A misty track. Becoming clearer: understanding the cross quarter days

It’s easy to picture the wheel of the year divided into four: the two solstices, marking the longest day and the shortest night, and the two equinoxes, when day and night are equal.

For me these mark the beginning of each of the four seasons. Equivalent to 12, 3, 6 and 9 on a clock face, they border distinct phases of the year.

So on March 21st, I’ll know we’re in Spring, experiencing the balance between winter hibernation and summer expansion that gives that delicious, humming, thriving creative energy.


In between those perpendicular markers fall the cross-quarter days. These come midway between the quarter points; on the clock face they’d fall at 1:30, 4:30, 7:30 and 10:30.

In Autumn the cross quarter day is commonly known as Samhain, or Halloween. In Spring we’ve just passed the festival of Imbolc in the Celtc calendar, which comes at the beginning of February.

I’ve never quite felt the significance of these points like I did the others. They felt intangible to me; I was forever having to double check them, look them up. I felt myself grasping at a meaning that wasn’t there. Looking for something I could feel behind the word, the sign.

Paying attention

This year something changed. Perhaps it was a side effect of the closer attention I’ve been paying to the seasonal shifts. To how deeply I hibernated during winter, acknowledged the need to shut down and rest and wait for inspiration to strike.

Or maybe it was sheer coincidence. An alignment of the calendar day with a change in weather. We moved quickly from cold to damp, here, from deep frost to great deluges and downpours that hammered on the roof and swept down the hillside, swelling the river.

Last week I felt different. Felt moved to move my body again, rolling out my yoga mat and stretching stiff limbs. Picked up a new novel. Connected with my friends and started to speak about how I’m feeling, haltingly, to reflect on my feelings.

Change is on the wind

Spring is not here yet, that I know. The fire is still lit. We have many more frosts to come. And I am beginning to move and stretch, yes, but I am not yet creating in any focused sense. More a sense that I am exploring once more the world around me, feeling language beginning to return as I put this sensation into words. I am reading, hungrily, curious once more about the way the patterns rearrange and how everything fits together.

The ice has cracked and moved into a rushing flow, and I am cleansing my mind and beginning to look at what’s here in this new year. This is the meaning of the cross quarter day. It’s a beacon that shines light on the season that’s to come. That says, OK, we have had much of this old season, but don’t get mired in it. Don’t get stuck. Just as you are growing used to one season, another is rising up ahead.

I start to sniff spring in the air.