I’m thinking about places I miss: Santa Fe, New Mexico. Vancouver, B.C. The trails around Macdonald and Flathead Lake in Montana. Concerts at The Triple Door in downtown Seattle.

Is there a place you’ve been longing for that you haven’t been able to visit during the pandemic?

I’m thinking about the people whose company has made these long months of isolation more bearable: Anne, who has stayed with me for 25 years (our silver anniversary is October 5). Our friends Kirk and Kirstin — the “bubble couple” with whom we’ve enjoyed meals, streaming concerts, and encouraging conversation. My colleague Dr. Traynor Hansen, who was one of the only humans I saw regularly on SPU’s campus during the year of online teaching.

Is there a person who has helped keep you sane as we’ve grown accustomed to heavy limitations on our lives?

The complications introduced by COVID-19 have complicated my own creative life in myriad ways. I miss the places where I know I can go and experience creative inspiration, where I can lose myself in imagination and art. But I am grateful for those artists who have found ways to be meaningfully productive during the last year. And if their work resonates with expressions of struggle and hope that ring true during lockdown, all the better.

For two singer songwriters I’ve been listening to this week, it’s been a time to lean into gratitude — gratitude for the places they long to be, gratitude for the women they love who share these quarantine spaces with them.

Dave Von Bieker‘s new solo album Long For This World opens with “Places We Can’t Live,” a track that has me remembering U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name.” It doesn’t sound like that song — Von Bieker’s pop style is more intimate — but the soulful lyrics will have you thinking about those places in the world you find yourself longing to go, those places that tune the instruments of your spirit.

And I know Dave Von Bieker well enough to know that we have similar lists of favorite places. So this record speaks to me directly. Von Bieker has grown as a songwriter in a community of creatives called The Glen Workshop, hosted by Image journal, over the last decade, just as I have grown as a writer, teacher, and speaker there. There’s something about the light, the color, the weather, and the culture of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and there is something special about the community of art and faith that Image has cultivated. I hear references to the The Glen Workshop throughout the album.

Here’s what Von Bieker’s website says about the song:

All of us have places we love to visit, but will never call home. These places may be exotic, wild and beautiful, but resistant to our roots. Von Bieker’s heart is spread among such places – the cool sandy shores of Vancouver and the stark high-desert of New Mexico. The deafening life of Manhattan and the graffitied walls of East Berlin. There are also smaller places – diners and bars that hold their appeal only so long as we visit just often enough. Lastly, there are emotional and spiritual places that we must visit to stay alive but would kill us if we stayed too long. Grief. Ecstasy. The valley and the mountain top. To live is to keep moving – always between these places we can’t live.

This song took on new resonance for Von Bieker during the Pandemic. Suddenly these places became impossible to visit except by memory, imagination and music.

Knathan Ryan, a Seattle singer-songwriter and bandleader I’ve been listening to for more than 20 years, has a new album — Where The End Begins — coming out on October 8 (just in time for me to listen on my birthday on the 9th).

And you’ll hear more direct references to the pandemic in one of the first two singles he’s sharing with the world at his Bandcamp site.

The first one is called “Quarantine Queen,” and you can hear the studio version on Bandcamp here.

About the song, Ryan says,

My daughter Flannery (age 12 at the time) and I were goofing off on the back porch. She plays the cello and had it across her lap like a bass guitar. I started strumming this here song and she started that wicked bass line. The song came together in a few minutes — a tribute to my Jessie who was putting up with all our asses indoors during quarantine.

He, too, seems to be longing for the places where he and his loved ones have known flourishing:

Do you remember, once upon a time? When we used to go,
Where we wanted to go on the outside?
Or was it just a dream, I don’t seem to remember anything?
Was it just a dream, a beautiful dream?

And now I’m locked inside this ol’ house —
day and night, day and night.

But I don’t really seem to mind,
with you by my side, by my side.

Here’s a live solo performance from May 2020:

I can’t wait to hear the whole record in a few weeks.