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.

Holy Humus

Text and Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain,
flourishing and yielding thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.

Mark 4:8

Seeker,
When was the last time you bared your soles to grace the ground?

Daily, we tread
or trample
a lush, living carpet.

Upon this thin floor
of muddy vitality
the elements of our existence depend.

What disdainfully we call dirt
(as in dirty) or soil (as in soiled)
is actually the miracle beneath!

People usually consider walking on water or air a miracle.
But the real miracle is not to walk either on water or thin air, but to walk on earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Our scriptural name
“ADAMAH” or “grounded one”,
describes our earthy roots.

“Human” reflects humble origins,
for we are “humus-beings,”
earthlings realized from sacred soil.

From dirt, Holy One formed “Adamah,” blowing breath of life into its nostrils.

Genesis 2:7

Dirt is no dead thing.
Each topsoil ounce holds countless communities,
billions of invisible microorganisms.

One in four forms of life
on our planet
thrives in the dank recesses beneath our soles.

Unseen and unknown decomposers
recycle the necessary elements of life
till even deserts bloom in their season.

Earth purifies water, absorbs waste,
and welcomes us back
to remake our husk into a life-giver.

Source of nourishment,
sacred soil provides raw material for reality,
and cradles the bones of our ancestors.

Humble Crumble
Tread gently the soil.
Beneath your feet, loved-ones sleep,
after years of toil.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

When walking the woods,
for the recovery of soul,
I cast my gaze upon leafy litter scattered about me.

Such mucky miracles, earthy wisdom, loamy lessons,
fruits and seeds of innumerable seasons,
strewn at my feet.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees takes off his shoes.

Elizabeth Barret Browning

While briefly living along the Amazon,
I was awed by immeasurable companies of crawlers
that cover every available centimeter of forest floor.

To this day, the aroma of wet leaves
carries me back
to Amazonian epiphanies—

from our insect planet
rooted in a film of mud,
every imaginable form of breathing life erupts;

from towering mahogany to scarlet macaws;
in over-abundance
known and named only by indigenous (landed) peoples.


In our fleeting lifespan we are gifted
with a multitude of graces
in three dimensions.

Illumined Grace gasps in wonder;
at sunsets, ocean vistas,
misty mountain peaks.

Dark Grace visits
in the panged embrace of suffering,
letting go and losing all we hold dear.

Earthed Grace
mixed into the messy busyness of living—
presents bounty revealed to the lowly, who are close to the ground.

It is left to mystics, prophets, poets, and
primal communities to re-mind us of the hallowed
ground upon which every sole stands and the
animating air that fills the lungs of each holy,
breathing body.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

With dusty hands and muddy feet,
let gratitude erupt for the blessing of being holy humus,
graced to walk humbly this goodly garden.

joe

Text and Images by Joe Grant © 2021

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

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

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

Land Listening

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

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

Luke 21: 29-32

Seeker,
What is the land trying to tell you?

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

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

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

Exodus 3:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Gustave Speth

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

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

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

Perspective

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

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

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

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

We are home
We are home

Jess X. Snow

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

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

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

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

joe

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

COMING SOON

Scratchings, Poems & More

by Joe Grant

Gratefully Grounded

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

How blest you lowly ones, you shall welcome the gift of earth.

Matthew 5:5

Seeker,
Have you yet realized today that it is all gift?

Lowliness presents a grounded perspective
that lays bare ignorance, illuminates frailty,
leaves space for learning, makes room for mystery.

For wisdom speaks of greatness
in small things, modest actions,
and humble people.

And respect for life (in every form),
is never, ever enough.
We are made for reverence!

You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel.

T.S. Eliot

Until we are awakened to astonishment,
upheld in awe, and buoyed by gratefulness,
though we may subsist, we may not be fully alive … yet.

From astounded, to awed, to grateful;
is the procession to wholly communion—
the fullness of sacramental living.

Humility unlocks gratitude,
so that grounded in gladness,
we might receive whatever life presents.

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

So much more than saying thank you,
great-fullness is the natural expression
of great-littleness.

To be grateful is to succumb
to a greater, evermore generous, bountiful Spirit
who inoculates us from profane (flat) living…

with wonder (remedy for boredom);
with awe (antidote to hubris);
with gratefulness (cure for cynicism).

Empty-handed humility
is crucial for a life
overflowing with abundance.

