Wild Wisdom

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022


In the wilds a voice cries, “Ready the way …”

Matthew 3:3

Seeker,
What are you learning as you listen to life?

In countless company,
beneath a mottled canopy, I stand,
ankle-deep in matted green, head in the sway,

aware that before my arrival
multitudes have been raised here.
Others too have sprouted and withered.

Still more have roamed;
hunter and hunted,
forager and cultivated.

How many eyes now
watch over these woods,
as invisible voices call out through dark and day?

This sanctuary slope
with cloudy cathedral dome
that belongs to all and none,

through spiraling seasons,
shelters and supports
any who choose to visit and bide herein.

And the longer I linger,
still, slow, and steady,
place and person meld into mutual re-cognition.

I am but a collection of atoms more tightly bound to one another than to those surrounding.
I am an ecosystem, a world of bacteria, viruses, fungi without whose functions I could not exist.
I breathe in the sweet air of the trees around, breathe out carbon that they will use and return to me. I eat and drink their flesh, it forms my own, while I shed my skin walking among them, the dust of myself returning to enrich the earth.
I am one small part of this community, a node in the web of relationships that holds this place, that holds me in this place.
I am this place, and this place is I.

Marchelle Farrell

Only now can
wilder wisdom coalesce,
sensations that start to speak sense.

Of boundless hospitality:
Indiscriminate inclusion blossoms into wellbeing,
a complementarity of need and gift that makes us whole.

Of brevity and mortality:
The silent sweep of the vulture’s shadow
contrasts brightness with shades of impermanence.

Of expansive time:
To the zipping hummingbird I appear listless,
to the ancient Oak, but a flash, brief as a glinting leaf.

Of endless space:
A fiery streak across a spangled sky
highlights pilgrim photons, on epic journeys
to illuminate glassy eyes with points of perpetual light.

Sharing the elemental material of universe,
we claim essential connection
to neighborhood that is cosmic, galactic, solar and global,
as well as parochial and particular.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

So much to take in
with each brief breath,
mysteries to be supped and savored, never solved.

As distance dissipates,
disturbing veils of separation,
the prophetic cry of wilderness resounds

with welcome and warning
in language lost to all
but those “soiled” souls and hermit hearts.

I bind myself this day
To strength of sky
Radiance of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.

Attributed to Padraig of Armagh

May wisdom untamed delight and disrupt
you to the core and set you free
to cherish all within your arc of care.

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

Seeking Sanctuary

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

He would withdraw into the wilds for prayer.

Luke 5:16

Seeker,
How can we be sanctuary when life is under threat?

In an age considered Dark,
in a world lit by fire,
fugitives could find refuge beneath a temple spire.

Claiming protection,
begging intercessions rare,
“Sanctuary!” threatened voices might declare.

But where now to turn,
whose mercy to seek,
to safeguard a planet, to shield the weak,

when on that very altar
this living earth entire
wantonly is sacrificed to idols of desire?

As a person who aspires to live nonviolently —
knowing I will forever fall short —
I know I need sanctuary
if I want to loosen the grip
of our culture’s violence on me.

Parker Palmer

Decades ago,
at the end of my Amazonian sojourn,
I was urged to return to my “far away home”

by forest people
who introduced me to their leafy land,
renamed and reclaimed me.

Sent back to my ancestral shores
with heart rinsed clear,
I was inspired by an indigenous vision

of how we too might
listen and learn to fall in love again
with the sanctus sanctorum of the wilds.

Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision
all offered up on behalf of the earth.
Whatever our gift, we are called to give it
And to dance for the renewal of the world.
In return for the privilege of breath.

Robin Wall Kimmerer

What if cosmic wilderness itself
were one vast temple,
and jewel bright earth an exquisite sanctuary?

Imagine how such epiphanies might
reshape roles and responsibilities,
reframe cultures, reclaim rites and liturgies?

For the wild wisdom of love universal
teaches that whatsoever we do unto any
we surely do unto Thee, Source of all this is.

The moment we realize that we are all related, this planet becomes our home.
The birds flying in the sky are our kith and kin.
The deer and the rabbits in the forest are our brothers and sisters;
even tigers and elephants, snakes and earthworms are members of one Earth family.
The moment we have that sense of gratitude, we have a sense of reverential ecology.

Satish Kumar

May you heed the ceaseless choirs
that soak summer air with songs of praise
under an indigo sky.

May you join the chorus
clamoring for life, calling out for shelter,
a sacred haven in the heavens.

And may you offer
some form of sanctuary
to weary souls hungry for home.

In the end,
wildness waits us out
returning to reclaim ruination
and reweave with dripping vine
a softer sanctuary
that leads every kind of soul
to rest and restoration sublime.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

Love-Song

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Let those with ears to hear listen.

Luke 8:8

Seeker,
What do you hear with your ear to the ground?

In a wooded hermitage,
far from my inner-city house,
I am assaulted by noisy nocturnal quiet.

