Death and Beauty and Time

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.



About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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4 Responses to Death and Beauty and Time

  1. roughghosts says:

    Moving words and beautiful photos. Thank you for this Scott.


  2. Nancy says:

    Scott. This is beautiful, both in thought and image. What to do when what we believed in is beauty and time. And there’s not much more time?


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