★★ A studiously unchallenging placeholder. The previous day's snow maintained its pretty positions on the tree limbs and the corners of the balcony railings, while largely yielding its claim on the streets and sidewalks. Not entirely, though. The schoolyard had yet to be shoveled. A jaywalker, arriving at the far side of Lafayette, cut through the Citibike rack, hit a thick ice patch, and lost control of his sagging pants as he went into a slide. The trains home were halting or tight-packed with puffy coats.
★★★★ Wrapped in a thick blue-white veil, the winter solemnly renewed its commitment. The snow had quickly stuck to everything, reclaiming its lost ground, tracing the tree branches all the way out to the buds. Someone pushed a snow shovel along a walkway, clearing a dark open strip, and in a few minutes it had been whited over again. Lumps of slush slid down the north windows, along with running droplets. Snow bounced on the canopy of the stroller as it bumped through the slush, the flakes finding each other and gathering into bigger and bigger wads. The chains on bus wheels left slashes across their tire tracks. Cold wetness was seeping into one of the ordinary boots from somewhere; the rubber-bottomed ones would have to come out of storage. On Broadway, slush and oil floated together in a deep curbside puddle. Sparrows were zipping frantically around the inside of the station at 59th Street. Downtown, the snow was blowing into the subway entrance at same angle as the pitch of the stairs, all the way down to the landing. The sidewalks required a teetering, penguin-y gait, to keep the center of gravity directly over each foot as it planted. A garbage truck with a plow on it crossed Prince Street, trailing a reeking cloud of smoke. The freight elevator had a smoldering smell of its own. The snow never hesitated or subsided, but kept falling even from a pink-tinted sky. Flakes were still flashing in the lights as a setting crescent moon appeared in the west. Thick, fluffy snow covered the mounds of garbage bags, left alone while the trash trucks were otherwise occupied.
★★★ An eggplant-colored haze tinted New Jersey. "Daddy, where is snow?" the toddler asked, walking up Amsterdam. "Ooh, little bit!" he added, spying a surviving lump in a north-facing planting bed. Dark corners and grimy shrunken banks were all that the snow had left. A table of Super Bowl merchandise, not obviously authorized, stood on the clear, level sidewalk. People wore coats open, or ventured out coatless with sweater and scarf. Unused salt bags were being used to weight the posts of a canopy displaying chips and dip outside the Fairway. Full sun poured up Broadway, and for a long moment it was genuinely warm. Then clouds scattered the light, and they thickened into a solid rippling layer. But the mildness held.
★★ Sun and salt had melted the middle of the sidewalk to wet pavement. A dogwalker was headed south behind Trumpville with a small client cradled in his arms, explaining into his hands-free phone that there was too much salt for the dog to walk through. The toddler's feet left salt on the chest of the parka after he had demanded a shoulder ride home from preschool. The inmost ridge of remaining slush by the curb was uninterrupted dog-piss yellow for yards. Broken ice crawled downriver in one distinct band, like a third lane of traffic along the elevated highway. In the afternoon, the light was bouncy.
★★ Ice was floating down the Hudson again; cirrus clouds were moving north quickly. On the subway platform, a woman wearing a small dog in a baby sling dabbed at her nose. Rumpled synthetic fleece blankets marked the presence of babies. Or dogs? A grainy translucent slush puddle at the gutter was as unyielding as steel plate. A cafe had left drinking glasses on its sidewalk tables, in case a flaneur in triple longjohns might want a place setting, and one glass had been knocked down and smashed. The early clarity gave way to gloom again. At night, in the dark outside the train, lights gleamed on the frozen marshes or parking lots of New Jersey. The sidewalk through the new Newark, from Penn Station to the performing-arts complex, was solid ice, innocent of salt or shovel. The sky was mud-orange, with a descending airplane passing across it.
★★★ It was time, or it was a moment, for switching back from the parka to the wool coat, in the humid and relatively mild morning. Meltwater dripped from an old, grimy awning; pigeons pecked at some waterlogged and filthy lumps of breadstuff that may have been pizza crusts. Everywhere soggy garbage was emerging from the gray and dwindling snow piles: cups, wadded plastic, slimy paper trampled utterly flat. The ground was filmed with sooty mud. Brightness increased, and a rip of blue appeared in the sky. A bus billboard passed, words complete obscured by dirty salt, only the faint traces of a famous face or two dimly showing through. The clouds kept dissolving, the light strengthening. Sunset would be a dam break of magenta spilling across the remaining cloud cover. By then, the gloves would be necessary again.
