Free Range

IMG_4207I have enjoyed a great deal of private correspondence with some amazing Sparkers around the world. Many of these people happen to write beautifully. For the first time, I am now beginning to openly share some of these exchanges — with permission of the authors, of course.

In the spirit of “Living ‘O,'” that is, living with a deep commitment to openness, we are beginning a feature we calling “Free Range.” Thanks to Amy Mason for coming up with that great name.

These are written or audio posts on sensitive topics so that Sparkers can talk with each other about EVERYTHING that is real for you as you each try to live a life of great authenticity and pleasure, as well as and impact.

The first of these comes as a wonderful response to my recent “Love Tea” post from one of my favorite people, who happens to be a gifted writer and storyteller. I will call him “Slim.” He lives somewhere in Africa, where he does meaningful work for change while also enjoying life with a playful spirit to complement his seriousness of purpose, a sharp wit, deep, provocative questions, and an inspiring eye for beauty.

Slim writes:

Delightful bit of thought provoking off-the-cuff narration, Jeff.

In terms of what constitutes my “Love Tea,” to take a page from our days of the Swiss apres-ski, it’s a bit of a Jaegertee, a spicy melange: a bit bracing in that it reignites the confidence and rattles the brain enough to calm the anxious indwelling.

One component is the submersion into physical work. From eight years old, I experienced this more or less weekly growing up in Alabama. Every Saturday, my father would wake us to work in the yard. We’d gas up the lawn mower, edger and weedeater and begin our tasks at 8am while it was still hot, but not yet sweltering. He would begin the day in light blue jean shorts and no shirt, allowing us to gauge the heat and extent of his effort through the gradual accumulation of sweat in his body hair. By 10.30, the droplets would begin to bead across his wiry coat, by noon the hair shirt was firmly matted across his chest, shoulders and back, dripping the excess condensation down the front of his frayed jean shorts.

By the time the shorts were dark blue, the yard was immaculate in the suburban fashion. We’d wind up the day with the obligatory steak, salad and potatoes. Our music was the clink of the highball glass – J&B with a touch of water.

At those times, we could actually talk. I think it was the exhaustion and the knowledge of a job done, which allowed him to down shift the steady whir of his mind and gave it time to wander. He would muse on the primeval beauty of fire, gaze softly at the lithe bodies of the pet store fish in the outdoor pond, and share the latest jokes he’d picked up – and usually modified – from some of the old boys down at the Singing River Electrical Co-Op.

I felt a similar feeling – release from the captivity of anxiety and self-analysis – after cruising the Indian Ocean in search of whale sharks. The physical dissipation resulting from the heat, combined with frantic swimming released enough endorphin, which along with a radically re-aligned perception outward – find the fish and stay with it – lengthened my stride and unlocked a bit of the charming ne’er do well.

So I suppose, it’s a solid dose of physicality and outward focus, with a dab of something accomplished.

I suppose the question then becomes, how does one brew this regularly?


chase and play;

lose myself in the details in a good kid-partnered doodle;

non-selfish eros with my beautiful wife.

Probably in that order.

Brew and drink regularly.




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Creating A Culture Of Connection — The Sparking Approach To Moving Forward From Here


Photo credit: Astrid Jirka

THIS is a big, juicy post!

Within twenty four hours of the election I had heard from hundreds of people asking me to share my thoughts about how best to move forward. I drafted a long audio response and sent it to some of my closest friends and favorite Sparkers, including Democrats, independents, Republicans, Greens and Libertarians. I was amazed that I heard back in one day from all but four of the people I sent this to. Quite a few people asked me to please put this up on the blog. My apprehension to do has been due primarily to the length of the posts. I have also been concerned that people new to the site might not have as much context for these comments as I would want them to have. Having heard more people today, however, still announcing that they are “too upset to engage,” I decided I should put this up.

I heard from one Sparker that she listened to the two parts of this post while pulling tomatoes from her garden. :) Maybe you can listen while you are driving, prepping dinner etc. I would be very interested to hear your substantive responses AND your sense of how it was for you to listen to a post this long!

I am also going to post a response that just came in from Super Sparker Adam Kane, a leader I have had the honor of coaching who serves as the Executor Director of the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, one of the treasures in the wonderful community of St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

Spark On!


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