by Crystal Simons
Yesterday was the last morning I’ll pour a tall cup of strong black coffee in my travel mug. The last day the nanny will enter our front door to say “Buenos Dias!,” prompting my two-year-old daughter to jump down from the breakfast table and wobble-run through our living room to greet her. The last day I will commute north on Highway 101 to Sonoma Land Trust’s office in downtown Santa Rosa. I’m moving to Utah.
My husband, Zack, was given the promotion of a lifetime: His company asked him to relocate to build and lead a team … in his hometown of Park City, Utah. His parents are there and so is his brother. We lived there together before coming to the Bay Area in 2009 for graduate school. My family is an easy four-hour drive away, as opposed to 13 hours from our California house. We both ski. In our lighthearted nature of rationalizing the luck, we joke that we found the golden ticket in the chocolate bar, and now we get to move to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory!
But my move is bittersweet. As a conservationist, land steward and partner to the landowners who had the inspiration to protect their properties with conservation easements, my work is extremely place-based.
For the last three-and-a-half years I have managed Sonoma Land Trust’s conservation easement program, comprised of 41 unique properties scattered across this incredible coastal Northern California county. I’m not just professionally connected to Sonoma County — I’m emotionally connected to the dynamic landscapes here: the coastal bluffs and cliffs that plunge from rolling uplands into the teal Pacific Ocean; the redwood groves that tower; the rich riparian channels that weave like veins across the county; the conifer forests and oak woodland.; the sprawling grasslands and meadows; the chaparral and manzanita communities that stun the observer with their density and vibrant trunk coloration; even, sometimes, the vineyards, which are especially iconic this time of year when the vines turn burgundy and golden.
If I have to go, I’m grateful to be moving now, after the rainy season has begun. My last visual memories will be of regrowth, rebirth and rejuvenation. I’ve spent the last few weeks documenting conservation properties that burned in the wildfires. The scorched hilltops that were once waving grasses were turned black and barren. This week, the grasses began to poke through and one has to look hard to identify where the burn scars were. Even in the most heated and drastic burn landscapes, resilient little pokes of green are popping through the ash. It is beautiful.
In my efforts to say goodbye, for now — I’m actually going to work remotely for the Land Trust as Special Programs Manager — here’s a farewell tour through photos of my time leading the conservation easement program.
Thank you to all whose paths I’ve crossed during my time leading the conservation easement program. To the volunteers, the landowners, my colleagues and friends at other partner agencies, thank you for the field days, the brainstorming sessions, the learning and self growth. It’s been a good run.
Crystal Simons is (now) Sonoma Land Trust’s Special Programs Manager.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.