Land Listening

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Notice the figs and other trees;
as soon as their leaves sprout
you can see for yourselves
that summer comes near.
So, when you see these things taking place,
know too that God’s Realm approaches.

Luke 21: 29-32

Seeker,
What is the land trying to tell you?

Though we might speed
through thin air
and on inflated wheels roll around

still our feet,
sooner or later,
must surely grace holy ground.

Bare your soles,
for this land
on which you stand is sacred.

Exodus 3:5

We might reduce the land
beneath and around us
to a resource, ready to be developed or exploited,

for it is foundation and
source of sustenance,
as well as sheltering living room.

We might perhaps perceive our selves
elevated, beyond earth,
supreme among beings.

And we might even harbor
the delusional grandeur
that timeless terrain is our exclusive domain.

Yet, before the stone-studded yard of graves,
the inevitability of being grounded
finally comes to rest.

For the soil beneath insulated soles
is but crumbled humus of long forgotten lives
that trod the clay before us.

And while we may ignore ground
disdain dirt, take earth for granted,
exhaust and despoil soil,

land has its own voice and,
heeded or not,
always has the last word.

If listening is love and love is listening,
then baring souls to greet the ground
becomes a radical act of adoration.

While we must toil to work the soil,
land needs to work on us,
and train us how to give and live in love.

I used to think the top global problems were
biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse
and climate change … I was wrong.
The top environmental problems are
selfishness, greed and apathy
and to deal with these we need
a spiritual and cultural transformation.

James Gustave Speth

Whether you realize it or not,
your home is already founded
on holy land, and everywhere,

in urban sprawl, deserted plain,
seashore, wood or mountain,
sacred sanctuary craves your presence.

Neither exiles, orphans, nor accidental tourists,
but pilgrims are we
always sauntering on “Sante Terre” – Holy Ground.

Perspective

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

With the land itself as hermitage,
each leaf and blade of grass
offers a wide welcome home.

And amid a daily information deluge
ageless ground invites immersion
into the deep drift of untamed time.

Wider than heady self-preoccupations,
interiority and conceptual contemplation,
listening to land penetrates us with wild presence.

Here we remember the carbon of our body
was birthed from stardust
Here, with no land left to push us off
of we create Home amongst the stars
Here, shining, whole, and a hundred
unseeable colors
We are a migrant constellation

We are home
We are home

Jess X. Snow

Though we belong to earth,
pervasive alienation reveals that
we have lost our place in the chorus of creation.

So, we listen
not to save Earth
but to be restored and reclaimed by land.

With patient urgency earth aches
for us to end this self-imposed
exile from sacred soil.

So, as you listen to the land
may earth also listen through you
till you receive and share Ceud Mìle Fàilte
–a hundred thousand welcomes-home!

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

COMING SOON

Scratchings, Poems & More

by Joe Grant

Let in De-Light

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

[A version of this reflection was first posted in 2016]

If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 6:23

Seeker,
What sights have you taken in today?

Looking back to childhood,
I am struck
by how often we had our windows cleaned.

Every other week,
with ladder, bucket and cloth,
a window-cleaner appeared.

After a splash and squeaky wipe,
crystal clarity
brought into sharper focus beauty and blight.

If the doors of perception were cleansed
all would appear as it is, infinite.

William Blake

With each passing moment
countless images flicker
before ever-hungry eyes.

Such a volume of visual stimulation
illuminates optic nerves
and fires frenzied neurons in our brains.

Cascading thoughts,
ideas, visions, sensations
course through our pulsing center.

Picture the graphic noise
that illustrates
the news of just one day:

moving messages and retinal flashes,
tinted by culture, colored by ideology,
perspective refracted through passion and pain.

What today have you seen or selected,
overlooked or filtered,
blindly blocked or deftly deflected?

No eye has yet seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived,
what the Holy One has is store for those who love.

1 Corinthians 2:9

Whether clouded by confusion,
fogged by anger, steamed with passion,
smudged by cynicism,

or made dusty with distraction;
the opaque lens of the soul
requires regular wiping,

so we might cut through clutter to clarity,
and welcome what life presents
with the fresh bright eyes of a child.

We don’t see things as THEY are.
We see things as WE are.

Talmud

If you are intent on neighbor-keeping,
with a head for justice and a tender heart,
it helps each day to cleanse the lens.

Nor dare we disregard darkness,
or close our lids to problem and pain,
but rather rinse insight in mercy’s rain.

When the world looks only grimy,
when hope and possibility are obscured,
that’s the time for window-wiping, to let in delight.

Clean the pains with wonder and lament,
for the tears of sorrow and laughter you share,
let in delight to dissipate despair.