Gratitude fuels generosity;
the liberating giveaway of heart, mind, and spirit
that transforms an overfilled into a fulfilled life.

Humble Crumble
Tread gently the soil.
Beneath your feet, loved-ones sleep,
after years of toil.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Here lies the key to joy,
in the welcome embrace of what is given,
rather than being by acquisition driven.

While we might manufacture fun,
joy will not be fabricated;
it is gift, pure and simple and free!

Nor can joy be contained or withheld;
it is the fruit of sharing gracefully.
Only a great fool forgets to be grateful.

You we praise, Maker of earth,
of heaven, of the seas and all they contain.
You grant justice to oppressed people,
provide bread for hungry souls,
free captives, open blinded eyes, raise up those bowed down,
love just folk, protect strangers and uphold vulnerable lives.

Psalm 146:6-9

Love is not mearsured by how much we give
but by how little
we hold back.

Heartfelt Thanks!

joe

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

COMING SOON

SCRATCHINGS, Poems & More by Joseph Grant

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Creaturehood

(A version of this reflection was posted in 2017)

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Look closely at the ravens.
They do not sow or harvest.
They have neither storehouse nor barn.
Yet, Holy One sustains them.

Luke 12:24

Seeker,
When was the last time Nature made you whole?

Deprived of natural habitat
we retreat into the head,
to feast on flashing images, make ideas our daily bread.

No creature
is designed or destined
to be caged.

All are fashioned
freely to roam,
broadly to range.

Thus, the majestic magnetism of Creation
exerts a hold on the soul;
not merely as playground, but original living room.

God is ever at home,
it’s we who’ve gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart.

Woody wilds
still possess power to captivate,
for we but recently clambered down from trees.

Walking leafy woodland
we break out of a heady hermitage,
back to holy ground where all belong.

But how can we know creaturehood
until we recover relationship
with the soil and seasons of natural neighborhood.

The moment we step outdoors,
draw breath and wander the wilds,
observers no longer, but participants are we.

The real prayers are not the words,
but the attention that comes first.

Mary Oliver

Failing to thrive in artificial isolation,
nature deprivation
spawns synthetic spirituality—spiked with unholy dualism.

Denied organic connection,
inhumane nature concocts conditions
that alienation people from planet.

Consider multitudes,
brothers, sisters, neighbors all,
consigned to shanty-town, defined by suburban sprawl.

Expanding mega-cities
fostering amnesia about sacred sister species,
breeding disdain for creatures who creep or swim or fly.

Such earthy expressions of creaturehood,
with every right to livelihood,
have much to teach that sanctifies and makes us whole.

How many are your works, Holy One!
In wisdom you made them all;
earth is brimming with your creatures.

Psalm 104:24

Pilgrims, not exiles, on this planet,
we root for restoration;
to reclaim our place in an expanding universe.

Timeless rocks, endless stars,
expansive ocean depths, holy hills—
all living facets of Life that lives in us.

Wherever we pay attention,
Creation obliges with magnificent demonstrations
of gentleness, generosity, tenacity, liberation.

Remove the sandals from your feet,
for soulful is the ground beneath your soles.

Exodus 3:5

Without teachings from figs and fungus,
rocks, worms, and wrens,
how can we understand outlasting life?

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere;
the dew is never all dried at once;
a shower is forever falling;
vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset,
eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands,
each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.

John Muir

Are we not here to magnify munificence,
and do justice that paves the way for beauty—
truest trademark of our Maker?

Have we not power in our holy hands
to bring back balance,
and mirror magnanimity resplendent in Creation.

May you, this day, go out of your way
to let Nature school your soul
and restore Holy Creaturehood.

joe

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

Coming Soon!

SCRATCHINGS: Poems & More by Joe Grant

Let in De-Light

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

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

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

Matthew 6:23

Seeker,
What sights have you taken in today?

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

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

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

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

William Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 2:9

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

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

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

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

Talmud

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 51:10

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

joe

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

Coming Soon!

SCRATCHINGS: Poems & More by Joe Grant


Wild and Free

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

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

John 3:8

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

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

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

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

There are gale forces
that tear
lives apart,

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

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

John 20:22

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

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

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

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

celebrated sacredness
inextricably woven through
a tartan tapestry of being.

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

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

John Muir

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

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

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

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

Thomas Berry

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

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

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

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

Song of Amergin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joe

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