At 7:02AM, Eastern Standard Time, on Wednesday, 20 March 2013, Spring officially begins to ease North America out of the clutches of the cold, often-annoying hands attached to Old Man Winter. Birds will begin chirping. The sun will never stop shining. Snow shall cease to ever be heard from again. And, most importantly, my birthday will officially be right around the corner.
It’s the greatest season in the calendar year, Spring. After months and months of cold weather and shortened days, the vernal equinox offers residents of certain northern cliems a break from the monotony that so often comes from an overbearing abundance of gray skies and all too early sunsets. The day marks the light at the end of the long, cold, dark tunnel, a reminder that despite how much we fight it, most things in life are cyclical, and regardless of how fed up we can feel toward a season, there will always be something different peering its head around the corner in both the macro and micro moments of an everyday life.
But why is this so, one may ask? Why does a combination of days in March, April, May and June stand so far above the rest of its contemporaries in stature? What makes Easter a better holiday than Thanksgiving? Why is it that Americans long for Memorial Day’s arrival, yet dread the thought of Labor Day creeping up on us? Why is hot better than cold? Whose idea was it to make the title of this set of days so optimistic while essentially forcing its polar opposite (autumn) into such a doom-and-gloom nickname (Fall)? And, maybe most notably, how in the name of James Franco did this particular season find itself in the enviable type of celebrated/zeitgeisty/synonymous relationship it has with the word “break”?
Well, to find answers to those specific questions, we must look at the reasons why Spring’s seasonal siblings will forever play second-fiddle to their “life is full or promise” superior. In the spirit of freshness, let’s begin with Winter, clearly the most antagonistic and bratty of the bunch. Bree Davies, a blogger in Denver, Colorado—one of the most winter-ish places in all of the United States, remember—recently took to task whatever appeal the Old Man may or could have.
“I don’t remember hating winter as a child, but looking back, I don’t have any fond memories of it, either,” she wrote, “The only things I recall about snow season were frozen snot-sicles stuck to my raw, peachy face, and little fingers and toes that couldn’t feel anything after being made to play outside for hours… Then there was that time in the early 2000s—the blizzard of, I don’t know, 2004, maybe?—when I got stuck in an apartment with my sort-of ex-boyfriend and my roommate for five days. After four years together, he and I were off and on at that point, but he eventually left me for said roommate. How I didn’t catch on to their connection during the five-day nightmare we spent getting drunk at bars because they were the only places open within walking distance is beyond me. But I’m extremely naive. And I was drunk. It was a bad combination.” (“Dear snow: I’m sorry I hate you”, Denver Westword Blogs, 5 March 2013)
Ah-ha! Add “heartbreak” to the list of reasons winter can’t measure up. Laugh now, but there’s some credence to Davies’ tale. The December-to-March span all but forces the majority of us to eliminate a lot of our cursory desires to venture outside. Need to restock the fridge with soda and shredded cheese? The thought is much more appealing if it’s 60 degrees and sunny, no? Looking out the window to see nothing but bundled-up people cursing a type of cold air that is practically visible to the naked eye is anything but appealing. This, as the majority of us could almost certainly attest to, can cause an inescapable form of friction between ourselves and the people with whom we happen to live. I mean, let’s be honest—co-inhabiting during winter months is like a thesis in passive-aggressive behavior.
“I thought you said you were going to run out to grab something to eat?” you ask your roommate in a tone that becomes audibly more dejected by the letter.
“I did, but it’s too cold,” your roommate says, picking up on each non-verbal element your attempt at communication exudes. “So… what do you want to watch?”
The reactionary sigh in your head could fuel a 30-minute hot-air balloon ride. Now, imagine that interaction happening ... EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT THREE COLD, DARK MONTHS! The season’s slogan should be this—Winter: Ruining more human relationships than the act of getting married since the Dawn of Time.
Now, on to Summer and Erika Ray of the website Overexposed and Underdeveloped. Ray took a moment to reflect on why the year’s hottest months don’t always translate into the year’s best months.
