown ascended into sunlight. Pebbles in the wet sidewalk concrete glittered. But an hour or two later, dirty clouds had still not surrendered the north, even as the full sun grew warm and edged toward being hot. Another hour, and gloom had overtaken everything again. The simple changeover had become something uneasy; gray on gray brooded over Grand Street. But at last, uptown, the clouds were separating again—recalcitrant no more, but an obliging showcase for the molten colors of the lowering sun.
★★★★★ A dark moth had blundered in on the night air. It made its way back across the living room, encouraged by an old newspaper section, and tried to escape into daylight in the little blind glass space where the sliding windows overlapped, a child-safe distance. The strong sideways light was like a drumroll, like a ping-pong volley between two good players who aren't good enough to finish one another. The sky was clear blue, not a deep and piercing blue yet. By afternoon it had deepened a little. A little chill held on in the warm direct sun. Shadows directly preceded footfalls going uptown. The fountains in Columbus Circle seemed to be going in slow motion. The high parts of the buildings looked newly washed. A glow got into the dim plaza, even under the scaffolding. Now, symmetrically, it was cool shade that prevailed, but with a mildness lingering in it.
★★★★★ Cool, fresh air through the window vied with frying bacon and won. The children were in long pants, newly sorted through to account for a summer of growth. The clarity out the window was prodigious, unreal, like eagle vision. A dignified old brown-brick apartment building, stair-stepping as it rose, stood out deep and solid among its flatter-faced neighbors. What was the light, the two-year-old asked, standing on the radiator cover, gesturing southward: six or eight blocks away, a tiny bright orange pinprick. It took binoculars to identify it as an ordinary sodium security lamp, burning in the dark shade of a rooftop superstructure. And far beyond that, what looked like the Newark Airport control tower was just that, and even past that, the National Newark Building. And a fat waning gibbous moon, like a painting of the moon, in among high cirrus clouds and little lower ones, now lavender-tinted, now peach, moving quickly downriver. And—yes, a dark shape flapping northward, presenting in the glasses the chocolate-brown body and wings, the white head and tail, an eagle itself. Out the door, bright streaks threaded the dark falling sheets of water in the fountain. Someone was wearing a puffy jacket; two other people, walking together, were in flip-flops. Clouds in the west briefly dulled the afternoon light. A wide battery-powered kiddie car, a red Mini Cooper, hummed slowly down the sidewalk. The playground was dreamlike, meaning a little bit numbing and unreal. Chalk had been scrawled heavily on the pavement, up and all over the kneeling concrete camel statue, and finally then just detonated into piles of colored powder. The two-year-old was subdued, clinging to the chain link or walking along a bench. Then a schoolmate arrived, and they mounted an assault on the slopes of the camel together, smearing themselves with chalk from collar to shoes. Sunset was total and overwhelming, the whole visible sky out the windows cycling from opulent through shocking and on to moody.
★ Not only did it not conform to any fixed ideas of what other day it might resemble, it would not even conform to itself. The morning sky was a softly rumpled gray, with cool air coming through the windows and the floors feeling damp under bare feet. Little openings of blue passed now and again, moving north fairly quickly. The ropes of the waterproofing crew's rig swayed darkly back and forth across the windows. A moment of sun passed, and the air got more and more stuffy. By the end of the school day, the cloud cover had come apart into streaks and ripples of white on blue. Then came near-full sun and sweltering air, hide-in-the-shade heat. That in turn gave way to a darkening sky, with a reddish tinge upriver, holding for a long menacing movement—and then surrendering too, till returning sun lit the sides of the rigging rope bright manila. Sunset was colorful, but nothing extraordinary.
