Like many of you, I feel my life has shrunk over the past six months. Collateral damage of this pandemic. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this, but now it is resonating with a new spin.

There was a period yesterday afternoon when the sadness of all the personal losses and societal disruption (physical, social and psychological … exacerbated by the leadership vacuum in this country) brought me to tears.

Today I’m feeling better. Just typing these words helps. Writing and sharing my thoughts always seems to alleviate the pain. Yet, strangely, I have to constantly remind myself of this need to bring voice to my observations and worries.

I’ve been concerned about losing my voice … literally and figuratively. I’m not singing right now. I’m hoping that will change in the fall again with the Phoenix Gay Men’s Chorus. But it’s too soon to say. The wait may be longer. Much longer.

I also see what our current administration has attempted to do over the past three-plus years to muffle our voices, discredit the media and diminish our first amendment rights.

This isn’t the America I grew up in. But this is where we are now. Ugly. Divided. Fighting for our lives and our democratic existence. I can only hope there are enough of us outraged citizens, who will vote for a change in the White House in November.

Even in all the turmoil, Tom and I are managing to get by here in our Arizona community. We walk and swim before the heat rolls in. We wear our masks. We go out sparingly. To the store. To Walgreens for our prescriptions. I went to the Scottsdale library yesterday for a change of scenery.

I thought my mini field trip would lift my spirits, but when I saw all three of my books on the Local Author shelf it left me feeling sad and disconnected, because I remembered standing in front of my books at the Local Author Book Sale in February.

When life was different. When people could converse and share ideas in person. Smile. Shake hands. Hug even. I suspect it will be months (years?) before that will happen again.

In our shrunken sphere of influence, there is one other place Tom and I frequent. Echo Coffee, an independent coffee shop in south Scottsdale.

It makes us happy to go to Echo for carry out. We love their coffee, ice tea and delicious chocolate chip scones and feel good about supporting this local business.

We feel a personal connection to the place, because our friend Rob is the owner. He bought Echo in December 2019, just a few months before the pandemic descended on all of us.

Tom and I have watched as Rob has gallantly and adeptly adjusted on the fly to keep his business afloat and open, while refashioning the feel of the place to reflect his personality and values.

Rob donates one percent of all sales to an Echo Grant program that awards “ambitious and incredible creators the funding they need” … helping the artists and musicians in our community sustain themselves and thrive.

The sound of Echo is a quiet, comfortable, unobtrusive vibe … a coffee shop inspiring art, compassion and humanity … where local students, artists, musicians, readers, writers and caring citizens go for a cup of Joe, to reconnect with themselves, or chat with the friendly staff … even if it needs to be behind masks and at greater distances than before.

This morning Tom and I drove to Echo. We bought a few drinks for take-out. From behind our respective masks, we exchanged pleasantries with Lydia and Kallie. They were working the counter.

Previously, Rob told me he liked my writing. So, I told him I wanted to donate a few of my books to Echo. I handed Lydia a bag containing three of them, which she immediately added to the Echo bookshelf.

Though the tables at Echo are fewer now and spread out at more comfortable distances, customers can still pull a book from Rob’s shelf and read a chapter or two if they choose as they sip their coffee on a weary Wednesday or sunny Saturday.

For Tom and me, visiting Echo (as well as checking on Rob and his team) gives us an added purpose to our shrinking lives. Plus there is the satisfaction of knowing we are supporting a business we believe in, helping a friend in need, adding to the local artistic flavor of our community, and leaving an impression that will echo in a place we love.

14 thoughts on “Echo

  1. This is a nice tribute to Echo Coffee! I feel fortunate that we have this oasis nearby.

    I’ll bet a lot of people feel the disconnect. I am hopeful that it will subside, and we can resume our lives again.