“There are two types of people in this world: those who love summer and those who hate summer. I fall into the Hate camp. I fall so deeply in the Hate camp that I could be the President. When you hate Summer, people make you justify your hate all the time,” Ray wrote. “When it’s Summer, people expect you to be outdoors. Do you want to know what I hate second to Summer? The outdoors. Yes, I love to camp. But to hang out in the backyard just because isn’t my idea of fun. I have a house with A/C next to my backyard. That’s where I want to be. In the Summer, if you aren’t outdoors it feels icky and there’s an air of guilt that circulates with the freon.” (“I hate summer”, 2 July 2012)
Ah-ha! Add “icky” to the list of reasons Summer can’t measure up. No, but seriously. How often do we find ourselves longing for the summer months because of nothing more than a desire for hot weather? And then, consequently, how often do we complain when that hot weather becomes too hot to endure? Think about it: The only thing that truly makes Summer so desirable is how undesirable its counterpart (Winter) becomes. Without the chilly darkness of Winter, would any of us really put so much energy into looking forward to Summer?
On their own, the June-to-September months typically provide just as many inconveniences as they do pleasantries. The sunburned body you get after spending eight-and-a-half minutes on a beech somewhere in the middle of North Carolina. The hustle, bustle and disappointments of planning and subsequently venturing on a vacation. The reality that abnormally high temperatures keep you in enclosed, headache-inducing air-conditioned quarters way more than you ever plan or want to be. The constant badgering by well-meaning friends who insist that spending quality time in the woods is essential. The bee stings. The unflattering swim suits. The expectation to walk around shirtless if you are a guy (and in my case, trust me—nobody wins). The sweat that drips down your back, wetting your clean shirt, as you commute to work. The thought that we should cook everything we eat on a grill. The ungodly high prices of ice cream. The light beer. Again… the sunburned body you get after spending eight-and-a-half minutes on a beech somewhere in the middle of North Carolina.
Yeah. Tell me what’s not icky about all that, and I’ll tell you details about how a sunburned body in an unflattering swim suit looks somewhere in the middle of North Carolina. Again, trust me—nobody wins.
And finally, there’s Autumn, the single most depressing season of them all. Oh, wait, what’s that? You don’t think it’s the single most depressing season of them all? Take it from Jessica Blaszczak at Psychcentral.com.
“SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a mood disorder that affects an individual the same time each year, usually starting when the weather becomes colder in September or October, and ends in April or May when the weather becomes warmer,” she wrote. “People with SAD feel depressed during the shorter days of winter, and more cheerful and energetic during the brightness of spring and summer.” (“10 Things You Didn’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder”)
Ah-ha! Add “depression” to the list of reasons Autumn can’t measure up. Scoff all you want, but those shorter days, growing colder temperatures and all-around gloominess within the fabric of the months between September and December aren’t just figments of the cynical side of our imaginations—they are uncomfortably real. Sure, some people argue that the colors of the changing leaves are beautiful, the scenery is romantic and the crispness in the air is a welcome change of pace, but the reality is that Autumn can play more tricks on the mind than a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. The aesthetic smokescreens that come with the season are nothing more than subliminally manipulative attempts to distract our conscious from the reality that the weather is getting annoying, loneliness is looming, and we’re growing another year older. There is a reason Americans call it “Fall”, and it has nothing to do with what the leaves on trees do as these months crawl onward.
OK, well, maybe it’s a little bit because that’s what the leaves on trees do as these months crawl onward, but you get it.
Anyway, if nothing else, Autumn actually brings into focus the most appealing elements of Spring because of how opposite the two seasons are. The most direct contrast between these periods of time come within the disparity of promise. Autumn is a time to reflect on the hopes that failed in our past while Spring is a time to formulate expectations for what may happen in our future. March (not January, as is popularly thought) becomes the de facto start to a new year, a chance to feel reinvigorated, a chance to seek out experiences and make memories. The months that follow offer us the type of fresh outlook imperative to exude in order for us to remain optimistic about pushing forward through our messy and confusing lives. Because if we can’t somehow push forward … well, what’s the point?
It’s like a new lease on life, Spring is. Plans for what we might do with our newfound freedom brighten our thoughts with visions of colorful flowers that serve as brilliant metaphors for the romance this season exudes. It’s not too cold. It’s not too hot. It’s not too aggressive. It’s not too manipulative. It’s not too inconvenient. It’s not too annoying. It’s not too heartbreaking. It’s not too icky. And, of course, it’s not too depressing.
What it is, however, is the best of the four seasons offered to us in a normal calendar year. And just think, Spring is right around the corner. Can’t you just feel the sap rising?