Bay Nature magazineJanuary-March 2005

Letter from the Publisher

January 1, 2005

As I write this letter, it was exactly a year ago that I first felt a lump in my right thigh. Four weeks later, it was diagnosed as soft tissue sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Now, 11 months on, I have made it through five rounds of chemotherapy, seven weeks of radiation, and two surgeries. I lost some hair (it’s coming back), some weight (it’s already back), some of my quadriceps muscles (physical therapy in progress), a few brain cells (or is that just middle age?), and—most important—one large tumor (and it’s not coming back!).

What I have gained is harder to quantify. I did discover that it was possible to do nothing. There were days on end when I had no energy and spent a lot of time just lying in a hospital bed or sitting in an armchair in the living room. I had thought that I would keep working from home while also catching up on my reading and video-viewing. But the fact is I had very little appetite for such activities.

I actually spent a fair amount of time watching the sunlight and wind play on the leaves and branches of the live oak and bay trees outside the window. I can’t say it was profound or revealing or anything of the sort. It was beautiful in a low-key, trance-like way. Soothing, basic, and somehow reassuring: nature and physics going on without any assist from me. When a bird flew into the branches, I didn’t feel the usual urge (or ability) to go get the binoculars to see what kind it was. For a few months at least, it was enough just to know the birds were there.

Being able to completely let go of intention and activity in those moments, and have the tranquil space in which to do so, is what gave my body the chance to heal. And I had that “space” for healing due to the dedication of the people who took care of me and picked up the ball for me. That includes the staff here at Bay Nature—Marc, Dan, Tracy—who kept me posted, asked for advice and feedback when necessary, let me butt in when I had the energy, but mostly kept the magazine running through July with little help from me. Being able to trust them to do that was another huge piece of my healing process.

Now I’m fully back at the hive of constant activity known as Bay Nature, and getting used to my new role as Publisher. Dan has assumed primary responsibility for editing the departments and most of the features, while I’ve kept the special supplements (such as the report on the South Bay salt ponds in the last issue and the section on soil in this one) in my portfolio. But we work collaboratively on it all, and we’re both looking forward to challenging each other to branch out and bring some fresh voices into the magazine in the year(s) ahead.

We’re proud of what Bay Nature does already, but we would like it to do a little more. Now that we have gotten through the challenges of the past year with Bay Nature (and its publisher) still alive and kicking, it is about time to take a few chances and go beyond the realm of natural history to embrace a variety of other perspectives on local nature: humorous; poetic; political; literary; agricultural; youthful. This won’t happen overnight or automatically. But our mission is to explore the nature of the Bay Area and, after all, exploring means going places you haven’t gone before. Perhaps you, our readers, have some ideas about where you would like to see us go; I would love to hear your thoughts (david@baynature.com).

In the meantime, thanks to all of you for giving us the opportunity to keep telling these stories from that endlessly fascinating world outside our windows. I hope you keep on enjoying them.

About the Author

From 2001-2017, David Loeb served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine, and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.

This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.

Now retired, David contributes to his Bay Nature column "Field Reports."

Read This Next

Taking the Long View for the Summer

Live Biodiversity

Connect With Nature from Your Home

Bay Nature During COVID-19