Holy Humus

Text and Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain,
flourishing and yielding thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.

Mark 4:8

Seeker,
When was the last time you bared your soles to grace the ground?

Daily, we tread
or trample
a lush, living carpet.

Upon this thin floor
of muddy vitality
the elements of our existence depend.

What disdainfully we call dirt
(as in dirty) or soil (as in soiled)
is actually the miracle beneath!

People usually consider walking on water or air a miracle.
But the real miracle is not to walk either on water or thin air, but to walk on earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Our scriptural name
“ADAMAH” or “grounded one”,
describes our earthy roots.

“Human” reflects humble origins,
for we are “humus-beings,”
earthlings realized from sacred soil.

From dirt, Holy One formed “Adamah,” blowing breath of life into its nostrils.

Genesis 2:7

Dirt is no dead thing.
Each topsoil ounce holds countless communities,
billions of invisible microorganisms.

One in four forms of life
on our planet
thrives in the dank recesses beneath our soles.

Unseen and unknown decomposers
recycle the necessary elements of life
till even deserts bloom in their season.

Earth purifies water, absorbs waste,
and welcomes us back
to remake our husk into a life-giver.

Source of nourishment,
sacred soil provides raw material for reality,
and cradles the bones of our ancestors.

Humble Crumble
Tread gently the soil.
Beneath your feet, loved-ones sleep,
after years of toil.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

When walking the woods,
for the recovery of soul,
I cast my gaze upon leafy litter scattered about me.

Such mucky miracles, earthy wisdom, loamy lessons,
fruits and seeds of innumerable seasons,
strewn at my feet.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.

Elizabeth Barret Browning

While briefly living along the Amazon,
I was awed by immeasurable companies of crawlers
that cover every available centimeter of forest floor.

To this day, the aroma of wet leaves
carries me back
to Amazonian epiphanies—

from our insect planet
rooted in a film of mud,
every imaginable form of breathing life erupts;

from towering mahogany to scarlet macaws;
in over-abundance
known and named only by indigenous (landed) peoples.


In our fleeting lifespan we are gifted
with a multitude of graces
in three dimensions.

Illumined Grace gasps in wonder;
at sunsets, ocean vistas,
misty mountain peaks.

Dark Grace visits
in the panged embrace of suffering,
letting go and losing all we hold dear.

Earthed Grace
mixed into the messy busyness of living—
presents bounty revealed to the lowly, who are close to the ground.

It is left to mystics, prophets, poets, and
primal communities to re-mind us of the hallowed
ground upon which every sole stands and the
animating air that fills the lungs of each holy,
breathing body.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

With dusty hands and muddy feet,
let gratitude erupt for the blessing of being holy humus,
graced to walk humbly this goodly garden.

joe

Text and Images by Joe Grant © 2021

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here. To see more: inthestormstill.com

Scratchings by Joe Grant provides a fascinating journey showing the extraordinary wisdom and beauty found in the most ordinary of events. While appreciating events such as the beauty of a leaf falling and the often-unnoticed activities in the backyard of his inner city neighborhood, the journey also takes us far and wide from his childhood in Scotland, to his mission experience in the Amazon rainforest, and even to the site of genocidal massacre in Rwanda. Each episode draws the reader in with exquisite language and creates a picture that engages the imagination. The word play, rhyming, cadence and alliteration are delightful and evocative.

In a powerful section of his book called Epiphany, Joe reflects on the in-breaking moments of graced awareness:

To the awakened,
every sunrise is a first
brilliant blush of brand-new creation
each frigid breath suspended,
a sacramental exhalation
in conspiration of
spirit holy.

He goes on to write, “sometimes a singular ray pierces perception to jolt us into wakefulness with a radiant revelation that all ground is hallowed.”

This beautiful book is for me a meditation on our amazing yet troubled world. Joe’s book helps me to see the sacred mysteries which are all around us.

The Rev. Karl Ruttan, Ph.D., Episcopal priest and spiritual director

Table Setting

Photo and text © Joe Grant 2021

When you give a banquet, invite the people who are poor, broken, blind …

Luke 14:13

Seeker,
How do we live authentically in such divisive times?

When they were small,
our children would clamber onto our laps
each time we gathered at table.

Every conflict,
whether familial or foreign,
inevitably leads to a table.

Sooner or later
factions and fighters
convene at this woody altar.

In our mindful moments,
we set a table in the round,
holding souls open, ripe and available.

Here we leave space for unexpected guests—
wisdom, awareness, perspective—
to sit with us.

Stirring Silence
I dare not erase disquiet.
Struggles and sorrows
are not just background noise.

Aches, hopes, hurts,
gritty and global,
that always appear
are not a side-show I can choose to ignore.

For love is also a verb;
momentum to disturb complacency,
passion that pains,
burning as it heals …

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Receptive prayer
does not permit
tuning-out

but leans in,
to let in
life’s swelling symphony,

from birdsong to train horns,
sirens to serenades, protests to gunshots,
verbal disputes to quiet kisses.

In the Maker’s magnanimous lap,
whether troubled or tender,
both welcome and table are wide.

Here and now we can be,
the beloved community,
There is room at the table for everyone.

Carrie Newcomer

At its core,
contemplative living presents
the disturbing paradox of restful unease.

Settling into stillness,
ready and reachable,
we become hospital to grievance as well as glory.

Companioning
Lean close to listen
until heartbeats harmonize
and spirit song rhyme
s.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Awaken to those awaiting relief
in the wake of earthquake or storm,
or huddled in flickering candlelight after another massacre.

Listen to wails and worries of parents and children
facing illness and loss,
violent attack or repressive force.

Visualize yearnings for peace,
etched on faces
from every faith and holy land.

Here do we attend
to crisis and cries from creature kin,
across our tortured planet home.

And adding or opening new leaves,
we stretch the surface capacity
so all can hear what it takes to care.

In communion and commotion,
in celebration and reconciliation,
may we keep setting that table.

Companions cannot afford
to accept violations
as inevitable.

Just as we carry within
some fragment of discord and turmoil,
so too we bear some measure of tenderness:

listening hearts,
inclined to the torment and tears
of families dear, scattered afar and gathered near.

Don’t hide, don’t run,
but rather discover,
in the midst of fragmentation,
a new way forward:
a different kind of journey
marked by its fragility, uncertainty, and lack of definition.
And on that path
to hold these hands
that even in their brokenness create a new tomorrow.

Peter Millar

So, as you in silence sit
to weep and wonder,
set a place for unexpected visitors.

Windsong
Tickled by a breeze,
solemn chimes softly chuckle
discord to concord.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Crack the door at your core,
let that wilder spirit sweep in
who turns all strangers back to kin.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here. To see more: inthestormstill.com

Joe Grant is a seer and a sayer, a prophet and a poet. He divines the divine in the everyday stuff of life and speaks the essential truth that every place can be a thin place, every time Kairos time. Scratchings is Joe at his alliterative best, offering us a beautiful sacramental vision in which Spirit weaves us into a great, timeless community with each other and with the more-than-human world. This quiet, gentle, but powerful book is absolutely necessary medicine for our troubled times.

  • Kyle Kramer, Executive Director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center,
    author of Making Room: Soul-Deep Satisfaction Through Simple Living
    (Franciscan Media, 2021)