Into the Quiet

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

But blessed are your eyes and ears because they see and hear.

Matthew 13:16

Seeker,
Where do you enter quiet that clears eyes, ears, and heart?

Isn’t it astounding
what attentive senses perceive
when assaulted by stillness?

Conditioned by saturating sound,
buzzing hum
and raucous rattle

that punctuate bustling days
and perforate disturbed nights,
is it no wonder that soul-deep rest eludes us?

Acclimated to noisy living,
a first plunge into pervasive quiet gently soothes,
before shocking with wakefulness.

For quiet is never soundless.
The longer we listen, the more silence says,
in a thousand hushed and harsher voices.

Snap of Day
Have you heard the sound
when dawn cracks darkness open
as a crisp day breaks?

Joe Grant, Scratchings

And have you tried listening
beyond hearing,
to calm beneath commotion?

With senses attuned
to subtler resonances
below sonic blast,

softer cries and gentler invitations
disturb inner drumming,
when hammer and anvil are no longer on overdrive.

Behind traffic drone,
roaring high and rumbling around,
blended with the monotone of household machinery,

smaller sounds surface with the cries of neighbors,
creature chirps and all the calls
that rise above the woodwind symphony.

Companioning
Lean close to listen
until heartbeats harmonize
and spirit song rhymes.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Listen long enough
and become sensible
to rain-song and the hiss of mist.

As quiet turns inner turmoil tranquil,
even mountains,
clouds and stars too, start to speak.

Thus, the sacred salve of silence
heals and liberates
wordlessly.

No kind of communing
more intensely intimate
can there be
than bravely listening to life.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Our love-scape,
the breadth of
compassionate connections to life,

is defined
by how much,
and how long we care to listen.


Not all quiet [people] are humble,
but all humble [people] are quiet.

Wisdom of the Desert Hermits

Choosing the quiet,
and entering even quieter stillness,
liberates love for storm-tossed times.

Since listeners are lovers,
may you abide in a silent land
long enough to become a hushed healer

who let’s worried, harried hearts
know the primal peace
that surpasses understanding.

joe

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

Neighboring

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:29

Seeker,
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-keeping
defines identity and calling, a pathway to ever deeper
identification and broader association with life-
shaping entanglements.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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,
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.

Thich Nhat Hahn

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.

Since silence
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 reside
regularly are restored
by a loving overflow
beyond retention
or restraint,
pressed
down,
shaken up,
and
freely
outpoured.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

joe

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

Wake Up to Wilderness

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

I am a wilderness voice, shouting,
“Straighten a pathway for the Holy.”

John1:23

Seeker,
What awakens you to the wilderness cry?

Light lengthens,
flowing inexorably toward equinox,
and all round the northern rim spring is tightly coiled.

Reeling from the roar
and wanton wastage of war,
we worry as history predictably rhymes.

In confused wastelands
of ash and rubble
where precious lives lie cruelly crushed,

behind suffocating smoke and sorrow
an ancient ache heaves and sighs for another way,
a different direction, a great turnaround.

Surely the era of domination,
supremacy, subjugation
has long since passed.

The wreckage of “civilization”
cries out
from monumental ruins and museums

broadcasting its humbling truth
that, sooner or later,
every empire must crumble.

Inevitably, under nature’s patient vigil,
monumental epochs and idols, return to dust—primordial
paste of recreation.
With stubborn tenacity, green shoots and soft
rains eventually expunge every trace of hubris, and with
gentle persistence welcome human-kin back into a greater
chorus, with the wild embrace of natural renovation.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

When the Carpenter’s Way became Roman Rule,
some returned to the life-affirming palace of wilderness,
to recover “eremos”- wild place of silent solitude.

These desert-dwelling hermits
sought to reclaim age-old
wisdom that inspires the poet, prophets and mystic in us.

