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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings


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