Joining the Symphony of Life through Partnerships.

He reached out to me when the snow piled waist-deep, but I continued to resist long after the thaw. The pursuit endured for months, as with a pack of hounds. Finally, I relented. Unlike the fox exhausted to the point of death, my change of heart came when I caught the scent of a potential partnership. After discussing options over beer and a burger (FYI, my wife came along on this rare date night mingled with friendly business chit chat, exclaiming it as being the best hamburger she has ever had), I sensed a kindred spirit in Frank McQuade. Now, my success is somewhat bound up with his.

I no longer seek customers, or to be one myself. I’m after partners.

The price of gas in the background baldly illustrates the challenge of expanding delivery to Two Harbors.

On this particular day, the journey to McQuade’s Pub and Grill with $200 in microgreens, included my son, our bikes, and enough art prints to get Big Lake Gallery up in Grand Marais through the busy summer months.

After leaving the artwork with Abby’s parents in Silver Bay (the gallery owner meets us halfway in all aspects of our relationship, as her success is similarly bound up with ours), we stashed the bikes along the Superior Hiking Trail. We’d be making the 4.4 mile jaunt from Beaver Bay, and they’d provide transport back to the vee-hicle. This would be my first decent hike in 20 months, my ambitions greatly diminished by a mysterious syndrome that continues to beset my significantly weakened legs.

The first half features the Beaver River, during which we passed two incredible campsites a mile or so from the parking area. Just throwing it out there, but this easy stretch of trail from Bay to Bay would make a fine go for beginners looking to get their feet wet.

A bluebird day at 68 degrees, I kept plodding along at my old man’s pace while Joey hunted down a geocache. Alone, up in the high country, I brushed up against a silence that I’ve been lacking.

The stillness felt weighty at first, until I finally gave in to it.

The experience, until my son caught up to me a bit further along, had me reflecting on the final lines of Emily St. John Mandel’s latest novel, Sea of Tranquility. In many ways, I think her entire body of work builds toward this simple conclusion:

In those streets everyone moved faster than me, but what they didn’t know is that I had already moved too fast, too far, and wished to travel no further. I’ve been thinking a great deal about time and motion lately, about being a still point in the ceaseless rush.

A beautiful trip, it only happened because of this new partnership around produce, and because I’m hardwired to avoid all unnecessary automobile trips. Therefore, we work to make each of these journeys special.

The bike ride back was almost entirely downhill. My ball cap flew off in this spot after a logging truck roared past. Exhilarating rush of wind!

Partnerships are no less exhilarating than that unexpected gust. Instead of finding yourself in situations hat in hand, bumping up against shifting policies that are inevitably one-sided, signing waivers, and navigating customer service departments designed to function as human repellant, these relationships arise symbiotically for mutual enjoyment and benefit. It’s a marvelous feeling to be enjoyed and appreciated, and to sense that you’re somehow enhancing a person’s quality of life.

Picking strawberries at Uffda Organics does that for me:

Because Adam reserves the entire field for your party, this is Presidential berry picking. It’s as if the Secret Service has cordoned off the area for the First Family’s enjoyment.
A glance north found me giving thanks for our relationship with Adam’s neighbor, Catherine, who provides a weekly CSA box. A shared-risk arrangement, her success is our success. Just around the corner, I picked up 50 pounds of grass-fed beef from another kind soul.

All our relationships should feel this way. Rather than being a divisive force, I find these economic transactions bind us together. Modernity’s tendency to compartmentalize and seal off friendship from virtually all economic activity has resulted in fewer meaningful relationships, among other things…

A recent experience found me repeatedly bumping up against policies designed to benefit the other side, and was served up with indifference and a noticeable lack of empathy. After all this, the failure to refund 86 cents following a transaction that found me emptying the contents of my wallet, left me speechless.

The expense was a valuable, visceral education, and a reminder.

We should seek out and enjoy relationships that build up, mutually edify, and promote enduring fellowship. In doing so, the great symphony occurring all around us becomes richer, as giftedness finds opportunity to flower.

Humanity in bloom.

I walked the path to Blake Shippee’s home with great expectancy.

You see, I wrote the following for my upcoming book (still in rough form, but here goes):

Having placed boots on the ground beside him for all those miles, entering a portion of his world, granted me the privilege of burying the treasure of solidarity along the way. This may be unearthed at any time. If I ever need a favor, and I almost certainly will, he’ll be there for me. Furthermore, I’m certain that he’d be delighted to catch up over a drink if I were to call him today. I probably won’t do that this very moment, though I should, but it makes me happy to know that the promise of friendship exists with him. 

Our connection, established when I joined him on a walk to work, was followed by a half-decade of radio silence. Then, 24 hours after I penned these lines, he called me out of the blue to inquire about Shawna’s availability to paint an album cover for his soon to be released LP:

Our dealings with Blake were another partnership. It excites me that listeners of his music, his first solo album, will be simultaneously purchasing Shawna’s artwork for less than the cost of procuring a paper print. I can hardly wait to pull an album from this cover art, place it atop my turntable, drop the needle, and experience the synergistic power of symbiotic partnership in audible, tactile, visual form. This sort of relationship elevates the human experience to greater heights.

Arriving at Blake’s, I enjoyed a free concert with a splendid backdrop. This is a picture of the symphony occurring all around us if we’ll only listen, participate, but most importantly, enjoy.

Blake’s band, Boxcar, performed first. Then, early in Erik Koskinen’s set, I set out to complete necessary planting before all daylight was extinguished.

Walking into the sunset, it was impossible to feel bad for myself. I had just been treated to one of the year’s great events. Wholly undeserving of such generosity, I lapped it up as a weary pilgrim.

Partners are generous with one another. A bond is formed, within which delight and spontaneous applause are the natural overflow. We become filled with joy when others in our web of relationships exercise innate giftedness and achieve any degree of success. Their success is our success.

Scenes like this at Amity Coffee bring me immense joy. Not only is this another example of partnership, where their success leads to greater reach for Shawna’s artwork, we are quietly afforded an opportunity to enrich the experience of countless patrons.

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