Bewildered by nature, among untamed creature kin,
healing they sought
and hermitage they found, from …

imperial forces and slavish lifestyles,
the conquest of land and populations,
the commodification of Creation and canonization of violence.

We each must have two pockets …
In right pocket are the words,
“For my sake was the world created.”
In the left, “I am earth and ashes.”

Rabbi Bunam

While contentious cries, faded flags, false ideologies
rouse and rally masses
for the manufacture of death,

rooted in imperial domination,
consumer culture continues
to exact its toll on soil and soul.

Deprived of sacramental communion with the wilds
humus-beings seek solace in synthetic spiritualities
and distant, divorced divinities.

Deaf to the voice of wilderness,
how on earth do we recover hermitage,
solitude of the wilds that reclaims and leads us home?

Something sacred is coming this way.
That is how my ancestors would have said it.
In the midst of all this turmoil and confusion,
when we cannot clearly see the path before us,
when we feel trapped in a situation we cannot control,
then I believe the wise elders of my holy heritage
would climb to the high place of the heart,
draw the circle of reason and faith around them,
and stand to sing their prayers into the open sky of the history to come.
They would not shrink into a corner afraid,
but rise up to catch the first light of what was coming into being all around them.
We are living in a time of emergence.
We are the witnesses to a great renewal.
The world is full of the fear of birth and change,

Steven Charleston, Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, memeber of the Choctaw nation

joe

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.

Loving Land

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2022

“Love the Holy One with all heart, soul, and mind.”
This is the great and first command. The second is:
“Love every neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22: 37-39

Seeker,
What do you hear when you listen to the language of land?

Despite surging storms and challenging climate
that make for inhospitable terrain,
land upholds us all the same,

we who are forged from it,
ever belong to it
and all too soon return to it.

So much more than soil,
storehouse, shelter, sanctuary,
and final resting place,

we cannot
fully understand
this ground of our being

we use
and become used to,
until we learn to love land.

We may be attached
to native landscapes,
and claim territorial identity,

but practical politics, religion,
and corporate cultivation reveal
relationships rooted in ownership, utility, and commodity.

Inseparable

How Thou loves this world,
all and every bit of it,
inseparably!

Joe Grant , Scratchings

Every lasting life-giving relationship
starts with love,
or the possibility of it.

Consider the loving,
living and dying
crammed into an inch of topsoil.

Since love liberates,
none can claim
to possess or use what they truly love.

In a global neighborhood garden,
love-of-land is an organic expression
of love of neighbor and Maker.

Conscious connection entices us
to fall in love with enchanting sea, sky, star,
and landscapes that decorate wakeful existence.

And wakefulness carries
an urgent appeal to profess
our love for every expression of land.

Perspective

Wilderness people
see a garden in waiting,
grace-land not wasteland.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Timeless indigenous wisdom
reveals we are neither visitors, nor aliens
nor exiles on this holy home.

And with colorful ritual and archetypal story
they illustrate
how we emerge from earth.

Penetrating heady shades of separation
primal people
safeguard the humbling truth

that earthlings, of humus-made,
are land waking upright,
ground embodied, aware of itself, ever outreaching.

The relief we seek is right under our feet…
If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth,
we will have enough love strength and awakening
to look after ourselves and the Earth so that both can thrive.

Thich Nhat Hanh

When heeded, the wildness within
that bridges soul to soil,
becomes a conduit to passion and compassion.

May you know in the sinew of your soul
land that is willing, wanting, waiting to welcome you,
not as exile or explorer, but as pilgrim on holy home-ground.

May you fall deeply in love ,
and become intimate with your humus-ness,
before your bones go back to it.

May you widen the arc of kinship care,
and celebrate your creaturehood
as you reach for the roots of an indigenous spirit.

May you put the “w” back on “w-holly”
so your rounded, re-wilded heart
might make room for a wider embrace of life.

May you hear the windy wilderness cry:
“Welcome back, welcome home,
how we have all missed you.”


joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
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