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

Into the Quiet

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

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

Matthew 13:16

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

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

Conditioned by saturating sound,
buzzing hum
and raucous rattle

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

With senses attuned
to subtler resonances
below sonic blast,

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

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


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

Wisdom of the Desert Hermits

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

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

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

joe

Available here

Scratchings by Joe Grant provides a fascinating journey showing the extraordinary wisdom and beauty found in the most ordinary of events. While appreciating events such as the beauty of a leaf falling and the often-unnoticed activities in the backyard of his inner city neighborhood, the journey also takes us far and wide from his childhood in Scotland, to his mission experience in the Amazon rainforest, and even to the site of genocidal massacre in Rwanda. Each episode draws the reader in with exquisite language and creates a picture that engages the imagination. The word play, rhyming, cadence and alliteration are delightful and evocative.

In a powerful section of his book called Epiphany, Joe reflects on the in-breaking moments of graced awareness:

To the awakened,
every sunrise is a first
brilliant blush of brand-new creation
each frigid breath suspended,
a sacramental exhalation
in conspiration of
spirit holy.

He goes on to write, “sometimes a singular ray pierces perception to jolt us into wakefulness with a radiant revelation that all ground is hallowed.”

This beautiful book is for me a meditation on our amazing yet troubled world. Joe’s book helps me to see the sacred mysteries which are all around us.

  • The Rev. Karl Ruttan, Ph.D., Episcopal priest and spiritual director

Neighboring

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:29

Seeker,
How well do you know your neighbors, in countless form and living expression?

Saunter round your garden.
Loiter in the alley.
Stroll the street to the nearest strip of green.

As you go, practice the art of noticing,
attentive to sights, scents, sounds
that appeal to hungry senses.

Stop often, stoop low, regularly raise the gaze
and take in an all-round invitation to converse
with growing, crawling, chirping, scurrying neighbors.

In contemplative communion
unleash the personal sacralizing power
we could call “neighboring.”

By the name we have given ourselves, we are
of humus made, earthling keepers of a neighborhood
garden. Everywhere we care to look, around this
life-making planet, we uncover bonds and name
connections to neighbor in immeasurable emanation.

With Creation as cloister, neighbor-keeping
defines identity and calling, a pathway to ever deeper
identification and broader association with life-
shaping entanglements.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Making subjects of objects,
getting to know our natural neighbors,
was how our ancestral family learned to thrive.

Now it seems, restoring reverence
for neighborhood balance
may be the way we relearn how to survive.

Given the depth of alienation,
and deadly repercussions
of social dislocation and spiritual misdirection,

could anything be more urgent
for the reclamation of humankind-ness
than a fulsome embrace of neighborhood, every part of it?

For how can we claim to love
what we care not
to notice, name, and know?

Our life is all grounded and rooted in love, and without love we may not live.

Julian of Norwich

And what kind of neighbor fails to meet,
greet and daily respond to interactions
with nearest next of kin?

How well do you know the shrubs and trees
that give voice to breeze
or dense green tangles that decorate ground?

Do you marvel at swirling insect swarms
animated by sunlight slices,
or meditate on miraculous web-weavers?

Are you versed in bird psalms,
and fluent in the silent language of flowers
that sets the neighborhood abuzz?

A flower is made up of many non-flower elements,
such as clouds, soil, and sunshine.
Without clouds and earth there could be no flower.
This is interbeing. The one is the result of the all.
What makes the all possible is the one.

Thich Nhat Hahn

For terminology illustrates value
and defines the quality of our relationship
to the living tapestry,

in our depth of endearment
as well as our
illusions of separation and supremacy.

“Scenery” and “environment”
cast natural life as a backdrop,
stage and setting for work or play.

But costly (neighbor) love is no sentimental excursion,
and authentic mysticism no transcendental escape.
Both require a plunge into the messy matter of reality.

Lead us from the unreal into the real …

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28

Be-wilderment becomes a prerequisite for wisdom
and wilderness remains our sanctuary
for soulful realignment.

It is our essential human nature
to seek connection,
to be neighborly.

Since silence
is the language of prayer
and listening the language of love,

quiet, attentive neighboring
may even reveal
our road to redemption.

All who in roomy Spirithood reside
regularly are restored
by a loving overflow
beyond retention
or restraint,
pressed
down,
shaken up,
and
freely
outpoured.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

joe

Available here

Scratchings is so much more than a collection of poetry and reflective verse. It is eye-opener, mindfulness-maker, veil-lifter, kinship-keeper. It is a portal into the sacred arising through the ordinary, an entryway into the soul-full-ness of every single thing. Joe’s in-sight and perception not only show us, they teach us: scratch the surface of any single thing and, indeed, you’ll find it lit from within; only “pay dues of attention” to any experience and you’ll find burning bushes at every turn. If you’re wanting a quick read, opt for a different book; if you want to linger with life and swim out into mystery, let Scratchings be your companion.

  • JoAnn Gates, Director of Knobs Haven Retreat Center, Loretto, Kentucky

Wide-eyed Wondering

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

Keep wakeful watch, praying that you do not enter the time of trial.

Mark 14:38

Seeker,
Does prayer lift you above or let you loose to explore the land of the living?

Decades ago,
when my eyes were
sharp and fresh,

I was blessed
to participate in an indigenous convocation
along the Xingu River in the Amazonian State of Pará.

Gathered in a remote rainforest encampment,
I wondered at the diversity displayed
by these drastically different forest folk.

