Hermitage

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2022


Come away all by yourselves to a wild place and rest a while.

Mark 6:31

Seeker,
Where do you find reclamation, the welcome of the wilds?

Whether in the woods or by the water,
among the hills or on the rolling plains,
in desert, parkland, garden, or field,

there is no greater urgency
for us and all earth’s children
than to seek reclamation in the wilds.

The ancients who fled chocking cities
sought sanctuary in deserted places,
and in wildness found hermitage.

Here they listened
to living land and re-sourced themselves
in the deeper drift of wild time.

Here too, friendship they found,
solidarity in solitude,
communion in creaturehood.

And in the classroom of Creation,
received rest
and restoration.

Only by going alone in silence, without baggage,
can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness.

John Muir

Contemplating untamed wonders and spacious sky,
poets, artists, mystics, and primal communities
affirm nature as our native sanctuary,

holy ground whereupon we commune
with multiple mysterious and apparent
dimensions of being.

Here we find hermitage
not in the remote ‘holy house’ or shelter,
but in the wide-open that welcomes us home.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

John Muir

Our wayfaring ancestors
covered continents, navigated oceans,
scanned skies in search of self-understanding,

restlessly reaching for connection,
hoping to come into our own
in blessed, beautiful belonging.

I now inhabit an overcrowded world,
where solitude is rarely found,
and loneliness abounds.
So, when shades of separation
seep through the screen,
I steal myself beyond
the reach of restlessness
to the enchanted green.
Here, in wholesome communion,
aloneness is transfigured as isolation
melds into congregation.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In constant communion with sacred ground
indigenous wisdom
attests that nature-deprived cultures

who colonize to “civilize”
have exacerbated
rootless dislocation

with otherworldly spiritualities
that widen the wedge,
by desecrating and debasing our essential earthiness.

Such soul-sickness
has spawned a self-alienation
that threatens our very existence.

Reclamation

We cannot save Earth.
We can let the land reclaim
and welcome us home.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Still hermitage is calling us home,
ever ready to re-wild, body, spirit, soul,
waiting to re-enchant, wanting to make whole.

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

David Wagoner

May you make your way
to the quiet solitude of hermitage
and as you tread the sacred turf, let it lead you home.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
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,
    author of Making Room: Soul-Deep Satisfaction Through Simple Living
    (Franciscan Media, 2021)

Homecoming

Photo and Text by Joe Grant © 2021

People who dwell in darkness have seen great light,
and daylight has dawned on those who in death’s shadowland abide.

Matthew 4:16

As we welcome
the gratuitous gift
of one more daystar pilgrimage,

and the northern sweep of sphere
wobbles us back
into golden glare,

as we relentlessly roll on,
it is fitting to review ways and means
we need to leave in the shadows that stretch behind us.

For, together and apart,
long have we traversed a lonely wasteland
of extremes in climate, calamity, and confusion.

As ice melts, cultural crevasses expand
heated fissures in the fragile façade
of social and spiritual convention.

With raw humanity exposed,
our hurtful, vulnerable hearts on show,
we each must decide which way to go.

You know, now that anything can happen,
it’s hard to know what will, and what will you
do now that you know? What words will you say
now that you could say anything? What hands
will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you?

Joyce Sutphen

Now the promised light returns
to beckon us from clammy caves,
burn off fever dreams and delusions,

and entice us with the amazing grace
of being brought back together,
from isolation to congregation under the same sun.

In the reclamation of relationship,
we find our way out of the dumps,
and uncover treasure that truly matters
amid the rest of the mess.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In the wilds we are taught
to trust and listen to earth
who longingly waits to welcome us all home.

Yet the rocky road to homeland reclamation
is uneven terrain
that requires us to lighten the load.

In this lightening, lengthening season
may you cultivate contemplation and choose compassion,
in celebration of our whole earth community.

May you freely gift attention
to the needs of neighbors and nature
and decline the addictive poisons of distraction and division.

And may your come into your own
in a green and growing and goodly
sanctuary home.

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

Let this be your homecoming year
as you embrace a slower, lower, gentler,
quieter quality of presence,

so nature might reclaim you
and lead you to the rest
and restoration you sorely seek.

joe


A Personal Note
After ten years, this Still In The Storm blog will reflect a personal shift in my own life to include time shared in a new rural hermitage in the Holy Hills of Kentucky. You may notice this shift in focus and format in the year ahead.

I offer this poetic illustration as a grateful blessing to you for this new year.