Beneath competing cacophonies
of cicadas, crickets, tree frogs and Katydids,
I am disturbed by a low and steady, rhythmic beat.

At first, I imagine I’ve somehow been tracked
to this remote refuge by those booming basses
that torment downtown nights.

Only to discover, with disturbed delight,
that I am hearing the throb
of my own pounding heart.

I only know that my need to listen more deeply
has been answered with an undoing that has
made me listen with my eyes, my heart, my skin
.

Mark Nepo

All night, all day long,
nature cries out to be heard;
the darker, the louder.

In Hermitage,
blaring quiet
demands ever deeper attention,

till buzzing chirp, screech, and croak
match the meter
of arterial pulse.

In order to learn a language
first we need remember how
to heed beyond hearing

not only those crowded cries
of living communities
resounding in the void,

but subtler resonances
below breathy commotion,
perceptive to sensitive souls

in reverberations felt
by soles bared before soil,
or the tremulous touch of air on skin.

For beneath windy tree stirrings
and cascading water chorus,
even mute stones ring to the music of the spheres,

each its own
sonorous expression
in love language universal.

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

Wiliam Shakespeare, As You Like It (Act II, Scene I)

As the world of flood, fire, and fanatical fury
careens toward climate and social collapse,
the desire to cry out in fearful anger roils and rises.

But apocalyptic rants
and prophetic remonstrations
wither against a firewall of denial and distraction.

Rather, it is quiet attention
that counters the will to conquer or ignore
by simply surrendering to quiet listening.

Resonances
Loving responses
that follow calamity
reveal Thy presence.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In all the shimmering vastness of space
we have yet to encounter another
life-making home anything close to ours.

Resilient and resource-full
this unlikely watery miracle
holds and keeps us all.

We who belong to earth,
who beyond her bounds
must cease to be.

I have arrived.
I am home.
In the here.
In the now.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Then let us direct
fearful hearts homeward,
as gently attentive to the mystery,

we re-root lives,
body and soul,
in life-giving land.

joe

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

Overview

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

Seeker,
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.

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

Enchanted

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Blessed the eyes that see what you see!
Luke 10:23

Seeker,
How are you startled, surprised, stunned by the wonder of being?

As a wee lad,
growing up in Scotland,
I wanted to believe in “faerie folk,”

convinced that lonely places would reveal
mischievous manifestations of nature:
a flash of color, a mournful song, a flittering light.

Rambling the outskirts, I ran into a rusty fox,
cradled a stickily hedgehog ball, caught an orange bellied newt,
studied speckled trout, squinted at hovering kestrels.

While chasing tiny flying dragons and damsels,
I heard a moaning in the wind,
and sensed a sigh in mist that makes everything mystical.

Though a working-class boy
in a post-industrial town,
I fell under the spell of wildness.

holding you here
leading you there
the song of a blackbird
the prints of deer

Thomas A. Clark

Charmed by nature’s muse,
transported to land beyond boredom
or detached observation,

choosing enchantment rekindles childlike curiosity,
sets the mind a-wandering,
lets imagination entertain other dimensions of being.

Disenchantment, first blush of cynicism,
denies the disturbing delights
of surprise, wonder, and humbling awe.

Even miserable moments
are lightened by lark-song
and tormented souls find solace in the wilds.

Are we not born breathless,
out-of-our-depth visionaries
made for mysticism
wrought for reverence?

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Indigenous imagination
evokes enchanted engagement
with a world still mysterious and magical.

Allured by natural beauty,
fascinated by resilience,
spirits echo the ancient song of gratefulness:

We have arrived
at the bright gate
of a gifted day

through strength of sun,
softness of air,
swiftness of water, stability of soil,

firmness of rock, shelter of shade,
chorus of creature kin,
and warm embrace of friendship.

Holy before, sacred above,
Spirit within,
homeland beneath, inside, all around.

It is good to be here,
with all of Thee
in the fullness of now.

Amid beauty and blight,
here are we remembered,
brought back where we belong,

Sacred is all, including us,
single, sacramental tapestry
saturated in soil, singing in trees.

Now at last are we home,
dearer and nearer
to every green and growing thing.

Falling in love with land
is but a first step on the
path to reclamation.

May enchantment expose you
to the magnanimity of nature,
with an expansive sense of soul.

For ours is the story of the land,
ours the song of the sea,
ours the saga of the sky.

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.

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

Celtic Canticle

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Seeing westerly clouds gather you declare, “Rain is coming”; and it does.
And as southern winds arise you say, “It will be hot”; and so it is
.

Luke 12:54-55


Seeker,
Where do you see possibilities for peace in lives possessed by violence?

Tilting toward solstice,
reading gathering clouds
that announce a warming season,

let us lean into the light,
away from death-dealing destruction
that soaks soil red,

and heed instead
urgent pleading from earth’s children
to root our lives in reverence.

May this ageless blessing song
lead us back around
to love’s own holy home ground.

