Margo – A Love Affair
I sit here smelling of soot, with eyes strained from smoky air and my legs dusty from walking the grounds of our fire-ravaged labor of love, Margo Estate in Healdsburg, California. And in this moment where words cannot possibly capture the grief, the emotion that rises higher is that of LOVE.
Let me share with you our love story, for the story of Margo is indeed of love and not sorrow. While we have only had Margo in our lives for just more than 3 years, the truth is our love for her started long ago with a dream. In 2007, as Cesar and I started on our journey as a married couple, Cesar shared his dream of a haven for us outside city life, and a place where we could always invite family and friends to share.
For 9 years, that dream evolved as we built our life in San Francisco, launched our careers, and started our family. Over time, we realized then that we wanted something close enough to SF to enjoy every weekend – a place to allow our daughter to grow up as we did, outside the city with plenty of room for her to explore and grow. We knew we wouldn’t be able to afford that kind of place in the city, so we started to look north.
It was not an easy search, and after spending weekend after weekend looking at properties, I finally told Cesar that I was done looking. I had given up. Instead, I suggested, let’s spend a weekend in Healdsburg just to relax and unwind. We did just that: we stayed at a luxury hotel, dined at our favorite restaurant, Barndiva, and went wine tasting in Alexander Valley. And just when we weren’t looking anymore or expecting it, we found her: we found Margo.
I still remember that day in July 2016 when Cesar and I were at Chalk Hill Winery of Chalk Hill Road. I had never been to that corner of Sonoma in 20+ years of many winery visits, and I was smitten. On a whim, Cesar asked if we could just check out one last property, and giddy from Pinot Noir, I acquiesced. And that’s when it happened. We rounded the corner of a windy, then dirt road, and suddenly saw her- she was 18 acres of dazzling natural beauty, with majestic views of the Mount St. Helena and vines over rolling hills as far as your eyes could see. We didn’t even visit the house…We didn’t even walk her acres…We just knew then and there that we had fallen in love.
We could see that Margo had not been cared for in many years, and we imagined what she could become with love. We made an offer, and shortly thereafter, our dream became a reality. It did not start easily; Cesar suffered a terrible accident just days before we were to close on the property. When Cesar was in the hospital, I called our broker to cancel the whole deal. But the magic of Margo was too strong. Cesar told me that it was the one thing that would keep him going through his recovery. That was all I needed to hear. On October 14, 2016, we became the proud owners of our corner of heaven on Chalk Hill Road. We named her Margo, combining our last names and paying homage to our neighbors and the vines from Margaux, France (a famous wine growing region in Bordeaux).
And Margo? Well, I think she fell in love with us too. We arrived, and even with Cesar still unable to walk, we began to clean her up, and she began to heal us. We knew she was a diamond in the rough, and we poured ourselves into bringing out her true beauty. I had never fully understood what “toil the land” meant, but Margo taught us! And did we ever learn- we learned her seasons, we found her faults and fixed them, we discovered her secret beauties and brought them to light. We enjoyed many star-filled nights on her shoulders. We woke to the most unbelievable sunrises from her perch. We enjoyed magical sunset dinners and barbecues with friends and families while soaking in her views.
But what did Margo really teach us? She taught us to find joy in the ordinary- watching hummingbirds visit our newly planted trees or laughing over the flock of wild turkeys that our dog Cali would chase after. She taught us to be patient and pay attention – an important learning as parents watching their daughter grow up. At Margo, our daughter learned to ride a bike, to swim, to farm, to fish, and to love nature. Personally, Margo taught me to appreciate a whole other way of living that gave me strength when I most needed it. Margo showed me another side of my husband, Cesar. At Margo, he was a rancher, a farmer, a carpenter, a handyman, an architect, an engineer, and most of all, a dreamer. While I worked hard on dressing her up, it was Cesar who shaped her earth into a farm and carved her landscape to give me my dream pool surrounded by lavender fields.
On Sunday, October 29th, the Kincade fire took Margo from us. But it has not, nor will it ever, take away our love for her. And, as we contemplate our next move, we know the fire didn’t destroy her love for us either. Because as we walked her scorched earth today, we could still feel her- in the noble oak trees still standing, in the sound of birds and geese returning to their perches, and in the remarkably preserved pool area ready for splashing and toasting friendships. With each step on blackened ground, we felt love. We felt the love of so many fun times at Margo with our family and friends, and we know that love protected so much of her from the fire.
Because here is the thing… Margo was never about the house that the fire so savagely destroyed. Margo was about having a beautiful backdrop for spending time with friends and family. Margo was about experiences we shared with our friends and family. Our fondest memories are always about the PEOPLE who visited us at Margo (our latest count is somewhere around 200 visitors in 3 years!). Margo allowed us to share precious moments with friends old and new, including our neighbors who became a second family to us. And if I had known three years ago that falling in love with Margo would have resulted in this sadness today, I would STILL do it all over again. Because it was that damn good. And because beautiful memories cannot be erased by even the wildest of fires.
Love will rise-up from the ashes and a new Margo will emerge. We are not quite sure what she will look like yet, but we know that she will look different to ensure we protect her from future fires. But whatever emerges at Margo 2.0, we know that it will be full of love- with more laughter and joy than the infinite stars in Margo’s sky.
November 5, 2019