Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Through Holy tenderness
a new dawn shall break over us,
enlightening all who dwell in shadowy death,
placing feet on the path to peace.

Luke 1:78-79

What vision carries you beyond the mess into the miracle of this moment?

Marvelous kaleidoscopic images of deep space
sparked a dusty memory
of an Amazonian night.

Around the fire,
my tribal companions pointed out swift lights
that disappeared as they silently swept the sky.

These satellites,
that briefly glinted reflected sunlight,
they named “foreign fires.”

As they described
the great scatter of flickering campfires
of their sky-world ancestors,

gleefully they noted how foreign lights,
on their nightly chase,
ever failed to reach them.

Seeing the Earth for the first time,
I could not help but love and cherish her.

Taylor Wang (Challenger Shuttle)

It might well be said
that what we see depends largely
on what we’re looking for,

including how hard, how deep,
how long we care to look,
and where we choose to focus.

For sure, there is enough
dark desolation in our days
to steel hearts and shutter eyes.

In times like these our ancestors
outstared the inky canvas of the heavens,
seeking guiding vision amid the sparks.

As distance shapes perception,
it takes a wide-angled perspective
to gain breadth of vision.

Adrift in an unfathomable cosmic field,
disorientation exposes us to humbling wisdom
that brings new awareness and insight to light.

On the return trip home,
gazing through 240,000 miles of space
toward the stars and planets from which I’d come,
I suddenly experienced the universe
as intelligent, loving, and harmonious.
My view of the planet was a glimpse of divinity.

Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14)

The overview effect is a documented response
among a rare group who break the bonds of gravity
and enter the great emptiness ungrounded.

Looking back on the whole holiness
of our blue-green haven,
these stellar navigators are universally overwhelmed.

If I could use only one word to describe the Earth as seen from the moon,
I would ignore both its size and color and search for a more elemental quality,
that of fragility. The Earth appears fragile above all else.

Michael Collins (Apollo 11)

From peeled eyes
to refracted lenses and radio telescopes,
long have we scoured the stars.

Now, a million miles into the velvet obscurity
a golden, shimmering mirror has unfurled,
to reflect scintillating vistas far beyond the scope of our seeing.

You realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing,
is everything that means anything to you –
all of history and poetry and music and art and death and birth and love,
tears and joy … You recognize that you are a piece of that total life…
and when you come back there’s a difference in that world now…

Russell Schweickart (Apollo 9)

May this colorful prism
enlighten the shadowed depths of myopic hubris
and liberate us from ideological and dogmatic prisons.

As we raise our gaze beyond this menacing moment
may these magnificent visions
place us on the path to spacious and gracious possibilities.


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