Just when you think
you’re all by yourself by Joe Grant 

After a week of home internment
I stole away from my downtown hermitage
to a wilder woody place,
where I was sure no one else would be.

There, for some time I stood
by the pond where once a wood drake
dazed me
with red-eyed iridescence.

While drinking in delight
re-baptized by nature,
the raucous complaints of crows
roused me from reflection.

Looking up, I met the yellow stare
of a red-tailed hawk,
proudly perched,
pale breast to the wind,
as she monitored her domain.

Quietly we communed
before she swept majestically away,
and the song of Amergin,
ancient bard of the Celts, flew to mind:

I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Stag of Seven Tines,
I am Hawk on a Cliff,
I am shining tear of the Sun
I am fairest of flowers ... 

Realization came to light
as clouds shifted,
flooding land
with a brilliance that narrowed
eyes to a peep.

Here was I,
solitary but not alone,
and with slightest transmutation,
isolation evolved into solitude.

While no thing essentially changed,
everything glowed
with the golden welcome of the wilds.

Getting out of my head,
distance dissolved
to let me
let everything come near.

Though nothing had become clear,
I found myself
communing with congregations
of fair wildflowers
that glistened back
with smiles of sun-sparkled dew.
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

All Hallowed Be!

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Do not stop the little ones but let them all come near.
To the likes of these does the Hallowed Domain belong.

Matthew 19:14

Seeker,
What legacy are you leaving for the littlest?

Autumn arrives to decorate death,
and with fiery fullness lays a red carpet down
for stark winter’s dark approach.

Through this unspooling season,
we wonder and worry
about other changes still unfolding.

From the cavern of remembrances
a seasoned memory surfaces,
early echo from my Amazonian sojourn.

Once, while visiting communities
that toil in the muddy soil
of the rolling amber river,

the leader opened a sabbath gathering
with the call: “The world has changed!”
to which the gathered responded, “Thanks be to God!”

This was followed by the chant:
“The world is still changing!”
and the crowd released the cheer, “To God thanks be!”

Inner Eye
With only our eyes
so much do we overlook
that insight perceives.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

The terrors of climate catastrophe
and worsening devastations of global disease
can cloud even the clearsighted.

For the sake of our souls,
for our children and for theirs,
for the wellbeing of our creature kin,

urgently we need to listen longer
to the land from which we come
to which soon we shall return.

Over ever evolving eons,
earth has weathered
cataclysmic waves of extinction.

In a mere handful of centuries
catastrophic human “un-kind-ness”
has despoiled the soil, water, and air that all beings share.

Now, a fevered globe seeks to stem the chronic
contagion and contain the wastage of global consumer
culture. Though well-warned and informed, somehow,
we remain unwilling to weigh the cost of a consequential
truth:
Whatsoever we do unto neighborhood, we do unto ourselves.
And what, I wonder, will our children’s children say
as they bear the burden of our careless consumption?

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Weighing Worth
At what price this senseless squander,
who must pay the cost
that burdens children’s children
with life already lost?

Swamped by information,
wisdom out of view,
our scales all imbalanced,
our measurements askew.

Facing such distortion
lives no longer weigh the same,
some are offered privilege,
and others only pain.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In an all-hallowed home
we re-place holiness that points to “perfected”
with the “wholly-ness” of being completely connected.

As northerners traverse the liminal line,
rolling from equinox toward solstice,
and enter that “thinning time” of darkening days,

may we reverence
all earthling creatures
both of day and night,

and with gentlest care
daily demonstrate
what it means to let the children near.

Hallowed all are we,
each and every one,
under a weak and wintry sun.

For we have arrived
this hallowed day
through strength of sun,
softness of air,
swiftness of water,
stability of soil,
shelter of shade,
chorus of creatures,
and warm embrace of friendship:

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

and hallowed be the name
of all our earthy kin,
each a likeness of Thy image holy.

joe

Text and Images by Joe Grant © 2021

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here. To see more: inthestormstill.com

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

Autumnal Grace

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

I tell you truly,
unless a wheat grain falls down into the earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain.
But if it dies, it bears fruit abundantly.

John 12:24

Seeker,
Have you heard the call of fall?

If ever were offered three wishes—
as in the tales of children—
then my desire would be for autumn’s golden graces.

Three unexpected gateways to wholeness,
revealed in letting-go,
falling-down and giving-back.

Beguiled by beauty
we are left to choose
to rise to fall or fail to grow
by fruitlessly refusing to lose.


Joe Grant, Scratchings

If I could wish three graces for those I dearly love,
it would be these alone:
gratitude, tenderness and humility.

