Go With the Flow

👤Matt J. Simmons 🕔Oct 03, 2016

Dip your feet in a river. Sit, observe, be patient. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus drew a comparison between life and a river, saying of both, “Change is the only constant.” A couple hundred years later, Plato expanded on the idea with the image of not being able to step in the same river twice—and yet it’s always the same river.

There’s something inherently philosophical about rivers, something that instils a contemplative state. The chattering sounds of water on rocks. The endless flow. The fresh smells. Everything changing, staying the same, changing again.

I’ve dipped my feet into many of BC’s rivers over the years—Bulkley, Skeena, Fraser, Tatshenshini, Stikine—as well as innumerable streams, creeks and tributaries. With this small act, I always feel connected to the landscape. Because, like a narrative thread that links stories together, a river carries connection across the landscape.

Rivers connect the coast to the glaciers, the forests to the muskeg, the tundra to the valley floor. Everything is connected. Fyodor Dostoyevsky might have put it best, “For all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in one place and it echoes at the other end of the world.”

When you sit and watch a river, you’re not just seeing what’s in front of you; you’re witnessing the continual flow of a massive, connected ecosystem.

Northword, in my books, is similarly big. Reaching across the extensive region we call northern BC, this magazine connects writers, photographers, readers and communities. It shares the stories of what it’s like to live and play here, whether that’s Haida Gwaii, Dease Lake, Prince George, McBride or anywhere in between. Northword has quietly evolved over the years, but for all its changes since the first issue rolled out over 10 years ago, it’s still the same recognizable and much-loved part of our culture.

When I landed in the North, the magazine was one of the first things I noticed. As a print-hungry freelance writer, I immediately pitched an idea. Northword’s publisher, Joanne Campbell, accepted the article and I happily continued to contribute over the years that followed.

The sense of welcoming I felt when getting to know the magazine and its core crew was unlike most of my work as a writer. Everyone was—and is—really nice. They make time for you. They love what they do and they’re passionate about producing a publication readers throughout the region are excited to pick up.

But as good old Heraclitus pointed out, change is an inextricable part of life. And Northword, if you haven’t guessed by this point, is shifting into a new season of change. A few months ago, Joanne told me, “It’s time for something new.” She was referring to herself handing over the reigns of this publication but the statement fit for both of us.

Before we proceed any further, a moment of your time: I’d like to say thanks to Ms. Campbell for her passion, commitment, dedication and plain old hard work. I’m confident I can speak for all those connected to Northword when I say we’re all grateful for what you’ve done with this magazine. Hats off to you, and best of luck with your next adventure.

In her last editorial, Joanne quoted the inimitable Hunter S. Thompson talking about life and choices and change. I have another quote from the Doc, one that inspires me as a writer and, expanding the idea, as a human being:

“Every once in a while, but not often, you can sit down and write a thing that you know is going to stand people’s hair on end for the rest of their lives—a perfect memory of some kind, like a vision, and you can see the words rolling out of your fingers and bouncing around for a while like wild little jewels before they finally roll into place and line up just exactly like you wanted them to. Wow! Who wrote that stuff? What? Me? Hot damn! Let us rumble, keep going, and don’t slow down—whatever it is, keep doing it. Let’s have a little Fun.”

Yes. Because life indeed should be Fun.

But back to Change. It may be necessary, inevitable and part of what it means to be alive, but not all change is positive. I’m thinking of how our population is becoming increasingly insular, assimilated into today’s technology. Devices have altered our cultural landscape and they intrude on our physical landscapes as well.

I don’t want to judge and I know it’s not all bad. It’s just different. I will disclose something, however: I’m a bit of a romantic. I like books, not e-books; I read newspapers, real ones made from paper; and I listen to records, actual vinyl LPs.

Don’t panic, in other words; Northword isn’t about to become an app. Because one of Northword’s greatest strengths is its ability to slow things down for a few minutes. Find a quiet spot, put the phone down, read. The smell of the newsprint, the rustle of the pages, and the content itself all add up to time well spent.

As the magazine’s proud new publisher, I look forward to ushering in a new era for northern BC’s only independent magazine that connects our communities across the entire region. There will be change, but you can be sure that the essence of this magazine will remain the same: great writing, exceptional photography and stories that reflect what it’s like to live up here.

That river just keeps on flowing. Got your swimsuit?