I’ve been reading Norwegian novelist Tomas Espedal’s book Against Art. After a confrontation with a neighbor who brings a shotgun to the conversation, the narrator walks away with a sense that he has lost the day, that he can no longer see: “No trees, no road, no freedom, no future, nothing. And so it was a fragile thing, this day of mine.”
Yesterday Espedal posted this note on his Facebook page: “Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illich, harrowing reading, about life’s end, it made me think of this song by Lucinda Williams, her prayer before death.”
It’s her song “Faith & Grace” from The Ghosts of Highway 20. All I need is a little faith and grace, she sings, gravelly voice and searching guitar, a slow song…over 12 minutes long.
Last night I sat on the deck as the sun set and listened to the song and thought about death.
And about beauty. And time. Time passed and the sky changed.
The minutes passed. I watched the sky change and listened to Lucinda Williams sing that she’ll stand on the Rock, stand on the Rock, stand on the Rock as she hopes for faith and grace.
Get right with God, she sang, get right with God, get right with God. And time passed. And the sky changed.
Darkness gathered and I thought about loss, about despair, about change, about longing while Williams’ steady percussion continued and the guitar searched and the song stretched out and the sky changed and I thought about beauty. I didn’t think about God or faith or grace. I don’t believe in them anymore than she does. And yet I did think about the grace of beauty and my faith in healing time.