Bay Nature magazineApril-June 2003

Letter from the Publisher

April 1, 2003

This is the time of year—that porous border between winter and spring—that I look forward to the most. As I write this in early March, bird songs greet me in the morning, wildflowers are emerging on green hillsides, and it is difficult not to have my heart cracked open by the beauty of the world. With this year’s promise of an early and abundant crop of wildflowers from the coast to the inland valleys, it is hard to know which way to go on a Saturday morning.

But this Saturday I won’t be deciding between Point Reyes or Mount Diablo or Russian Ridge. Instead of reveling in the beauty of it all, I will be heading to a rally to join with others around the world concerned about the impending war with Iraq. I fear that by the time you read this, the war may have already begun.

Of course, Bay Nature is a magazine about nature, not world politics. But this spring the war is a dark cloud that hovers over everything, including flower-cloaked hillsides. What is the role of Bay Nature in such disturbing times?

In pondering this question, I was struck by a metaphor that Coast Miwok author Greg Sarris uses in his essay on sacred places in this issue. Sarris looks at the landscape as an intricately woven Miwok basket, made up of invisible lines connecting all the places touched by the lives of his people. A boulder here, a stream there, a place on the shore of a bay, each one imbued with a story and meaning. Together, they make a whole that holds the collective memory of the society. When one of these places is damaged or “developed,” it causes a break in the basket. Suffer enough ruptures, and you end up with a basket that cannot hold its shape, a land from which people are alienated, and a society in which people become disconnected from one another.

We cannot re-create the world of the Miwok. But we can begin to mend the broken basket and reestablish a collective sense of connectedness and belonging to the world as an antidote to the pervasive aura of fear and anger. Indeed, this work has already begun, and it is reflected in Bay Nature. Look at all the groups working to restore creeks and watersheds, to replant areas with natives, to preserve open space. In this way, we begin to infuse the landscape with our own stories of caring and discovery. We begin to count our wealth in the species that share the region with us rather than in the number of houses and malls that fill it. And we acknowledge that the real threat to our security is the careless way we misuse the earth. Can we counter weapons of mass destruction with acts of mass restoration? It’s just a thought. But one I will take with me as I march on a spring afternoon, with images of poppies and irises in the back of my mind. Peace be to all.

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."