Paul Vosper: Technical Artist

Measuring the Seasons

Quarters are often used as a global measure of the year, separating each trip around the Sun into four tidy pieces each three months long. This is convenient for institutions but has never really made sense to me as a way to measure the Seasons.

Schools will often break a year down into four parts (which they call “Quarters”, though they often vary in duration) with an emphasis on the “Fall/Winter/Spring” quarters as the “school year” with “Summer” as optional or alternative curriculum. As with all Patterns, it’s the Practice that internalizes them and makes them useful. If you’re not a student, then the distinctions of the institution are meaningless.

For Astronomical Seasons, the year is measured by the appearance of the Sun relative to the point that you’re currently viewing it from, which varies with every spot on Earth. Winter begins on the Solstice and Spring on the Equinox. This means that the days are already starting to get shorter when Summer beings, which always feels like you’re being cheated out of enjoying the daylight.

Meteorologists use the calendar months grouped into similar weather patterns to measure Seasons, with the three coldest months considered Winter. This means that the Summer Solstice happens around one-third of the way through the Season, with seasonal lag distributing the temperatures (somewhat) evenly.

For me, the most recognizable pattern is The Wheel of the Year. While this is focused on religious festivals, it balances common Astronomical events (Solstices, Equinoxes) with the mid-point between them as the cross-quarters (Beltane, Lughnasadh &etc). Although the institutional calendar doesn’t usually call out these dates, they make the most sense to me. The measure of Fall is most aligned with what feels like Fall.

seasons graphic

  • Winter Solstice
  • Imbolc
  • Spring Equinox
  • Beltaine
  • Summer Solstice
  • Lughnasadh
  • Autumn Equinox
  • Samhain

20.10.14