Re-Wilding Spirit

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilds.

Mark 1:12

Along the windswept edges of lives
and frayed fringes of land,
out-of-the-way and off-the-trail,

amid troubled times
of tension and transition,
where worrisome shifts in weather and mood

threaten a change of season
and the rupture of routine,
pedestrian predictability turns wild.

“What’s that over there?” (said the boy)
“It’s the wild,” said the mole
“Don’t fear it.”
“Imagine how we would be
if we were less afraid.”

Charlie Mackesy (The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse)

Here, alone with the Wild,
we are made accessible
to Spirit untamable.

Whether it’s a weedy window box
tangled hedge, cluttered creek
or overgrown lot, relentlessly reclaimed,

in lonely abandonment
wildness pushes through and cries out
to any be-wildered soul who cares to linger and listen.

By weeds are we saved,
whose stubborn resilience
rewilds and reclaims.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Migrating millions of us,
all round this swirling globe,
daily try to make our way home,

through bustling streets,
distracted days and weary nights,
ever searching, never finding, solace sorely sought.

And now, in the north,
as rusty leaves turned brittle
rasp in autumn bluster

their gilded refrain
interrupts the commute
with colorful proclamations

about release and relinquishment,
about the glories of losing and letting go,
about the necessary falling away.

The clearest way into the Universe
is through a forest wilderness.

John Muir – John of the Mountains

“The wilds,”
in whatever form
we come across them,

are those see-through states,
perforations that directly expose us
to raw outbreak of Spirit.

Not as a flight
nor to fight
this harsh honesty of Nature,

we can enter the wilds unguarded,
to encounter, be drawn down,
carried off, even blown away

by entanglements
that liberate breath
and captivate imagination.

There is only breathing
in the country of this moment
where everything touches everything else.

Mark Nepo

Made permeable in wilderness,
we are penetrated by a multitude
of miniscule and majestic triumphs and tragedies.

Coming home to the living land,
cast into a greater drift, the thicket of everything,
we walk right into wider, wilder mystery.

How fitting
to find such reclamation
in what are deemed “the wastes.”

In a cascade
of falling leaves and littered lives
may you come home,

grounded in enduring impermanence,
set free to saunter
and savor,

as you rejoin
the Wild
that longs to reclaim you.


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

Mystic Morning

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Very early, while still dark, he arose and went off to the wilds to pray.

Mark 1:35

When have you been awakened to the magnificence of morning?

Despite a limited apprehension
of the native tongue and tribal ways
of Amazonian villagers

who had home-schooled
me with stories
of the forest,

one astounding awakening
they introduced
was the soaking swirl of misty dawning.

Across decades of foggy memory
I can yet recall cool condensation
and shivering wakefulness

as I waded, chest-deep,
through a density of drawn down cloud,
leaving empty eddies in my wake.

It came as no surprise
to learn
that one of their prevalent images

for Inapprehensible Pervasive Presence,
is the sodden saturation
of heavy morning dew.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?

David Whyte, What to Remember When Waking

For sure there are diaphanous moments,
trying or translucent times
and special secret places,

where dimensions worn bare
and drowsy vulnerability
let imagination loose

to ruffle perception,
and unmask illusions
of what we believe we already understand.

Cold and shaking
through pain and passion
or tingling with exhilaration,

every shrouded form,
bathed in diffused light,
appears unmoored, shifting and drifting.

Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Mary Oliver

Now have we entered
where insight overrides oversight

and a diminished field of view
invokes visionary awareness we call astonishment
to untap the wisdom flow of “wonderstanding.”

Time stands still in the presence of the mystical now.

Dorothee Soelle

For any willing to be wakened
as well those disturbed, troubled
and restless souls,

morning breaks through
dark isolation and degrees of separation
to illumine unseen filaments of connection.

As dewdrops decorate webwork,
mystic stirrings reveal the reverberation
of every trembling, pained or grateful gasp.

Mindfully Misted
Sky sheds her sorrow
as heavy dew condenses
in wakeful soaking.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In my wooded hermitage
I am enticed out by treetop messengers
who call up the sun.

Speechless and quivering
I stand and stare,
wreathed in the gilded moistness of morning.

Facing a daily deluge
of delight and despair
and a world in sore disrepair,

may you meet the fresh day with peeled heart,
ready to be roused, rebaptized,
and doused in the dewy breath of life,


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