Re-Wilding Spirit

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilds.

Mark 1:12

Along the windswept edges of lives
and frayed fringes of land,
out-of-the-way and off-the-trail,

amid troubled times
of tension and transition,
where worrisome shifts in weather and mood

threaten a change of season
and the rupture of routine,
pedestrian predictability turns wild.

“What’s that over there?” (said the boy)
“It’s the wild,” said the mole
“Don’t fear it.”
“Imagine how we would be
if we were less afraid.”

Charlie Mackesy (The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse)

Here, alone with the Wild,
we are made accessible
to Spirit untamable.

Whether it’s a weedy window box
tangled hedge, cluttered creek
or overgrown lot, relentlessly reclaimed,

in lonely abandonment
wildness pushes through and cries out
to any be-wildered soul who cares to linger and listen.

By weeds are we saved,
whose stubborn resilience
rewilds and reclaims.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Migrating millions of us,
all round this swirling globe,
daily try to make our way home,

through bustling streets,
distracted days and weary nights,
ever searching, never finding, solace sorely sought.

And now, in the north,
as rusty leaves turned brittle
rasp in autumn bluster

their gilded refrain
interrupts the commute
with colorful proclamations

about release and relinquishment,
about the glories of losing and letting go,
about the necessary falling away.

The clearest way into the Universe
is through a forest wilderness.

John Muir – John of the Mountains

“The wilds,”
in whatever form
we come across them,

are those see-through states,
perforations that directly expose us
to raw outbreak of Spirit.

Not as a flight
nor to fight
this harsh honesty of Nature,

we can enter the wilds unguarded,
to encounter, be drawn down,
carried off, even blown away

by entanglements
that liberate breath
and captivate imagination.

There is only breathing
in the country of this moment
where everything touches everything else.

Mark Nepo

Made permeable in wilderness,
we are penetrated by a multitude
of miniscule and majestic triumphs and tragedies.

Coming home to the living land,
cast into a greater drift, the thicket of everything,
we walk right into wider, wilder mystery.

How fitting
to find such reclamation
in what are deemed “the wastes.”

In a cascade
of falling leaves and littered lives
may you come home,

grounded in enduring impermanence,
set free to saunter
and savor,

as you rejoin
the Wild
that longs to reclaim you.


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

Wild Wisdom

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

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

Matthew 3:3

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.


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


Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Let those with ears to hear listen.

Luke 8:8

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.

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.


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

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

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.

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

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.


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


Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:29

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,
shaken up,

Joe Grant, Scratchings


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