★★ Everything superficial and fleeting. A few lost-looking clouds hung in the clear blue morning sky. Then came scraps and sheets, till by afternoon the sky was dull gray. The first shad and their roe, from some warming Southern river, had made it to the fish counter. The sidewalk was patterned with irregular salt rings. Suddenly snow was blowing up Broadway, medium-small flakes sticking readily to the coat and jeans. The snow held on long enough for the clouds to rip and divide, so the flakes and the sunlight were streaming uptown together. After dark, down in the 14th Street station, an erhu player wore a People's Liberation Army-style quilted coat for extra authenticity. Perhaps hats with earflaps weren't really more prevalent on the L train; perhaps the seeming abundance of hats with earflaps was merely a function of the greater number of passengers overall. Off Bedford Avenue, the thin slush on the sidewalks was freezing into slickness. It took a few turns in the low grid before the white glow of Manhattan against the sky oriented everything. Two or three hours later, the night was palpably warmer, the slippery ice gone with the rest of the day's ephemera.
★★★★ From shore to shore, no part of the Hudson was free of floating ice. The slush by the curbs was the consistency of sugar creamed with butter, the fluffy beginnings of some horrid cookie recipe. The stroller wheels threw off flecks of it yards and yards after the gutter crossing. When the toddler finally conceded to the cold and asked for the stroller cover, the clear sheet plastic was creaky and stiff. The ice floes down by the river's edge were locked into place like sutured skull bones. Liquid water peeped through in a few places, but where the ice sheets had broken on the rocks, the water liberated beneath them had come up to freeze into a solid glaze on the stone. Maybe a dozen blocks to the south, above the buildings in the clear sky, a huge dark bird was circling. As it turned, its tail flared white in the sun. What other than a bald eagle would look like that, a half mile off? The shape dropped to the west in a long gliding dive, crossing the entire river without flapping once, till it was lost in the clutter of trees and buildings in New Jersey. A few ordinary white gulls flew by, demonstrating that the other flying form could not possibly have been one of theirs. An unmoving, glinting surface stretched far past the end of the pier; the day-faded setting moon overlooked a jagged lunar landscape, like the gibbous earth of astronaut photos. Where the river was still moving, sharp pieces of ice pointed upward as they rode downstream. The steep bank above the Children's Lawn was worn by sliding trails till the grass showed through.
★★★★ The changeover from storm to frigid clarity was complete, overnight. Workers on the half-built top of the apartment building were shoveling show onto the next slab below, where it landed in sifted piles, the tallest heap rising higher than a person's head. Ice floated in the Hudson along the shore, while midstream was clear and blue-black. The whole inventory of long underwear and thick socks was laundered from the last freeze and ready. Sixty-Seventh Street was still solid white, and then a garbage truck with a plow rounded the corner. On Broadway, sun was blinding on the slushy sidewalk. Downtown, though, even after a full day of foot traffic, the snow still creaked drily when treaded on.
★★★★★ It came on during breakfast, with no picturesque introduction or transition: a dull gray mist of fine flakes, falling straight down and immediately coating the ground. A scraping sound came along 66th Street—not a snowplow, but someone driving a minivan or sensible SUV on a flat tire, with the blinkers going, not stopping as the hubcap crumpled and cracked. The humans were as unsteady as the storm was steady. A black SUV swung violently toward one crosswalk to make a U-turn, then bore down on pedestrians in another one, indifferent to any possible limits on its stopping power. The toddler came back from a morning of preschool stupefied by the cold. Parked cars were covered; the southbound lanes of Broadway were white. A slippery layer of powder lay underfoot. Downtown, the cars were moving so slowly it almost seemed worth jaywalking in front of them. Icicles hung from grilles and fenders. The flakes grew bigger and went sideways. Blue clouds of snow flew past the office windows in the late afternoon. There were plowdrifts at the curbs, but they were lumps under the fresh blanket. In the early dark, flakes caught and scattered the snaking glow of unseen oncoming traffic, around a curve. The wind had flecks of ice in it. The elderly panhandler had abandoned the subway stair landing to set up inside the turnstiles. Uptown, at the foot of the stairs, a woman was hawking "UM-brellas FIVE dollars EACH, UM-brellas FIVE dollars EACH," in dactyls. Light shone from every direction, and the snow swirled and flashed like mica. Passing cars churned up the snow, and fat new flakes landed and visibly stuck to the clots in the roadway. There was a little snowdrift in the side of the vestibule, and snow blew deep into the lobby. Later, just before bedtime, the outside looked calm. Out in it, one last time, it was hard to tell if the intermittently visible snow was falling or just blowing. Smoke-like bursts of it were being kicked up by the wind in all directions. Around behind the building, a walk through the shin-deep fluff left only dents. It was too fresh to hold footprints.