"...Pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon."
Walt Whitman, Look Down, Fair Moon (1865)
That's all we get from the celestial bodies, here in New York City: the moon. We have to make due with aircraft warning lights atop skyscrapers, lights inside apartment buildings resembling advent calendars, and of course, the moon. Stars just can't make the trip across the Hudson.
We do, however, have a great quality of evening light, something so distinctive it's practically tangible. It's an admixture of street lamps, taxi cab blinkers and the living presence of towers, all promising that the true dark stillness of night will never touch us.
I'm preferential to the quality of light in the West Village, of course. Perhaps it's a perfect proportion of street lamps, small residential buildings and welcoming storefronts that makes it so endearing. Whatever it is, there is a warmth to the luminosity below 14th Street and its subtle radiance lighting the cobblestone streets informs me that whatever is troubling me at the moment, will largely be okay.
I've given a lot of thought to the evening light of New York City, but I've never been able to capture it in the moment. Last week I was returning home from Equinox on Greenwich Street and saw a perfect example on Hudson Street. You can see my closest bodega, Spyros & Sons Food Mart, my favorite rare and first edition book stores, Left Bank Books, and Chocolate Bar.
Here the light just shimmers across the cobblestones and bursts in radiance from streetlamps like seraphim. I love how the white-hot welcoming light of the stores holds itself in balance to the rest of the scene, like some sort of living Piet Mondrian painting.
I don't know if I'll ever leave New York City. As I wrote in The American Interest
, I've been captivated with the idea of living here since I was 17. But if I do, there will be a list of things for which I'll ache. Like the energy of the city, like the arts, the quality of evening light will be one of the things I'll miss most. It's something that I can't truly define, but still know what it is.