Noticing Nature

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

In seeing they fail to perceive and in hearing fail to listen,
nor do they truly understand.

Matthew 13:13

Seeker,
How much do you notice when you let life come into focus?

Beneath clamoring commerce,
despite the bombed-out sacrilege of war,
spring continues to sing.

And through every concrete crack
relentless reclamation
bravely outbreaks.

Abandoned lots, littered alleys,
rusted railyards, blasted buildings,
all emerald spackled with tenacious tendrils.

Seasonal softening
coaxes birds to turn twists of trash
into baskets for little shelled miracles,

as once again,
drains and ditches
are dappled with delicate wildflower blossoms.

So, out of wastage and neglect,
Nature brings
spectacular newness to life.

With gratuitous displays of gentle resilience
in resplendent beauty, Creation calls out,
willing, waiting, wanting to be noticed.

Always surprising, vibrant, and verdant,
irrepressible spring softens winter sharpness.
So long we languished,
in urgent anticipation
of this stunning revolutionary season.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Yet, how many work-a-days
blur passed
with scarcely a sideways rearview glance?

Thus, the seasonal details and brilliant illustrations
of hard, healing wisdom are lost
to unseeing, unhearing, uncaring appetites.

Is this not the exuberant way of wisdom, where
losses fuel and fertilize disparate awakenings? And
here perhaps lies a distinction between fecundity
and productivity. In broad dispersal, not every effort
need come to fruition, not every idea conceived lead
to invention, not every initiative achieve realization,
for not all hatchlings are destined to fledge, nor every
seed take root.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

A first blush of wakefulness
naturally stops at the stain, balks at the blemish,
punctured by sorrow, arrested by travesty.

But persevering in the practice of noticing
presents other soul-penetrating perspectives
in all-surrounding scent, sight, and sound.

Only from the mire
of failure, death, and defeat
is hope resurrected.

The hardest part of giving
is not giving up, but giving in
to relentless resurgence.

And yes,
to believe again,
with a necessary change in hindsight,
that nothing is ever really lost,
for the worst and worn-out and wasted
still are needed
to fertilize the freshly seeded.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Out of spare soil
and cold starkness,
tender possibilities erupt

and springtide becomes
our most reliable parable,
a living illumination of enduring love.

How surprising,
uncontrollable and inconceivable
this slowly expanding explosion.

How could we miss its message,
overlook its wonders
or fail to receive its earth-shattering revelation?

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

e.e. cummings

May your days be interrupted
detoured and delightfully disrupted
by the largesse of lifegiving abundance.

May you be stopped and stunned
heartsore at malignance,
breathless before magnificence.

Yet, from the smallest sparkling smidgen of
radiation, a life-making planet redeems gracious self-giving
with miraculous expressions of life in myriad form.

All this snatched
from glancing solar breezes,
so life might endlessly endure, less concerned
for harvest, resolutely focused
on bountiful
seeding.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

joe

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

Wide-eyed Wondering

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

Keep wakeful watch, praying that you do not enter the time of trial.

Mark 14:38

Seeker,
Does prayer lift you above or let you loose to explore the land of the living?

Decades ago,
when my eyes were
sharp and fresh,

I was blessed
to participate in an indigenous convocation
along the Xingu River in the Amazonian State of Pará.

Gathered in a remote rainforest encampment,
I wondered at the diversity displayed
by these drastically different forest folk.

Amid the hubbub of camp activity,
I noticed a pair of young men
excitedly pointing and chattering.

At their gentle encouragement
I hunkered with them,
trying to follow their raptured focus.

One youngster leaned over
and gingerly lifted a leathery leaf
to reveal a nest, small as an acorn cap.

Instantly three tiny gaping beaks emerged,
pink gullets readied for a nectar drip
from hovering hummingbird parents.

My astonishment at this natural wonder
was matched by awe and admiration
for these keen-eyed greenwood guardians.

Observation is
our portal
to fuller participation,

and walking with these
native communities
awakened in me wild childhood enchantments.

Eco-awakening is a truly profound moment
for the people blessed to have had this experience.
It rocks your world.
You now realize you had previously been a kind of refugee,
existentially and ecologically homeless,
disconnected from the very world from which you emerged at birth.

Bill Plotkin

No longer can nature be
mere display
for distant, detached appreciation.

Neither is life simply a backdrop,
raw material for hollowing out,
squaring circles and clear-cutting tangles.

For, in this grand cosmic affirmation,
whether awake or slumbering,
are we not already wrapped into endless cycles of giving?

The moment we step outside,
draw breath and walk into the wild
we are no longer observers, we are participants.

Joe Grant, Wandering and Welcome

I remember wondering,
as a pious child,
why we closed our eyes to pray,

lids shut tight,
no effort spared
to squeeze out a holy thought or saintly insight.

This broken world, I was taught,
was at best a pale distortion,
at worst a tempting testing ground.

Fallen angles all were we,
longing to be lifted up or,
through long-suffering, set free.

Wonder offers another way
of being consciously engaged
with the miracle of being.

Joe Grant, Still in the Storm

Saved from such spurious sanctimony
by irrepressible curiosity
and undisciplined distractibility,

I always cracked my good eye,
to sneak a peek at more intriguing
living revelations and interesting relations.

When prayerful presence shifted
into wild welcome,
resistance turned to receptivity,
and this motivational movement,
from discipline to desire,
transformed attention-dissipation
into mutual loving attraction,
drawing back a curtain
to hospitality,
holy, brightened wide-awake-ness.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

May you fearlessly focus
loving attention on the tragic,
marvelous mysteries of life,

and with wide-eyed wondering,
let light in and love out
with every gracious gaze.

The practice of mindfulness is very simple.
You stop, you breathe,
and you still your mind.
You come home to yourself
so that you can enjoy the here
and now in every moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh

joe

Available here

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)