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Our Undoing is Our Becoming

Malinda Sanna

I have never been a real Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but damned if she isn’t into some interesting stuff with Goop.

The skin care products don’t interest me but the media stuff she’s putting out is pretty original. A friend turned me on to the podcast, which recently featured Terry Tempest Williams, the writer, conservationist and recent author of Erosions: Essays of Undoing. (The podcast is actually beautifully moderated by Elise Loehnen.)

It kind of blew my mind.

And – just as last week I confessed I’m not into poetry (but I’m now studying poetry), I have never been an environmentalist per se, although I love nature. Every member of my family (my parents, my sisters) has solar panels on their property except for me. We don’t even separate out our recycling (our sanitation services are privatized, and they say they do it for us, but I’ve never quite believed it). So, I am no poster child for sustainability efforts.

Yet now, into week 6 of quarantine, very gratefully living in the woods of Laurel Hollow, NY, I’m experiencing spring the way it should be experienced. It’s so quiet where I live, and the birds seem to have microphones. With no car noise and more significantly, less distraction, I’m hearing mourning doves, woodpeckers and a lot of other birds I can’t distinguish but who sound so alive. And everything budding, bursting.

So, I guess I was in that frame of mind when I dialed in to the podcast. Here are just a few lines from Terry Tempest Williams: “The world is so beautiful, even as it burns, even as those we love leave us. This planetary pause is asking us to rethink everything. We have to really ask ourselves…what is essential and what is non-essential.”

I couldn’t agree more. I travel a fair amount and I often come home to bursts of Spring having sprung without me around to notice, and it makes me feel unsettled somehow, like I’ve missed out. This year, I’m watching it all unfold on a natural timetable. The almost druggy level of busy-ness and rat race that was normal in my life has been interrupted.

It’s paradoxical, because we have been growing so fast at Spark that it literally has been (for me, at times), breathtaking. And now so much of our work is on pause. And while it’s scary, it’s also wonderfully grounding to regroup and for our team to prioritize and get the house in order. I guess these paradoxes are what make life and work interesting.

The work that we do with LookLook® is messy, because it’s qualitative and our data points are a combination of visual, audio, and open-ended dialogue. The briefs that we receive always ask the question “why”, in some way shape or form. But the answers to that “why” are always complex and layered. Analysis, for us, is untangling the juicy nuggets and illuminating what is sometimes right in front of us, but only shows up when you listen deeply and embrace the contradictions. The story of the data needs to be clear, but it is seldom in a straight line.

I’m watching that untangling happen right in front of me now, including the business at Spark that I have loved nurturing over the past decade. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as our small company re-gathers itself and revisits its purpose, collaborates and experiments. Messy, yes – but in the undoing we are becoming more than we were.

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