★★★★ Pigeons were bathing in the top of the fountain, getting into it, coming up drenched and ruffled. The sky was blue but with a discoloring haze low down it it. Some squares of the sidewalk had a shine on them. Long sleeves felt appropriate, though evidently so did shorts. It was too soon for jeans. Unexpected dirty gray cumulus intruded on the nice sky—looming to the east, lurking behind water towers to the north. A grubby cloud was nearly overhead while the grim fanatics and the agitated counterfanatics took up their positions on the street corners. Warm enough for skivvies, or for gender-nonconforming scanty things. The event moved on; the clouds went back to healthy white.
★★ Whatever else it was (gray, principally), here was something new for the season: an intimation not of sparkly autumn but of the deep damp chill behind it. A flight of purple clouds in the west lingered a good while after sunup before yielding to a general overcast. Then a soaking undramatic rain fell in the middle of the afternoon. The smell of wet live greenery, available still, was on the air at rush hour. Shoe soles slipped on the pavement. Uptown it was drier underfoot, the clouds darker but looking less like rain.
★★★★★ The river was crushed-velvet blue. Broken, dry leaves blew in a cloud around the street sweeping truck. It surged ahead or sagged to a halt, as the cars did or did not scatter for it, its roar reverberating under the scaffolding. Being in the sun was a bit too warm, after the exertions of prying a clinging first-day-of-preschooler off one leg. Loose, white clouds were moving fast, northeast to southwest, making the higher cirrus look like it was in retrograde motion. Evaporative cooling was going on in the hollows of the elbows. Afternoon brought a gray sky with gray clouds under it in the east, and white clouds under gray in the west. The shops on Grand Street had their mooncakes out; a vendor by the subway stop was huddled in a pay phone with a handful of cheap plasticky American flags, a dollar apiece, reminding the passersby that 9/11 would be Thursday. Holiday season again. Up at 72nd Street, the leaves along the Park were turning over in the wind. Building decorations on Broadway were muted in the dull light but also somehow coextensive, for a moment, with the gray-tinted tossing branches on the median. The dinnertime sky out the window presented gorgeous white-edged gray clouds against blue, sustained for a while. Then: maximal sunset, spilling upward. Somehow the orange setting sun took a double or triple bounce to shine off the windows directly in front of where the sun's disc would be, as if the light were piercing straight through the solid block of the apartment tower. A tiny corner of coral peeked above a rich purple cloud, and then hot pink slashes, and then multiple pinks, multiple grays, whites, golds—sharp forms here, a blurry rainbow haze down there. A tugboat came upriver through waters that were now pink.
★★★★ The sky was a heartening blue, with a little dingy blue haze lower down. A cool breeze pushed into the apartment lobby, but the sun out on the avenues turned out to be hottish. In the Park, on the Sheep Meadow, the sawtooth oak sheltered its recurring rain puddle, but the turf was nearly dry. Amid the conflicting agendas, the two-year-old's desire to go to the tots' playground turned out to be the wisest, microclimate-wise. Sprinkler posts made a puddle and sent water trickling down the entrance path. The two-year-old climbed up the shiny tube slide, with reflected light filling his face. He knocked his head on the top a couple of times as he emerged. By afternoon, at the schoolyard playground, the sun was harmless. Children scrambled everywhere, white noise and Brownian motion, and attentive parents scrambled after them. The swings were full, with would-be riders waiting by the fence while a soft-faced brat bullied his obnoxious grandparents into giving him one last swinging session four or five times over. Uptown, after dinner, widely spaced cirrus clouds were pink on the still-blue sky. The light faded, and the two-year-old stepped deliberately, making his new light-up shoes glimmer white with every stride. Then he was off and running, feet flickering and kicking high, as he chased his brother down the sidewalk through the dusk.
★★ The coolness was gone again, even at eight in the morning. Teens abled with their backpacks and another teen with a backpack hurried to catch up. A napkin flapped down to the plaza in the clear light. Cirrus clouds wisped this way and that on the sky. In the evening, a breeze pushed back on the way down into the subway steps, sustained like the air coming over a sailboat's prow. No such wind reached the midblock stretches east of Penn Station, becalmed in the oncoming dark.