Living in a sub-arctic community is to experience a cycle of extremes. After eight months of winter, much of it spent in darkness, spring is an exultation. Some of the first to arrive back to town were the cliff swallows – wheeling above the town’s metal roofed buildings, their swooping flight is an embodiment of the sheer joy at the prospect of a short and intense summer.

Cliff swallows build spit and mud nests on the sides of buildings, under the eaves. After every rainfall I would see them gathering around the multitude of puddles in town, a frenzy of wings and beaks. This multi-swallow nest was on the side of the employment agency, across from the town’s only liquor store. I spent countless hours sitting in the dirt parking lot, watching the aerial traffic to and from the many nest holes. Summer is frantic here, the sun never sets, and you don’t see the moon or stars for months. It’s hard to sleep when your body can’t rely on its circadian rhythm. Do the swallows also stay up all night, making use of the light filled hours to cruise the sky in search of bugs to bring back home? They are gone now as I write this in mid-August. Their time here is as short as the summer – the fireweed has finished blooming and winter is on its way once again.

Chantal Rousseau, animated GIF, 2023