Create in me a wiped-clean heart,
and place within a fresh and steady spirit.

Psalm 51:10

No matter where your eyes come to rest,
may you look long and lovingly,
till delight breaks in and brightens.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Coming Soon!

SCRATCHINGS: Poems & More by Joe Grant


Wild and Free

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Wind blows where it will.
You hear the sound,
and know not whence it came nor where it’s bound.
So it is with any of Spirit born.

John 3:8

Seeker,
What kind of spirit can bring you back to life?

There are people we know,
bound and bonded by grinding grievance,
compelled by forces of fear and disdain.

There are others,
animated, illuminated
liberated by fire without ire;

a twinkle of joy,
shining through sorrow
that erupts in magnanimous generosity.

There are gale forces
that tear
lives apart,

and there are
softly spoken promises
that breathe us back together.

He breathed over them saying, ‘Receive the Spirit Holy.

John 20:22

Even in a stagnant sea,
a lithe and feral spirit
in the deep swims free.

Out of stardust and cosmic debris,
out of failure and loss,
out of despairing depths,

an untamable, irrepressible,
tenacious force
groans to breach the surface.

The Celts of old,
like endangered indigenous
forest-dwellers today,

celebrated sacredness
inextricably woven through
a tartan tapestry of being.

The power of imagination makes us infinite.
When we tug at a single thing in nature,
we find it attached to the rest of the world …

So into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.
Most people are on the world, not in it …
In wildness lies the hope of the world.

John Muir

Persistent and enduring
Spirit still inspires sentience
and brings being freshly and freely to life.

In brilliance
that illuminates day,
and seeds timeless dark with sparkles,

ageless interactions and explosive obliterations
broadcast elemental energy to fertilize the void
and bring us to this shimmering moment.

We lose our souls
if we lose the experience of the forest,
the butterflies,
the song of the birds
if we can’t see the stars at night.

Thomas Berry

To those of wild wind born
the desecration of the great green
reflects a sickness of soul,

a fundamental lack
of humankindness,
that betrays a refusal to recognize

and reverence holy kinship
in miraculous emanation.
For environmental devastation surely follows nature deprivation.

I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Stag of Seven Tines,
I am Hawk on Cliff ….

Song of Amergin

Such unfreedom is a byproduct
of beings ungrounded,
imprisoned in the isolation of individualism.

Calibrated by electronic information,
life and livelihood is no longer synchronized
to cycles of seedtime and harvest, fall and fallow.

Infected by otherworldly pieties,
that seek to flee a “vale of tears”
for a higher, purer plane,

adherents gaze heavenward,
encouraged to disregard
(soiled, dirty, mucky, base) earth and her beasts.

Such disembodied devotions
render religiosity cerebral and
fearfully disparage earthy fertility as seductive and sinful.

The radical remedy
offered by folk well-grounded in wilderness
is the liberating embrace of holy creaturehood.

May you recover the holy ground of being,
breathe a freshness to blow your mind
and set free your love for this lovely world.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Good Grief

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

While they were deep in discussion,
Jesus approached incognito and went along with them.
‘What are you talking about?’ he asked.
They stood there, distressed.

Luke 24: 15-17

Seeker,
During these difficult days, what deep concerns do you carry?

When bereft,
we need others to help find our bearings,
for burdens shared are halved.

And good grief work,
a communion of sorrow and sadness,
unearths hard-won wisdom.

But first we must grieve
what is lost,
acknowledge what is broken

so that in the morning of mourning
hearts and lives can crack
and poured-out pain becomes love.

Unless we transfigure pain, we transmit it.

Richard Rohr

Each loss breaks to remake us
within this lovely shadow
where Holy One abides.

Thus, healing starts
with the humble admission,
of a heart’s desire for wholeness.

And deep transformation goes mostly unseen
till unexpected life resurges,
changed and still familiar.

This grief leads to goodness;
the salve in salvation, the return of redemption,
the resurgence called resurrection.

Grieving together readies
the road to resurrection,
proposing no escape from trial or tears,

but promising a wide-wounded welcome,
in solidarity with tangible sufferings
and alienations all.

What would you harvest from heartache and pain
if you understood loss as a way to regain
the never-forsaken terrain of belonging?

Bernadette Miller

As we listen to uprisings
whispered in the
winds of change,

and attend
to sighs of loss, cries of pain
that blow through us and around,

clouded eyes clarify to gaze afresh
at living lessons in abundant display
in the school of Creation.

First, foremost,
and to the last,
gardeners all are we.

Relentless Rotation

Downfall to uprise;
seasonal revolution
that recycles life.

Joe Grant

Can you hear
the springtime song
of revolution?

