Homecoming

Photo and Text by Joe Grant © 2021

People who dwell in darkness have seen great light,
and daylight has dawned on those who in death’s shadowland abide.

Matthew 4:16

As we welcome
the gratuitous gift
of one more daystar pilgrimage,

and the northern sweep of sphere
wobbles us back
into golden glare,

as we relentlessly roll on,
it is fitting to review ways and means
we need to leave in the shadows that stretch behind us.

For, together and apart,
long have we traversed a lonely wasteland
of extremes in climate, calamity, and confusion.

As ice melts, cultural crevasses expand
heated fissures in the fragile façade
of social and spiritual convention.

With raw humanity exposed,
our hurtful, vulnerable hearts on show,
we each must decide which way to go.

You know, now that anything can happen,
it’s hard to know what will, and what will you
do now that you know? What words will you say
now that you could say anything? What hands
will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you?

Joyce Sutphen

Now the promised light returns
to beckon us from clammy caves,
burn off fever dreams and delusions,

and entice us with the amazing grace
of being brought back together,
from isolation to congregation under the same sun.

In the reclamation of relationship,
we find our way out of the dumps,
and uncover treasure that truly matters
amid the rest of the mess.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In the wilds we are taught
to trust and listen to earth
who longingly waits to welcome us all home.

Yet the rocky road to homeland reclamation
is uneven terrain
that requires us to lighten the load.

In this lightening, lengthening season
may you cultivate contemplation and choose compassion,
in celebration of our whole earth community.

May you freely gift attention
to the needs of neighbors and nature
and decline the addictive poisons of distraction and division.

And may your come into your own
in a green and growing and goodly
sanctuary home.

What would you harvest from heartache and pain
if you understood loss as a way to regain
the never-forsaken terrain of belonging?

Bernadette Miller

Let this be your homecoming year
as you embrace a slower, lower, gentler,
quieter quality of presence,

so nature might reclaim you
and lead you to the rest
and restoration you sorely seek.

joe


A Personal Note
After ten years, this Still In The Storm blog will reflect a personal shift in my own life to include time shared in a new rural hermitage in the Holy Hills of Kentucky. You may notice this shift in focus and format in the year ahead.

I offer this poetic illustration as a grateful blessing to you for this new year.

Just when you think
you’re all by yourself by Joe Grant 

After a week of home internment
I stole away from my downtown hermitage
to a wilder woody place,
where I was sure no one else would be.

There, for some time I stood
by the pond where once a wood drake
dazed me
with red-eyed iridescence.

While drinking in delight
re-baptized by nature,
the raucous complaints of crows
roused me from reflection.

Looking up, I met the yellow stare
of a red-tailed hawk,
proudly perched,
pale breast to the wind,
as she monitored her domain.

Quietly we communed
before she swept majestically away,
and the song of Amergin,
ancient bard of the Celts, flew to mind:

I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Stag of Seven Tines,
I am Hawk on a Cliff,
I am shining tear of the Sun
I am fairest of flowers ... 

Realization came to light
as clouds shifted,
flooding land
with a brilliance that narrowed
eyes to a peep.

Here was I,
solitary but not alone,
and with slightest transmutation,
isolation evolved into solitude.

While no thing essentially changed,
everything glowed
with the golden welcome of the wilds.

Getting out of my head,
distance dissolved
to let me
let everything come near.

Though nothing had become clear,
I found myself
communing with congregations
of fair wildflowers
that glistened back
with smiles of sun-sparkled dew.
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Available here.

Scratchings is so much more than a collection of poetry and reflective verse. It is eye-opener, mindfulness-maker, veil-lifter, kinship-keeper. It is a portal into the sacred arising through the ordinary, an entryway into the soul-full-ness of every single thing. Joe’s in-sight and perception not only show us, they teach us: scratch the surface of any single thing and, indeed, you’ll find it lit from within; only “pay dues of attention” to any experience and you’ll find burning bushes at every turn. If you’re wanting a quick read, opt for a different book; if you want to linger with life and swim out into mystery, let Scratchings be your companion.

  • JoAnn Gates, Director of Knobs Haven Retreat Center, Loretto, Kentucky

Darkly Delighted

Photo and Text by Joe Grant © 2021

By tender mercies divine, dawn breaks over us from on high,
to illumine all who inhabit darkness and death’s shadow
and guide our footsteps to pathways of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Seeker,
How do you welcome the dawning of new beginnings?

With fresh fires and Christmas lights,
those darkest days of the rolling year we mark,
to remember how everything starts in the dark.

Darker days carry danger and alienation
yet dakness also draws us together;
a time for dimming headlights so stars might find us.

Losing track of stars and seasons, we may
have robbed our children of awe-inspiring nocturnal
illustrations of spangled infinity and lunar regularity.
Disconnected and dissociated, we risk a self-infatuated
existence that leaves us at the mercy of our own
devices, far beyond the reach of the lowly wisdom
accessible only in the shadowy, disturbing delights of
essential darkness.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

This season of birth pangs and beginnings,
offers occasion to look lovingly back
over a year of gifts, of losses and of lessons.

Pained by opportunities missed,
and the violations of life and lifestyles,
still, we give abundant thanks.

With humility we acknowledge
failure to imagine more compassionate alternatives
in the brief brilliance of our existence.

Expectations

Tied together
are we
by hope
that is only ours to share.

In dark times,
senses hone and heighten.
readied for dread,
steadied for surprise.

Such happenings
we call breaking news
because they tell
of something breaking down or broken free.

There is gift between
these newly disturbing lines,
though rake for it, we must,
to unwrap its layers of burden.

Thus, we learn by living
to heed our fears,
so we are no longer
led by them.

Questioning each answer,
we listen a little longer
for wisdom deeper
echoing an older hoped-for promise
that we can indeed
rewire the tired workings
of this wan and weary world.

Wisdom and hope in tandem appear
when we coalesce,
panged and hungry, devoid of solutions,
discontented by fixes.

In necessary darkness we perceive
inconspicuous constellations,
trillions of tiny loving kindnesses,
whispered blessings, quiet, impassioned petitions,
conspiring about a better world
forever in the re-making.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

When humbly we realize
we don’t know where to go,
we are ready to be led into brighter days.

For those who seek the Spirit of Peace
abide in the tension between grief for all that is lost and never can be,
and gratitude for all that is given, an abundance of possibility.

We live in the fullness of time.
Every moment is God’s own good time, God’s kairos.
The whole thing boils down to giving ourselves in prayer
a chance to realize that we have what we seek.
We don’t have to rush after it.
It was there all the time and if we give it time,
it will make itself known to us.

Thomas Merton

May this new season lead you to dream and scheme,
starting with gratitude, softened by sorrows,
and sparked by longed for restoration.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here.

Scratchings invites one to explore a world of meaning delving deep beyond the surface to something truly human, truly spirit, truly personal. Challenged to ask the hard, difficult questions, the ones that come when you are deep in silence, or tending a garden, I found that Scratchings takes you on a path not necessarily where you will find the answers but to a profound engagement in the on-going and evolving search for truth. Your own. Touching a yesterday that opens gently into a tomorrow. A safe place to remember. A wonderful place to Dream.

  • Sr. Sue Scharfenberger, osu, Lima, Peru.