JJ Langston serves as the Executive Director of the Barton Springs Conservancy, and through this, is an advocate and supporter of one of Austin’s most beloved natural spots.
We’ve gotten to know her through our work on Barton Springs Conservancy’s For the Love of the Springs event. Prior to Barton Springs Conservancy, she’s had the honor of working with nonprofit organizations for almost 25 years in community relations, development and capital campaigns.
Where is your happy place?
My happy places are interrelated in that they all are anchored by a life giving body of water. The original happy place is on the south fork of the Guadalupe River in Hunt, TX and is deeply connected to a spot on Honey Creek, also in Hunt. Today, my happy place is also Barton Springs.
What makes a place special to you?
It’s the lump in your throat or the catch of your breath when you see the overwhelming beauty of a place. If you’re lucky enough to spend time there, you get to know and love it in a more intimate way, and you learn from being there, and the people there. I think special places inspire hope, and gratitude and in turn, we want to honor and care for those places.
Wendell Berry says it this way in an excerpt from his Poem on Hope:
Speak to your fellow humans as your place
Has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.
Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it
Before they had heard a radio. Speak
Publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.
Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up
From the pages of books and from your own heart.
Be still and listen to the voices that belong
To the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
By which it speaks for itself and no other.
Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
What do you think Austin is all about?
I recently visited Seventh Flag coffee on South 1st. They have a very inspired vision (as well as great coffee!) and two mottos: All Welcome All Ways and Our Country of Friends. That’s what I think Austin is all about. It’s the friendliest place I have ever lived and the most passionate place I’ve ever lived. I think these values are reflected at Barton Springs as well, and so I feel particularly honored to be one of countless people who work to support the Springs.
If you were an element, which one would you be and why?
This is a very interesting question and one which I had never considered before. So not knowing the answer, I clearly had to take a quiz on the internet because that’s how you learn who you are, right?
Earth. With a strong love of water, kinship with air and respect of fire.
What did you love to look at, at age 5?
Anything that belonged to my two older sisters, especially if it was off limits. God, there was nothing better than going through their Barbie Dolls, their clothes, their stuff.
What did you love to think about, at age 10?
How could someone write books as good as The Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables?
What did you love to make, at age 15?
By 15 I was in love with cooking, which is not to say I was good at it, but I was adventurous. I was probably transitioning from gourmet grilled cheeses to homemade pasta sauces and trying to make a whole meal. As long as I cleaned up after myself, my mom was in full support. Cooking allowed me to spend time with my mom, and turns out, you can learn a lot when chopping vegetables with someone.