I’m ashamed to admit that I often forget the cross quarter holidays—so critical to the year’s turning wheel. My Southern California childhood excuses me somewhat. There the trees were in leaf and even flowered all year round. The autumn leaves I mostly saw were made out of construction paper by my elementary school teachers, whose monthly themes often referred to the seasonal experiences of children elsewhere. It never snowed in front of my house in winter. Unlike the girl named Nan in my first school textbook, I didn’t own a fur hat or a muff.
But now I live in Oregon, where the autumn leaves are so real and ubiquitous, it often takes Branden and I until summer to get rid of them all. I understand the seasons now. And this week, nearing Beltane, brings an event I wait for all year—when spring teases us for weeks and then—while the air is still chilly and the sky grows increasingly sunny—the apple tree blooms almost overnight, dazzling my backyard with her perfumed radiance, all for the benefit of the bees, buzzing attentively in her branches. Around this tree, the atmosphere is joy.
I finally understand the celebration of the cross-quarters, when each season ripens into its ultimate expression. It’s one of Nature’s eight annual parties. And we should attend! We have a week to get ourselves in the mood. Beltane in particular demands some heart-opening and otherwise juicy festivity. It’s time to dance around a Maypole—or stand under an apple tree—and tune into the great fertility of spring. Feel its joyful thrumming.
Beltane marks the midpoint between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice and is one of eight solar holidays (or “sabbats”) in the neo-pagan wheel of the year. It is most often celebrated on May 1st as May Day, but more accurately, we arrive at this cross-quarter holiday when the Sun reaches 15 degrees of Taurus, which occurs May 4/5.