Aberdeen, Maryland to New York City, February 17, 2014

★★★★ Through the western trees, the descending moon was fat and yellow-white. It was still dark, but the dog was whining and the birds were chirping. After an interlude of not very long, the toddler started chirping too, from the other side of the house. He wanted to see the moon out of the windows there, where it had been at bedtime, but had to settle for the sun. Back to the west, pink and tangerine light was in the tops of the drab trees, quickly descending the limbs and trunks. The colorless sky turned a saturated blue. Outside on the feeders and branches and the fence, over the yard full of dense and undulating snow, were three-four-five bluejays, three-four male cardinals and as many females, innumerable little juncos and white-throated sparrows. One mourning dove was in among them, placid amid the little squabbles. Titmice made forays from the dormant trumpet vines. A goldfinch clung to the dangling sack of finch-food, a patch of bright spring yellow blooming at the throat of its dull winter plumage. The first-grader could walk on top of the snow. Fallen oak leaves, heated by the sun, had sunk an inch deep into the crust, their lobes and stems traced perfectly in negative space. The deer had sunk footprints into the snow when it was soft, then left later prints on the surface and piles of droppings within 10 feet of the house. A few chickadees had finally showed up, and would fly right up to the feeders if humans stood still enough nearby. Everything indoors was a wash of green after the snow-brightness. The bigger birds arrived in their mixed flock — blackbirds, starlings, the grackles with their oily sheen and staring ivory eyes — alternately bullying the earlier birds and flinching away en masse at sudden sounds. The Cooper’s hawk was nowhere to be seen. There were potholes in the highway back to the interstate. A shelf of snow hung ominously off the top of a tractor trailer crossing the Susquehanna. Traffic was light and free-flowing, with the sun at its back. A stainless-steel refrigerator and stove flashed in the bed of a pickup truck. The daylight lasted all the way up to the Lincoln Tunnel and through it. A band of purple-red lay just above New Jersey like a second horizon. In the deepening dusk, a pale horse trotted down Ninth Avenue, the hubs of carriage wheels glinting behind it. The potholes were the worst yet. One last surprising glimpse of bright blue appeared in the sky, in the space opening up behind the rack of cars, stacked four high, at the end of the parking lot.