We were scrambling over the rocky shoreline at Pemaquid Point, Maine; five buddies from Canada and their American host, also an old friend. The water glittered like thousands of diamonds as the shorebirds wheeled and dived and called out above our heads. We could see the heads of seals bobbing in the light chop several yards offshore as the odd lobster boat passed by on its way into harbour. With the exception of Monhegan Island in the distance, the ocean horizon beyond them was flat, an unbroken line supporting a crisp blue sky under a late September sun.
It was a beautiful spot on the Atlantic and a beautiful moment during a guys’ weekend road trip to celebrate the upcoming marriage of our friend, brother and colleague, Will Nicholls. He was off in the distance along the rock-ribbed, glacier-scrubbed shore; having previously wandered off to follow his insatiable curiosity on some quest only he could explain. As Will walked back to rejoin our group, he could see us all watching him in the distance. He acknowledged us with a wave, and then, with his irrepressibly goofy ear-to-ear grin, he spread his arms wide as if to embrace us all in a big bear hug while at the same time metaphorically wrapping his arms around this whole great scene.
Will is a loving guy. By the time readers get delivery of this issue, he will have testified of his love for another colleague here at the Nation, Amy German, during their wedding ceremony. They will be surrounded by a greater community of parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and co-workers, whose presence will testify of the love we feel for them at this special time.
It’s not surprising. With his work at the Nation over the past 16 years, my friend Will has embraced an entire nation. I may be gushing a little here, but this is no small point. The Nation is the only independent news media for the nine communities of Eeyou Istchee. And while it takes many people to put out the magazine every two weeks, there has been one driving force since the beginning, through good times and bad.
At one point, almost a decade ago, the Nation was on hard times. It’s never easy to publish a small newsmagazine, especially these days, but the paper was pretty thin back then when the editorial staff more or less boiled down to one person – Will Nicholls. It took determination and stubbornness not to throw in the towel on a project that some might have believed had run its course.
Imagine, however, if that had been the case when the so-called “Paix des Braves,” the New Relationship Agreement between Quebec and the Cree, was announced in 2002. The Nation spearheaded the debate – both pro and con – over the agreement, pushing doggedly for a referendum that was finally granted after months of hard discussions in our pages.
Consider other questions. Would there be any attention at all paid now to the toxic contamination of mining sites and waterways around Oujé-Bougoumou? Would the giant industrial hog farm at Chapais already be a reality, along with the Canadian military’s proposed firing range in the region? Would talented young reporters have gotten their start, learned their craft and become seasoned journalists without the commitment Will has shown to ensuring the Nation continues to be an enduring presence in Eeyou Istchee?
But it’s more than that. Whenever I come into the Nation office, usually about once every two weeks, I feel like I’m part of a family. We quarrel sometimes, we make fun of each other, we work hard together and, of course, we play hard together. Last weekend was an excellent example of the latter. It’s all necessary to make sure this magazine is produced with the independent spirit we take pride in. But there’s one guy who makes it all happen in his own quirky way.
Those are a few thoughts that come to mind looking at the photo of that moment from our road trip to Maine. There are other, more incriminating shots – not of the clichéd stag party strippers-and-humiliation scenes, but of men who have together experienced a lot in life celebrating one of their own as he prepares to travel a new road with a special, unique woman who has captured his heart. Will gives a lot while asking for little in return. He is a true friend to many and I am sure I am not alone in wishing him every happiness with his new bride.