Deep peace of quiet earth.
Blue-green mother of pearl, planet home,
your blessed bedrock, stony summits, rolling hills,
tilly fields, forests, and wetland moors,
deserts and dusty plains,
hold every growing thing.

The earth is our origin and destination.

John O’Donohue

Deep peace of running wave.
Blessed ever-flowing streams, wellsprings, falls,
pools and ponds, rolling rivers, limpid lakes,
churning surf and salty swirling seas,
all you holy waters that rise and rain down again,
sustaining bodies, refreshing spirits.

It is a curious situation that the sea,
from which life first arose
should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life.

Rachel Carson

Deep peace of flowing air.
Blessed ceaseless wind,
breezes soft and stirring,
gusting fresh and howling furious
that blow through every breathy being.

Praised be thee,
through Brother Wind,
air, cloudy and serene, and every form of weather.

Francis of Assisi

Deep peace of creature kin.
Blessed earthlings all, who climb and creep,
gallop, fly, slink, and swim.
And blessed every family of people
who upright wander, worry and wonder
at the tragic beauty of life’s tapestry.

Compassion can be lost as easily as species,
and when it goes, then plants and animals are sure to follow.

Charlie Elder

Deep peace of dark and day.
Blessed burning light-bringer,
our ever-glowing giver.
And blessed waxing-waning moon,
constant companion,
wave ruler, weaver of dreams and nightly lantern.

I will love the light for it shows me the way,
yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.

Og Mandino

Deep peace of shining stars.
Blessed diamond constellations,
pilgrim planets, scintillating galaxies, billowing nebulae,
a wondrous window to infinity that decorates timeless dark.

Let the waters settle and you will see
the moon and the stars mirrored in your being
.

Rumi

Deep peace of the font of life.
Sacred Source of chaotic creativity,
infusing compassion into every spiraled helix,
whose blessed boundless presence,
with benevolence universal,
bestows upon troubled times enduring peace.

For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.

Evelyn Underhill

In our language
one day we have named for the moon,
another for Saturn,

and the sacred day of rest
we dedicate
to our daystar.

What if we turned every Sun-day
into Earth-day,
and gave our holy home a weekly sabbath?

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy,
and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.
To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.

Wendell Berry

joe

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

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

Kindness Unbridled

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

In all things, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Matthew 7:12

Seeker,
Can you comprehend the depth of kindness you regularly receive and rely upon?

The world of our making
manufactures reasons for not taking care
by extolling and encouraging irresponsible segregations.

Spurious attempts at separation,
founded on fear,
disseminate dis-likeness that facilitates un-kindly-ness.

Deftly dissecting “me” from “you,”
dividing “us” from “them,”
and divorcing “them” from “Thee,”

provides plentiful permission
and ready dispensations from co-responsibility
in the global chain of lifegiving.

So subtle this mongering of menace
and marketing of deceit,
making “others” out of “us,”

that we expect to receive kindness
as personal entitlement;
mine to keep, not necessarily to share.

I read that Hindu sage Ramana Maharishi, when
asked how we should treat others, blithely replied,
“There are no others.”

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Oblivious to the disgrace of withholding care,
thankless taking denies us the joyful kinship of neighborhood;
antidote to alienation.

Sharing the elemental material of universe,
we claim essential connection
to neighborhood that is cosmic, galactic, solar and global,
as well as parochial and particular.

As neighborhood expands beyond locality into
belonging, as far as eye and heart and creative spirit
can carry, we find abundant opportunity to bear the
blessed burden of neighborly safe keeping, kin to each
and every kind of neighbor.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

So, as we gaze at a blessed-broken world,
weighing contribution with gain, investment over return,
or wondering about responsibility,

who is not tempted to seek absolution by redirecting culpability
and laying claim to righteousness without justice,
or restoration devoid of the requirement of loving kindness?

How easily moral campaigns,
religious fervor and political protests
degenerate into self-righteous rejections, denunciations, and denials?

Have you not already been told what is good
and what is required, this and only this:
act with justice, love with kindness,
and walk in humility with the Holy.

Micah 6:8

Any wakeful soul can perceive,
perpetually proclaimed in the harsh beauty of being,
that earth is kindness without bounds,

sacramental self-giving
in which no drop, or seed, or life is really wasted,
but lovingly received, reclaimed, and reformed.

And we need not traverse transcendental realms
nor explore the cosmic expanse
to contemplate the mysterious force of unbridled kindness.

A community practicing understanding and loving kindness
may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the Earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Neither moral rectitude nor cleverness
can release the humble healing power of compassion,
simply received and broadcast in joyfully being kind.

How might your life be transformed
by the graceful exchange of the kindly overflow
that saturates each moment of being?

How might this world be restored
by imitating free-gifted-ness, mirrored in nature,
that clears the way for compassionate care?

Worthiness

Extravagant love
yields creative abundance,
nothing left to waste.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

May you live holy human-kindness,
and claim your place in ever-giving neighborhood,
a conduit and catalyst for kindness unbridled.

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.

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

Seeker,
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
seeding.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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