Fruit of wonder,
gratitude is gateway to joy,
turning lack, loss and letting-go into gilded gift.

Fruit of forgiveness,
tenderness opens the way to healing,
transfiguring pain into passion—love’s long shadow.

Fruit of failure,
humility is the low door to wisdom
growing us back down to earth.

Mirroring the setting sun,
these autumnal lessons are poured out
in resplendent hues, for us to pore over.

Like all presents, they come to life in the give-away.
For every golden gift withheld surely turns to lead
and weighs us down with worry or woe.

Relentless Rotation
Downfall to uprise;
seasonal revolution
that recycles life.


Joe Grant, Scratchings

Welcome, autumn’s invitation
to grow by smallness and surrender,
by putting down, by giving away, by letting go.

There is no happiness without thankfulness,
no healing without hurt,
no wisdom without diminishment.

Unleafing by Joe Grant (from Scratchings)
I watched a yellowed,
curling leaf
make a spiral descent
through still morning sunshine.

Twirling translucent, downward it danced,
tacitly visiting greener ranks,
before, ready and ruined,
it slipped earthward to the next station.

Suddenly, spinning free,
how gently it glided
to a final,

muddy rest … (read the rest of the poem here)

As this season slowly strips our landscape bare,
to surround us
in stark splendid death,

may you in thanksgiving
share the harvest,
and scatter the seeds of dreams to come.

And savoring the bounty of sunshine, showers,
soil and sweat, may you seed peace, sow forgiveness,
leave the leaves and let go!

joe
Text and Images by Joe Grant © 2021

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here. To see more: inthestormstill.com

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. A dreamer of sorts.

Wake Up and Wonder

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2021

God’s Realm is like
someone who scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day while
the sower sleeps and rises,
the seed sprouts and grows,
but just how, no-one knows.

Mark 4:26

(A version of this reflection was posted in 2018)

Seeker,
What will awaken you to the hidden wonders of this day?

If you are fortunate
to wake up warmly
under soft, clean sheets,

conjure the sun-drenched cotton,
gathered and washed, dyed and woven, stitched
where nimble fingers and sweat come cheaply.

For there are others
who emerge after a noisy night under a bypass,
wreathed in cardboard, nestled in newspaper.

That rumble of natural gas or electrical hum
fueled by Nature’s captured treasure,
releases long-coveted sunlight from primeval forests.

Consider those once-green hilltops,
clear-cut, gouged and blasted-bare,
and the communities reliant on this predatory production.

In order that we might live, stars in their millions,
tens of millions, hundreds of millions even, have died.
The iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones,
the oxygen that fills our lungs each time we take a breath
– all were cooked in the furnaces of stars
which expired long before the Earth was born.

Marcus Chown

Stepping into a steaming shower,
you are refreshed by waters redirected,
piped, purified and warmed,

mindful that clean water
still remains beyond the reach of millions,
who daily trek to standpipes, creeks and waterholes.

Now clad in underwear crafted in Bangladesh,
denim from Nicaragua, leather molded in Malaysia;
your body is swathed in the weary work of the world.

Cradling your steaming, morning brew,
from beans or leaves harvested in Sri Lanka or Guatemala,
you sip from a mug fired in a Chinese factory.

You smear your breakfast bread,
baked in a far-flung city,
with summer fruits, gathered from fields unknown.

And, savoring the rush of sweetness,
you reflect on other hungers unabated,
for warmth, food, friendship, and dignity.

Before even stepping outside, to inhale
the morning freshness with canticles of birdsong,
already you are gift-wrapped in a wonderfully wounded world.

While you slumbered, multitudes of unseen hands
worked land, shifted boxes, mined minerals,
to manufacture the material of your morning,

while good Earth relinquished
bounty of soil and rolling rivers
all to make each passing moment possible.

Radiance enlightens every morning
with the ageless interplay
of matter and energy, mixed with travail and tragedy.

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.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Spidery filaments
of mystery, misery, and magnificence
entwine, to entangle us all in daily communion.

This tracery of holy connection revealed by dewdrops,
shimmering breezes and sparkling sunlight,
along with the frantic flapping of life, trapped in tragedy.

When next you step into the web of morning,
wearing the world and wondering about the Source,
may you be grateful for each momentary connection.

Antidotes
For the bored, wonder.
For the cynic, gratefulness.
For the prideful, awe.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Only those who know
how blessed they are
can be blessing to others.

joe

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2021 All Rights Reserved

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

Coming Soon

SCRATCHINGS, Poems & More

By Joe Grant