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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on local landscape and natural history of Pend Oreille County, Washington. A partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department has allowed us to expand this program through EPA funding to include more classes, a newsletter and this website.

Dark Days


by Carol Mack

Larch needles drift to the ground and the dark time of year approaches. It is some consolation that we share our dwindling days with citizens of Paris, Vienna, Kiev, even Ulan Bator—all located, like us, between the 48th and 49th parallel north. Though our day lengths are identical (Both Paris and Usk will have about eight and a quarter hours between sunrise and sunset on December 21) our climates vary. Ocean currents warm the western continental coastlines, while north winds chill inland areas around the globe. Here, several hundred miles from the ocean, these forces take turns, alternately freezing and thawing…rain on snow. Though the sun may be just as low in the sky, other northerners see it more directly. In our valley, the winter perma-cloud hovers. We emerge, dazzled and blinking like gophers, on the rare occasions the sun peeps through.

But from longhouse to yurt, lengthening early winter evenings traditionally bring people together for feasts, singing and stories. So toss another log on the fire and enjoy the spectacle of changing seasons from our local vantage point on this beautiful planet.


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