  2. Hi Mark from thundering Prescott. It’s lightly raining right now but there is a promise of monsoon to come. We’re finding tho that not all promises are fulfilled. We’ll see. I’ve closed some windows & brought some cushions in just in case.
    This latest writing resonated/echoed with me. I understand the sadness & even grief over what currently is. I try not to dwell too much in the “what I would like it to be” or mourn the “what it should be” because that renders me powerless & numb. A world without masks? Hopping on a plane? Going out for dinner? A hug with a friend? Making new friends? All suspended. What a time to be in a new place! Minimal relationships. No historical rapport established over multiple visits to anywhere. Few common threads on which to base an acquaintanceship.
    There are moments, even days when I just don’t want to look beyond my immediate surroundings or reach out in any fashion afraid all I’ll encounter is a void or what is not there or little or no empathy let alone sympathy.
    But that is the glass half empty & that is what requires the least effort.
    What IS out there is a handful of acquaintances established over the fence-literally; via a shared trail; purchasing a neighbor’s old rv & needing assistance with it; petting a neighbor’s dog; recognizing with an acquaintance a mutual appreciation of rocks. John has enjoyed conversations with the irrigation guy, who has been here multiple times, the pest guy, the sales associate @ True Value, the fence guy….
    John & I lean on each other more than ever. We’re doing morning exercises together. We’re drinking more coffee together. We discuss every shopping expedition.
    I talk to my sister Barb via new wireless earbuds almost every day as we walk “together”. She FaceTimes me with little Gussie so he can see & hear me. I’m reading an assortment of books found at various little free libraries discovered on these daily walks. I’m renewing my relationship with ice cream.
    & still there are moments of ennui.
    I wish we had an Echo Coffee here. I’m sure we do but unfortunately now is not the time to find it. There is a little custom bakery we went to several times over the holidays. I walked to it one day with the idea of buying some of their amazing peanut butter cookies. No one, not even the person behind the counter was wearing a mask. So I didn’t go in.
    Costco, Safeway, Trader Joe’s = masks. We go there. Not so personal but we feel more protected. What a criteria to doing business!
    So we completed & mailed our AZ early voting primary ballot.
    That we CAN do.
    We’ll all hang in there Mark. And we will continue to struggle with the challenges & appreciate any lessons, opportunities, experiences, positive consequences we carry with us as a result of this unique & sure to prove finite era.
    This is what I want to echo with me. 🙂
    I so appreciate your writings, your observations & perspectives.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Carolyn. I wish I were there to give you a hug, my friend. You and John are important to Tom and me. We are thankful for your friendship and intellectual insights. I’ve thought about your plight, trying to make connections in a new community. The progress you describe (though smaller connections) are worth building on. I know we will see you again soon and can sort through our feelings together. Thank you for sharing your worries and gut level insights. We’ll get through this together in the Grand Canyon State!


  3. I find myself constantly astounded by the state of our country. If Trump wins again, we may very well leave (if anyone will have us). Susan felt urgency the other day to renew our passports, and I laughed. I don’t think we’ll be leaving the country for a while. IF we make the right choice in November, we’ll start rebuilding a society again. I’m afraid it’s going to take a long time, just like it will take forever to rebuild our economy. The last three years have left a stain too hard to scrub.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your thoughtful and personal observations always resonate with me–thanks again. as always.

    Hugs, Carol

    On Sat, Jul 18, 2020 at 12:42 PM Mark Johnson Stories wrote:

    > Mark Johnson posted: “Like many of you, I feel my life has shrunk over the > past six months. Collateral damage of this pandemic. This isn’t the first > time I’ve written about this, but now it is resonating with a new spin. > There was a period yesterday afternoon when the sadness” >


  5. Virtual hugs to you, Mark. Hang in there. You are blessed with lovely friends who are there to support you. Keep writing and sharing your vision. You will never lose your voice.


  6. Sending lots of virtual hugs to you and your family, Mark! We try not to think too much about what’s going to happen but there’s a significant spike in new COVID cases, the government is thinking about going into lockdown again, the schools are still closed and it’s still raining. Thanks for sharing and inspiring 😀 Aiva


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