Loving Land

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2022

“Love the Holy One with all heart, soul, and mind.”
This is the great and first command. The second is:
“Love every neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22: 37-39

What do you hear when you listen to the language of land?

Despite surging storms and challenging climate
that make for inhospitable terrain,
land upholds us all the same,

we who are forged from it,
ever belong to it
and all too soon return to it.

So much more than soil,
storehouse, shelter, sanctuary,
and final resting place,

we cannot
fully understand
this ground of our being

we use
and become used to,
until we learn to love land.

We may be attached
to native landscapes,
and claim territorial identity,

but practical politics, religion,
and corporate cultivation reveal
relationships rooted in ownership, utility, and commodity.


How Thou loves this world,
all and every bit of it,

Joe Grant , Scratchings

Every lasting life-giving relationship
starts with love,
or the possibility of it.

Consider the loving,
living and dying
crammed into an inch of topsoil.

Since love liberates,
none can claim
to possess or use what they truly love.

In a global neighborhood garden,
love-of-land is an organic expression
of love of neighbor and Maker.

Conscious connection entices us
to fall in love with enchanting sea, sky, star,
and landscapes that decorate wakeful existence.

And wakefulness carries
an urgent appeal to profess
our love for every expression of land.


Wilderness people
see a garden in waiting,
grace-land not wasteland.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Timeless indigenous wisdom
reveals we are neither visitors, nor aliens
nor exiles on this holy home.

And with colorful ritual and archetypal story
they illustrate
how we emerge from earth.

Penetrating heady shades of separation
primal people
safeguard the humbling truth

that earthlings, of humus-made,
are land waking upright,
ground embodied, aware of itself, ever outreaching.

The relief we seek is right under our feet…
If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth,
we will have enough love strength and awakening
to look after ourselves and the Earth so that both can thrive.

Thich Nhat Hanh

When heeded, the wildness within
that bridges soul to soil,
becomes a conduit to passion and compassion.

May you know in the sinew of your soul
land that is willing, wanting, waiting to welcome you,
not as exile or explorer, but as pilgrim on holy home-ground.

May you fall deeply in love ,
and become intimate with your humus-ness,
before your bones go back to it.

May you widen the arc of kinship care,
and celebrate your creaturehood
as you reach for the roots of an indigenous spirit.

May you put the “w” back on “w-holly”
so your rounded, re-wilded heart
might make room for a wider embrace of life.

May you hear the windy wilderness cry:
“Welcome back, welcome home,
how we have all missed you.”


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


Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

And there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars,
and upon earth distress among nations
perplexed by the roaring, roiling surge of the seas.

Luke 21:25

Where do you go to glimpse timeless brilliance?

I cherish the unclouded memory
of an Amazonian night,
when I lay on the boat roof

before a bejeweled blanket
that pulsed with the powdery glow of Milky Way
and shimmering Southern Cross.

Sitting up to scan the broad obscurity
of the oily river, I was star-struck
by celestial scintillations reflected below.

For the first time in my firefly existence,
as we navigated spangled infinity,
I realized that we live in a limitless sky.

With the advent of artificial light, nighttime
has been demystified and the preoccupations as well as
those lessons presented only by winter’s long-lingering
shadow are now chased back and warmed away.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Decades of inner city living
beneath buzzing glare
that blinds eternity’s skylight,

my floodlit senses
are nightly numbed,
by dancing arcs of artificial illumination.

How I have longed to resume
that quiet conversation
with the wilderness above,

to sense the subtle resonance of the spheres,
welcome timeless twinkling photons,
and savor the magnetic delights of the Northern Lights.

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

Like every voyager before us
we rely on the sky
to find our bearings,

to witness the echoes of fiery origins
and explosive new beginnings
through swirling stellar illumination.

Without this cosmic canvas,
like misguided moths we are blunted
by our own flickering luminosity,

cut off from nocturnal reconnections
to our elemental essence
as bright, brief reflections of ancient radiance.

your body contains at least a liter of sunlight
and stardust radiating from every smile.

Hakim Bellamy

How can we hope
to perceive our place
in the sacred sweep of unfathomable space

if we never stand beneath
the pitch black span of sky
and reclaim our night vision.

May you make a break for the quiet dark,
dim your headlights
and open wide the shutters of your heart.

Up Look
Life will get you down.
So, tilt your head, raise your gaze,
let your spirit soar.

Joe Grant, Scratchings


Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Available here.

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