The Best Time of Year

Every so often, one will encounter a popular, unending debate question: what’s your favorite season?

I always had a tough time answering. As I pondered the query, a response would move to the tip of my tongue, but I would hesitate to vocalize. Yeah, I love the cooler temperatures and gorgeous colors of autumn, but I also enjoy summer’s extended daylight, spring’s renewal, and winter’s white landscapes. I realized I adored living in a land of distinct seasons. Each one totes a unique beauty. And, just as importantly, each one brings drawbacks. No season is perfect, no matter what anyone tells you. These pluses and minuses are often inextricably linked, too. Winter is bugless, but its frigid days are short. Summer brings fair weather, but the ticks and the humidity can take a hike. Spring and fall both lack sufficient day lengths and the weather is often more unpredictable, though the temperature fits my temperament better than summer.

I figured my answer to the question ultimately landed on a punt: I didn’t have a favorite season. I liked them all equally.

A cherry tree is sliced by the seasons of 2019. The photos were taken Jan. 13, March 31, Aug. 31 and Nov. 9. - Kevin Ambrose/Washington Post

Recently, however, I discovered I might be able to pinpoint my favorite part of the calendar year, if not a quartered season.

As I walked outside recently in the near-solstice gloaming, fireflies flitted upward through the grass and it hit me that I was inhabiting my favorite time of year. The couple-week period when Lampyridae emerge is a magical time for me. The days are as long as they get. The weather is generally pleasant, as the temperatures are warm but the oppressive humidity of deep summer has not fully arrived. And these creatures that wait for this point during our solar cycle are unlike anything else, pulsing Morse-code messages like fireworks from the ground. As they fly around, one can gently corral them. Unlike most insects, they will pacifically explore one’s hands, wriggling their antennae. When they’ve had enough, they flicker into the night. For some reason, I find these small meetings to be enchanting.

So, while I don’t like spring or summer enough to classify them as the best of the bunch, this sliver of the year I like enough to give it the tag of paragon.

Interestingly, this period seems to happen earlier and earlier each year. As a child, I distinctly remember multiple years when the first firefly coincided with Independence Day in the United States. This year, I spied my first lightning bug on the Ides of June.

My designation is, of course, subjective. Your favorite time of year likely deviates.

Not everyone appreciates distinct seasons. Some people would love to live on the equator in endless summer. Others might thrive in the relative coolness of Canada, Scandinavia, or the British Isles. Some people suffer extremely from Seasonal Affective Disorder, rueing the shortness of winter’s days. As much as I love longer days, I have never experienced a 24-hour light cycle, even for just a day, above the Arctic Circle or below the Antarctic. Perhaps I’d hate it after the initial charm wore away.

I suspect many people are less certain of their favorite season than they seem. In my experience, everyone loves summer until it’s been too hot for too long. Then they love the fall, until the trees go barren and bleakness sets in. For many, snow, hot chocolate, and the holidays are novelties each year until the cold snap becomes too protracted. The coming of spring then becomes the savior and that season reigns, until the April showers and temperatures that don’t rise quickly enough beckon for summer. And then the cycle begins anew.

The comet NEOWISE soars over a field of fireflies - photo by Radim Schreiber

Still, researchers have attempted to scientifically poll the public on their favorite seasons. 

According to a survey by Morning Consult, 41% of adults in the United States chose autumn as their favorite season. Spring and summer both nabbed a 24% share of the vote, with winter nabbing only 11%.

Three Gallup polls – in 1947, 1960, and 2005 – found a different result. Each time spring took the top spot. In 2005, 36% of Americans named spring the best season, followed by autumn with 27%, summer with 25%, and winter with 11%, again. When asked about specific months, May’s 14% led the way, followed by October at 13%, while both June and December tallied 12%. Least favorite? January at 2%.

Polling by YouGov showed that the average ideal temperature for Americans is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the vociferous cries of those who love heat, only 13% of those polled claimed their ideal temp was over 80 degrees. The majority – 60% – peg that general level in the 70s, while 18% vote for the 60s. What is too hot? The average answer is 86 degrees. Too cold? 37 degrees.

The spreads on these questions seem to indicate nothing near an objective consensus exists when it comes to weather and seasons. I find the Gallup poll on months intriguing, as December’s weather clearly does not fly with most people, but it still ranks highly on the list. The holidays must make a big difference to people, which implies that what happens during a season might be just as important as the weather or temperature.

While I enjoy the holidays, I still give the edge to firefly season. Too often, I find myself not enjoying the things I like about the present period enough. There will be time enough, I tell myself. By the time I think to slow down to revel at the moment, the moment is gone or nearly gone. Modern life is full of distraction, responsibility, and a distinct lack of free time. I need to force myself to carve time for things such as fireflies, even if I don’t think I have it to spare. Soon, they’ll be gone for another year.

Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *