In Search of Awe

Vicky Quinn Fraser
2 min readMar 8, 2023

There’s a moment in Schubert’s Ave Maria that makes me cry.

The moment starts in my chest and expands, creeping up my spine, my arms, the back of my neck, until it feels like all the hair on my head is standing on end, and when she hits the high note at 1.16, there it is: it’s miraculous.

Sometimes I find myself staring at the stars on a dark night, eyes leaking.

Or watching a group of dancers in unison, or being part of a group of dancers, all moving in the same way, at the same time, to the same beat.

Dancing to Insomnia by Faithless, music so loud it fills the world.

Sunsets. Mountain vistas. Big, long views. A surprising idea. A sudden moment of understanding, as confusion drops away.

Acts of kindness, a piece of poetry, a look captured when the looker isn’t aware, a turn of phrase here or there.

This brushstroke, that combination of syllables, a wondrous combination of voices lifted together.

The physical feeling is frisson, but what I’m really experiencing is awe — a feeling of being part of something bigger than I am.

Of being connected.

Because isn’t that what art is?

What it does?

What it’s for?

The artist takes a slice of our human experience and offers it up, across time and space.

Schubert wrote Ave Maria in 1825 and nearly 200 years later, here I am, crying and wondering if he felt something similar when he created it.

Is my experience, now, listening to his music today, a mirror of his?

I don’t know, but it connects us.

When I write, I’m writing to create a connection.

Not just to share an idea, or get someone to think about the world differently, or put out a message, or sort out what I’m thinking, although all of this is part of it.

I write to see and be seen.

To share a slice of my human experience, and offer it up, and hope someone recognises part of it.

I think awe is the antidote to despair.

We need it.

Not more maths.

Not an endless news cycle of misery.

We need art, and nature, and beauty, because without those things, what’s the point of anything else?

Is there a piece of music that makes you feel awe?

Or a painting, a view, a piece of writing or a scene from a movie?

I’d love to know what it is.

Go and find it. Look for it.

Move through the world with childlike wonder and let awe sweep you off your feet.

For more on writing nonfiction books (esp if you have ADHD or are ND) join my newsletter, Notes in the Margin.

Or buy my book How The Hell Do You Write A Book here.