Amid the hubbub of camp activity,
I noticed a pair of young men
excitedly pointing and chattering.

At their gentle encouragement
I hunkered with them,
trying to follow their raptured focus.

One youngster leaned over
and gingerly lifted a leathery leaf
to reveal a nest, small as an acorn cap.

Instantly three tiny gaping beaks emerged,
pink gullets readied for a nectar drip
from hovering hummingbird parents.

My astonishment at this natural wonder
was matched by awe and admiration
for these keen-eyed greenwood guardians.

Observation is
our portal
to fuller participation,

and walking with these
native communities
awakened in me wild childhood enchantments.

Eco-awakening is a truly profound moment
for the people blessed to have had this experience.
It rocks your world.
You now realize you had previously been a kind of refugee,
existentially and ecologically homeless,
disconnected from the very world from which you emerged at birth.

Bill Plotkin

No longer can nature be
mere display
for distant, detached appreciation.

Neither is life simply a backdrop,
raw material for hollowing out,
squaring circles and clear-cutting tangles.

For, in this grand cosmic affirmation,
whether awake or slumbering,
are we not already wrapped into endless cycles of giving?

The moment we step outside,
draw breath and walk into the wild
we are no longer observers, we are participants.

Joe Grant, Wandering and Welcome

I remember wondering,
as a pious child,
why we closed our eyes to pray,

lids shut tight,
no effort spared
to squeeze out a holy thought or saintly insight.

This broken world, I was taught,
was at best a pale distortion,
at worst a tempting testing ground.

Fallen angles all were we,
longing to be lifted up or,
through long-suffering, set free.

Wonder offers another way
of being consciously engaged
with the miracle of being.

Joe Grant, Still in the Storm

Saved from such spurious sanctimony
by irrepressible curiosity
and undisciplined distractibility,

I always cracked my good eye,
to sneak a peek at more intriguing
living revelations and interesting relations.

When prayerful presence shifted
into wild welcome,
resistance turned to receptivity,
and this motivational movement,
from discipline to desire,
transformed attention-dissipation
into mutual loving attraction,
drawing back a curtain
to hospitality,
holy, brightened wide-awake-ness.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

May you fearlessly focus
loving attention on the tragic,
marvelous mysteries of life,

and with wide-eyed wondering,
let light in and love out
with every gracious gaze.

The practice of mindfulness is very simple.
You stop, you breathe,
and you still your mind.
You come home to yourself
so that you can enjoy the here
and now in every moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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,
    author of Making Room: Soul-Deep Satisfaction Through Simple Living
    (Franciscan Media, 2021)

Becoming Human

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Foxes have holes,
birds of the air have nests,
but humankind
finds no place to lay its head.

Matthew 8:20

Seeker,
Where do you find restful restoration?

Being schooled in the art of becoming human
by tribal villagers
in the Amazonian heartland,

I learned an ancient truth
heretofore known only
to my primal forest-dwelling minders,

that this wooded, now-threatened expanse
is no accidental wilderness,
but rather the fruit of eons of deliberate, careful cultivation.

Imperceptibly, over uncountable seasons,
indigenous communities, in symbiotic collaboration,
shaped dense forest into lush, overabundant garden.

Woven into the weft
of this evergreen tapestry,
humans became integral balancers of interbeing.

Ethnobotanists attest that
wherever such original inhabitants
are removed from ancestral habitats,

forest, river, and mountains suffer,
biodiversity diminishes,
and shocked motherland mourns her helpers.

The natural world is the maternal source of our being…
the larger sacred community to which we belong.
To be alienated from this community is to become destitute
in all that makes us human.

Thomas Berry

Our self-inflicted extinction looming,
we wrestle with the existential question:
who are we becoming?

Facing a consequential crisis of identity
myriad daily decisions affect the quality of life,
ours and every other in the global garden.

And it is our most endangered indigenous kin,
guardians of planetary biodiversity,
who tend that narrow trail to human reclamation.

Scattered small-scale societies, sprung from soil,
cry out to us to cease and desist
from wanton devastation

and reclaim our birthright
as blessing rather than blight
on the face of the earth.

Why is it taking so long to believe
that if we hurt Nature
we hurt ourselves?

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami

Through story, ritual, and timeless practice,
artfully they illuminate intimate relationships
within a sacred web of interconnection,

re-minding us that the root and remedy
for chronic, soul-deep alienation
and restless homesickness

lies beneath our soles
before our eyes
and the tips of our fingers.

Everything that is in the heavens,
on the earth, and under the earth,
is penetrated with connectedness,
penetrated with relatedness.

Hildegard von Bingen

Like most of our kindred creatures,
human beings arrive
naked and needy.

The lifelong pilgrimage into personhood
requires regular inoculations from
the hubris of self-infatuated mastery,

for the wholeness we sorely seek
will not be found
in fruitless attempts at delusional dominion.

Before we can become who we really are,
we must become conscious of the fact
that the person who we think we are,
here and now, is at best an impostor and a stranger.

Thomas Merton

In a geological blink we find ourselves on the brink,
rudely awakening to the reality
that, beyond continued co-existence,

our soul-scape is defined by
how deeply we are willing to fall in love with,
to live into, and to learn from the very ground of our being.

No matter where wandering takes you,
sauntering on Sante Terre, may you
reverence holy ground, ever ready to welcome you home.

Wholly Grounded

Pilgrim feet find home,
each step gracing Holy Land
where sole touches soil.

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