Season of lightening days,
of preparing for planting,
of overturning land and exposing underlay,

of soil softening with showers,
of furrowing ground
for sowing and growing,

spring is hard to ignore.
Hopelessly distracted, sterile souls struggle
to remain impervious to its salacious allures.

As migrants wing
their way
on warmer winds,

milder nights begin to buzz
with the chirping meditations
of an insect chorus,

soon to be decorated with
luminous flickers
of dancing fireflies looking for love.

In our own way
we cooperate with
this irrepressible springtime arrival

that breaks through
pained separation
to welcome us back

into wider wellbeing and broader belonging;
transforming isolation
into wild, wonderful congregation.

Pressed and squeezed out of loss
this balm for heart and eye
has powerful transformative properties.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.

Teresa of Ávila

Resurrection requires
wide-eyed attention
and openhearted intention

to un-blinker vision,
unmask smiles,
dismantle fences from minds,

so newness can re-baptize us
with its penetrating
look of love.

We need not look far for resurrection.
Ultimately it depends on
what we are looking for and where we search.

Grieving grace ever abounds
as the wounded, holey Christ
hangs everywhere around.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT


Bloodshed to Watershed

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021


Put your sword away,
for all who pick up swords
perish by the sword.

Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 26:52)

Seeker,
How has gun violence touched your life?

At a weekly vigil
for homicide victims
this insight was shared:

Hurting people hurt people
and healing people
heal people.

An insight turned lethal
in a marketplace flooded
with murderous weaponry

that makes it much easier
to kill more people more efficiently
than ever before in our bloodied story.

Is there a sadder sign
of the victory of violence than
numbness to nightly gunshots?

In the crosshairs of a national epidemic
that daily claims hundreds of humans,
who stops to say the name?

Might this slow rolling genocide
be tolerable because mostly it steals
lives from lower-income communities of color?

Yet even when
collateral casualties
are lighter and littler

is this still considered the cost of living,
price-tag of personal freedom
that kills at will?


Violence is not completely fatal until it ceases to disturb us.

Thomas Merton

Such deadly derangement
fueled by
the merchandizing of weaponry,

draws us into
the self-fulfilling prophecy
that guns alone guarantee safety.

So we are left
at the mercy of militarized policing,
camouflaged militias, disaffected isolationists

well-equipped to transform a school day,
a traffic stop, a movie night,
a trip to store or synagogue into a bloody massacre.

Intoxicated by belligerence,
religionists engage in cultural warfare,
under the banner of “spiritual warriors.”

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be known
as God own.

Matthew 5:9

Before being arrested by an armed militia,
before being beaten and tortured,
before being shackled and imprisoned,

before being tried
in the courtyard
of mob delirium,

before the gruesome spectacle
of public execution,
and that last forgiving gasp,

a peacemaking enemy-lover
walked among exploited
terrorized, occupied people

and boldly proclaimed
a peaceable realm
of disarmed hearts and unfettered minds.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5: 44

This radical revolution
of the heart
if embraced by nations and neighborhoods

or courageously preached,
and witnessed
by prelates and politicians

would surely subvert
the tyranny of individualism
with a call to mutual co-responsibility.

It might even threaten
manufacturers and marketers
of divisiveness and deadly force.

The greatest challenge of the day is:
how to bring about a revolution of the heart,
a revolution that has to start with each one of us.

Dorothy Day

Passionately Christ still hangs
around bloodied crossroads
where violence claims another victim,

crying and pleading
for us
to put swords away,

calling us to transform
bloodshed into watershed
with a complete change in direction and motivation.

Gunshots in the night
ought to disturb
and keep us awake.

Because things do not have to be this way.
Because there is absolutely no glory in killing.
Because healing starts with acknowledging hurt as well as sickness.

May we …
choose not to ignore.
accept responsibility for a culture of fear.
name and claim victims and perpetrators of violence as kin.
reclaim humanity from brutality.
affirm that our wellbeing is bound together.

May it be so,
joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Via Dolorosa

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

They compelled a passerby called Simon from Cyrene,
to carry his cross up to Golgotha, the skull place.

Mark 15: 21-22

Seeker,
Who shares burden and brings light to these difficult days?

What a panged journey,
this year-long
trail to Calvary.

Breathless millions
have succumbed along the way,
ten times more wane under viral load.

No time to mourn,
and catch our breath
as we languish in lamentation.

Some walk with the afflicted
others keep their distance,
many more worry and in isolation wait.

When will the long shadow lift,
and the deep vale widen into bright, broad plain,
as we round the bend and flatten the curve?

No symbolic suffering
needed to sanctify
such sacred space and time.

