Re-Presenting Ourselves

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

You will surely listen, but fail to comprehend,
and you will look, but fail to perceive.
For people’s hearts have calloused,
their ears hard of hearing, their eyes tight shut …

Matthew 13: 14-15

“Why don’t YOU go into the woods at night?”
a young Amazonian villager once quizzed me,
skeptical of my unearned status as “apprentice shaman.”

Only a true shaman
would venture out alone
to brave the dangers of the dark.

Laughter erupted when I admitted
to my fear of getting lost,
as he patiently explained, “the forest already knows you’re here!”

My soul turns into a tree,
And an animal, and a cloud bank.
Then changed and odd it comes home
And asks me questions. What should I reply?

Herman Hesse

Among those who study nature,
who let themselves be openly available
and willingly wander the wilds,

it is commonly understood
that when we stand still
and quietly present ourselves,

after only fifteen minutes
nature comes near, to reintroduce itself,
as life reaches in and curiously connects.

You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground

David Wagoner

In this shift from observer to participant,
lost in immersion,
we discover ourselves

soulfully inseparable,
forgetful of all delusions
of aloofness.

Beyond the transactions of
an outsider looking in
or an insider looking out,

presenting whole selves
without expectation or agenda,
we cross a threshold into a deeper conversation:

listening beyond hearing,
seeing being looking,
feeling beyond touching.

Once we give up our masks and excuses,
we are humbled
to accept the tenderness
of having nothing between us
and this thing we call life.

Mark Nepo

Now, tentative creature kin
creep close, then closer still,
to begin gentle reacquaintance and reclamation.

Such welcoming wisdom,
marvels and miracles beyond words,
free-gifted and broadly dispersed

await the self-gifting
and childlike aimless intention
of presenting and re-presenting ourselves,

ready to be received,
content to be captivated,
eager to be enchanted.

A garden stops you, shuts you up. It turns you under to its own purposes, sows its own gift: the knowledge that we are small and our seasons are brief. But if we harvest generosity and beauty, they will somehow, almost always, be enough.

Susan Clotfelter

In less than a lifetime,
as our human family doubles
to encompass eight billion souls,

pushing creature companions
to the brink and
consigning our children to unbearable alienation,

may you heed the urgent appeal
from the earth community entire,
that we rediscover our place in Creation’s chorus.

Sifting through crisis
our hearts open to gratefulness for this opportunity
that renews itself moment to moment in process—
an invitation to become
while discovering the fullness of who
we already are.

Marie Marchand

We might start with the simple yet seismic
fifteen-minute practice of re-presenting ourselves,
willing to be welcomed back and restored.

Seamless
Woven in oneness,
a single seamless garment,
leaving no loose ends.

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

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.

Re-Weeded
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.

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

Mystic Morning

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Very early, while still dark, he arose and went off to the wilds to pray.

Mark 1:35

Seeker,
When have you been awakened to the magnificence of morning?

Despite a limited apprehension
of the native tongue and tribal ways
of Amazonian villagers

who had home-schooled
me with stories
of the forest,

one astounding awakening
they introduced
was the soaking swirl of misty dawning.

Across decades of foggy memory
I can yet recall cool condensation
and shivering wakefulness

as I waded, chest-deep,
through a density of drawn down cloud,
leaving empty eddies in my wake.

It came as no surprise
to learn
that one of their prevalent images

for Inapprehensible Pervasive Presence,
is the sodden saturation
of heavy morning dew.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?

David Whyte, What to Remember When Waking

For sure there are diaphanous moments,
trying or translucent times
and special secret places,

where dimensions worn bare
and drowsy vulnerability
let imagination loose

to ruffle perception,
and unmask illusions
of what we believe we already understand.

Cold and shaking
through pain and passion
or tingling with exhilaration,

every shrouded form,
bathed in diffused light,
appears unmoored, shifting and drifting.

Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Mary Oliver

Now have we entered
wonderland,
where insight overrides oversight

and a diminished field of view
invokes visionary awareness we call astonishment
to untap the wisdom flow of “wonderstanding.”

Time stands still in the presence of the mystical now.

Dorothee Soelle

For any willing to be wakened
as well those disturbed, troubled
and restless souls,

morning breaks through
dark isolation and degrees of separation
to illumine unseen filaments of connection.

As dewdrops decorate webwork,
mystic stirrings reveal the reverberation
of every trembling, pained or grateful gasp.

Mindfully Misted
Sky sheds her sorrow
as heavy dew condenses
in wakeful soaking.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In my wooded hermitage
I am enticed out by treetop messengers
who call up the sun.

Speechless and quivering
I stand and stare,
wreathed in the gilded moistness of morning.

Facing a daily deluge
of delight and despair
and a world in sore disrepair,

may you meet the fresh day with peeled heart,
ready to be roused, rebaptized,
and doused in the dewy breath of life,

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

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

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