COOL AND GRAY, gray and cool. Chatter and cooking smells floated in from the outdoor patio below. The next-to-last bottle of sunscreen was starting to splurt from running low. People were still dressed for summer, with an occasional cardigan or jeans jacket thrown in. The grass in Central Park was lush and springy underfoot, the air saturated with water and thick with vegetal smells. Insect choruses swelled and faded. Botanical prodigies were everywhere: grass heads with red coronas drooped under their own weight; sassafrass leaves crowded each other in thick bundles; one green walnut fruit lay fallen below branches bulging with others. Staghorn sumac raised its wine-colored spikes. Two late blossoms of honeysuckle still sprouted at the end of a stem full of growing berries. A hemisphere of dropped snowcone melted in a slow trickle on an empty stairway, keeping its shape in the mild air. Dark little water striders zipped and froze and zipped again on the top of the Harlem Meer, while schools of dark tadpoles or minnows below all startled at once, throwing up a tiny patch of chop on the surface each time. A woman fishing pointed to show her companion the luminous orange of a koi a few yards off. Bright red crabapples littered the slope under their tree and shone in the gutter below, till the ones that rolled further onto the path were stamped flat and colorless.