Darkly Delighted

Photo and Text by Joe Grant © 2021

By tender mercies divine, dawn breaks over us from on high,
to illumine all who inhabit darkness and death’s shadow
and guide our footsteps to pathways of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Seeker,
How do you welcome the dawning of new beginnings?

With fresh fires and Christmas lights,
those darkest days of the rolling year we mark,
to remember how everything starts in the dark.

Darker days carry danger and alienation
yet dakness also draws us together;
a time for dimming headlights so stars might find us.

Losing track of stars and seasons, we may
have robbed our children of awe-inspiring nocturnal
illustrations of spangled infinity and lunar regularity.
Disconnected and dissociated, we risk a self-infatuated
existence that leaves us at the mercy of our own
devices, far beyond the reach of the lowly wisdom
accessible only in the shadowy, disturbing delights of
essential darkness.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

This season of birth pangs and beginnings,
offers occasion to look lovingly back
over a year of gifts, of losses and of lessons.

Pained by opportunities missed,
and the violations of life and lifestyles,
still, we give abundant thanks.

With humility we acknowledge
failure to imagine more compassionate alternatives
in the brief brilliance of our existence.

Expectations

Tied together
are we
by hope
that is only ours to share.

In dark times,
senses hone and heighten.
readied for dread,
steadied for surprise.

Such happenings
we call breaking news
because they tell
of something breaking down or broken free.

There is gift between
these newly disturbing lines,
though rake for it, we must,
to unwrap its layers of burden.

Thus, we learn by living
to heed our fears,
so we are no longer
led by them.

Questioning each answer,
we listen a little longer
for wisdom deeper
echoing an older hoped-for promise
that we can indeed
rewire the tired workings
of this wan and weary world.

Wisdom and hope in tandem appear
when we coalesce,
panged and hungry, devoid of solutions,
discontented by fixes.

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

When humbly we realize
we don’t know where to go,
we are ready to be led into brighter days.

For those who seek the Spirit of Peace
abide in the tension between grief for all that is lost and never can be,
and gratitude for all that is given, an abundance of possibility.

We live in the fullness of time.
Every moment is God’s own good time, God’s kairos.
The whole thing boils down to giving ourselves in prayer
a chance to realize that we have what we seek.
We don’t have to rush after it.
It was there all the time and if we give it time,
it will make itself known to us.

Thomas Merton

May this new season lead you to dream and scheme,
starting with gratitude, softened by sorrows,
and sparked by longed for restoration.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here.

Scratchings invites one to explore a world of meaning delving deep beyond the surface to something truly human, truly spirit, truly personal. Challenged to ask the hard, difficult questions, the ones that come when you are deep in silence, or tending a garden, I found that Scratchings takes you on a path not necessarily where you will find the answers but to a profound engagement in the on-going and evolving search for truth. Your own. Touching a yesterday that opens gently into a tomorrow. A safe place to remember. A wonderful place to Dream.

  • Sr. Sue Scharfenberger, osu, Lima, Peru.

What Awaits?

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2021

Stay watchful and awake for neither day nor hour are known to you.

Matthew 25:13

Seeker,
Have you ever felt that everything has been waiting for you?

Enthralled by the wind-whisked waltz
of crinkled leaf casings
skittering across the path,

or blood-red berry bunches
glistening on stickled twigs
that decorate a crisp winter morning,

could it be ridiculous
to consider that all this
was just waiting, wanting, willing to be noticed?

What else might beauty be,
if not the beaming resonance
of being, fully recognized.

Landscape isn’t just matter.
It is actually alive, and it recalls us
into a mode of silence and solitude
where you can truly receive time
.

John O’Donohue

As we enter the umbra of ecological eclipse,
where earth and moon, stars and galaxies
are blotted and blotched by our own shadow,

surely now is the moment to incline ears to the ground,
and raise the gaze skyward
to heed the urgent appeal of this hour.

Before rushing headlong,
committed to compliance or rebellion,
first comes attentive watchfulness,

welcoming wild wisdom
offered by beauty and blight,
wordlessly proclaimed by nature.

For earth herself is hermitage,
miraculous, solitary sanctuary
silently spinning through spacious dark.

Revolving
Rolling dark to light
in endless revolution,
bright fades back to black.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Could contemplation,
simply understood and eagerly embraced,
be the art of attention, the practice of noticing?

Could such communing too
evolve into mutual conversation,
where a waiting world readily reveals itself to the watcher;

this golden morning,
this smoldering evening,
this patient blanket of night,

this breathy moment,
dressed up in delight and disturbance,
wanting to be noted and known?

In relation to the earth, we have been autistic for centuries.
Only now have we begun to listen with some attention
and with a willingness to respond to the earth’s demands
that we cease our industrial assault,
that we abandon our inner rage against the conditions of our earthly existence,
that we renew our participation in the grand liturgy of the universe.

Thomas Berry

Without willing attention,
waiting and watching,
listening and learning from lengthy conversations with life,

how can we enter
the fullness of now,
this appointed time, this critical hour?

Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall
Be silent, they try
To speak your

Name.
Listen to the living walls.

Thomas Merton

Counting down the days,
months and minutes
to global climate catastrophe,

the earth clock gives us a handful of years
to wake up and shake up
demented patterns and degrees of separation,

and alerts us to disastrous portents,
already in motion,
that await our children and theirs.

All the while, a living tapestry
anxiously anticipates our awakening,
waiting to welcome us home.

Awash in mass distraction,
with “virtual” misdirection
masquerading as reality,

may you awaken from hypnotic hallucination
to attend the miracles that await
in sights, sounds and scents all around.

Let Life lead us from the unreal into the real,
so together we might face all that awaits,
clear eyed and open hearted.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now 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