And who is my neighbor?
How well do you know your neighbors, in countless form and living expression?
Saunter round your garden.
Loiter in the alley.
Stroll the street to the nearest strip of green.
As you go, practice the art of noticing,
attentive to sights, scents, sounds
that appeal to hungry senses.
Stop often, stoop low, regularly raise the gaze
and take in an all-round invitation to converse
with growing, crawling, chirping, scurrying neighbors.
In contemplative communion
unleash the personal sacralizing power
we could call “neighboring.”
By the name we have given ourselves, we are
of humus made, earthling keepers of a neighborhood
garden. Everywhere we care to look, around this
life-making planet, we uncover bonds and name
connections to neighbor in immeasurable emanation.
With Creation as cloister, neighbor-keepingJoe Grant, Scratchings
defines identity and calling, a pathway to ever deeper
identification and broader association with life-
Making subjects of objects,
getting to know our natural neighbors,
was how our ancestral family learned to thrive.
Now it seems, restoring reverence
for neighborhood balance
may be the way we relearn how to survive.
Given the depth of alienation,
and deadly repercussions
of social dislocation and spiritual misdirection,
could anything be more urgent
for the reclamation of humankind-ness
than a fulsome embrace of neighborhood, every part of it?
For how can we claim to love
what we care not
to notice, name, and know?
Our life is all grounded and rooted in love, and without love we may not live.Julian of Norwich
And what kind of neighbor fails to meet,
greet and daily respond to interactions
with nearest next of kin?
How well do you know the shrubs and trees
that give voice to breeze
or dense green tangles that decorate ground?
Do you marvel at swirling insect swarms
animated by sunlight slices,
or meditate on miraculous web-weavers?
Are you versed in bird psalms,
and fluent in the silent language of flowers
that sets the neighborhood abuzz?
A flower is made up of many non-flower elements,Thich Nhat Hahn
such as clouds, soil, and sunshine.
Without clouds and earth there could be no flower.
This is interbeing. The one is the result of the all.
What makes the all possible is the one.
For terminology illustrates value
and defines the quality of our relationship
to the living tapestry,
in our depth of endearment
as well as our
illusions of separation and supremacy.
“Scenery” and “environment”
cast natural life as a backdrop,
stage and setting for work or play.
But costly (neighbor) love is no sentimental excursion,
and authentic mysticism no transcendental escape.
Both require a plunge into the messy matter of reality.
Lead us from the unreal into the real …Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28
Be-wilderment becomes a prerequisite for wisdom
and wilderness remains our sanctuary
for soulful realignment.
It is our essential human nature
to seek connection,
to be neighborly.
is the language of prayer
and listening the language of love,
quiet, attentive neighboring
may even reveal
our road to redemption.
All who in roomy Spirithood resideJoe Grant, Scratchings
regularly are restored
by a loving overflow
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