Unwillingly we walk
the dolorous road,
compelled to bear the load of suffering shared.

Walking amid mournful mothers,
past empty churches
through streets deserted,

despite heroic efforts
and miraculous curatives,
death mutates as danger lingers.

Out of that empty spot of silence
where we feel helpless, embarrassed, and powerless,
where we suffer from our own impotence
to stop the reign of death in our world.
Out of those depths we cry to thee and say:
Lord have mercy.

Henri Nouwen

With springtime uprising
comes upwelling hope
and lengthening light that shrinks shadows.

Even as we long to unmask and breathe free,
hug and hold and wipe tears away
learning to live more carefully,

still must we bear these beams of love
to the shrine of the skull
facing up to cruel injustice that rules this land.

So we brace ourselves
for the last arduous steps
toward a new day,

leaning into each other,
looking for life signs
refusing to resign to despair.

Via Crucis by Joe Grant *

Though we choose to walk in
the footsteps of the condemned,
we refuse to relinquish hope.

Though we accept to accompany
the ones who suffer,
we do not yield to despair.

Though we offer to help shoulder
the burden of those rejected,
we are not vanquished by death.

Though we stand in solidarity
and witness the persecution of the innocent,
we are not resigned to apathy.

Though we wrestle with complicity
in the injustice around us
we refuse to be paralyzed.

Though we walk in the valley
of the shadow of death,
we shall not fear,

for with You
we find forgiveness
and peace.

Heal us with Your forgiveness.
Calm us with Your peace.
Inspire us with Your love.

*(Included in Engaging Spirituality)

Burdens shared are halved
and blessings shared are doubled.

David Steindl-Rast

May you share the weight of sorrow
and bring the burden of delight to bear
on our transition back to life,

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT

Restless Reclamation

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

So much in love with cosmos entire,
Holy One sent the Beloved,
that in believing all might know outlasting life.
For this very reason, was the Chosen One self-given,
not to condemn but to make whole the world.

John 3:16-17

Seeker,
What must be let go for love to reclaim you?

Have you noticed
a restlessness
all around and underground?

At long last,
the spell of dark discontent is breaking,
setting free a sprouting season of changeability.

All who wish to wake up
are invited into this miraculous melee
to let themselves be reclaimed in rejuvenation.

And there is work to do across the nation;
to furrow old crust, soften ruts,
and cleanse the land of poisons of the past.

This is how we ready ourselves for implanting
a message about wholeness and liberate love
from chains of persecution and patterns of privilege.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Bernice Johnson Reagon

In the bending and bowed trajectory of time
life is irresistibly drawn down
into a well of dying to be made new.

Down-falling and up-welling;
around these seasonal pivots
our whole whirling planet swivels.

From dying down to rising up
LIFE dances in sweeping
ceaseless choreography.

Transmuting death and decay,
with tenacious resilience,
self-giving regenerates and resurges.

Watered by loss,
such revolutionary surrender
by relinquishment is made tender.

Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.

Meister Eckhart

Where Divinity is love long-suffering,
condemnation evaporates
in the panged glare of compassion.

No thing
forever lost,
but upheld in unending restoration.

even in the quietest sense of disappearance,
even in the far distance of times beyond
our present understanding, we will be remembered
in the way others still live, and still live on, in our love.

David Whyte

In the upwelling,
extravagant love yields abundance
with breathtaking diversity: no wasted time nor wasted life.

Through concrete cracks and hairline fissures,
in barren lots, abandonment and ruination,
nature persists in perennial reclamation.

With life-giving love as motivation,
every sunrise offers ample opportunity,
to collaborate with care-filled renovation.

Willful and willing,
all participate in this lifegiving cycle;
loving by losing, living by forgiving.

So we grow
by shedding and releasing
to rejoin outpouring everlasting.

Through love, we are softened back into presence.
And through suffering, we are broken back into presence.
However we get there, dropping below the surface of things
returns us to the heart of all being, which sustains the kinship between all things…

Mark Nepo

Those familiar with wilderness
know wasteland
as a garden in waiting.

Every landscape offers lessons,
and with slight encouragements,
deserts bloom.

But desert living presumes patience,
demands readiness,
requires willingness to grow by giving.

Ravaged lands,
baked hard by exploitation
and careless disregard

present the most resilient,
efforts and irrepressible
expressions of creation.

By such weeds are we saved,
since here healing awaits us too;
tenacious tenderness in unexpected places.

Needs beyond us
draw out deeper love,
lead to bigger belonging and wider reclamation.

As you bare your soles to earthy softness
may it writhe and wriggle,
to tease and tickle newness out of you,

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A BOOK BY JOE GRANT