Seedtime

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

This truth I tell,
unless a wheat grain falls into earth and dies,
it remains just a single grain;
but should it die there,
much fruit will it surely bear.

John 12: 24-25

Seeker,
How is hope planted or buried in the soil of these times?

Always surprising,
vibrant and verdant,
springtime softens winter sharpness.

Long has life languished,
in urgent anticipation
of a seasonal revolution,

aching for the return
of warmer rains
to seep into frosted corners

so leafy windblown casts
of a brittle past,
encrusted with toil and loss,

can soak and crumble
into loamy dark,
ready to receive

what we thought
had been buried
but was actually planted.

So subtly significant
this distinction
between burying and planting;

the slightest shift of intention,
attitude and expectation
can turn the motivation for interment;

from grave to ground,
committal to commitment,
dissipation to dispersal;

from scattered sprinkling
to soil seeding
with possibilities unseeable;

from sorrow-sodden lacrimation
to watering and quietly awaiting
tiny emerald eruptions of fragile hope.

I’ll plant and water, sow and weed,
Till not an inch of earth shows brown,
And take a vow of each small seed
To grow to greenness and renown …

Edith Nesbit

Being fallow, remaining receptive,
are more than the passive attitudes
of a lengthening season.

Seedtime requires furrowing—
willing breakdown and soul softening—
that openly permits promised renovation to root.

One barrier yet remains
impervious to malleable mercy:
the hard-baked clay of cynicism.

For the sin of the cynic
smugly rests in the presumption to already know,
thus allowing nothing new to root and grow.

The deep roots never doubt spring will come.

Marty Rubin

Empty within,
spare, cleared, scoured and bare,
surrounded by starkness and surrender,

such are the signals
of deeper discontent and disquiet
that prepare the soul for penetration.

Soil must be broken open,
seed broadly flung,
husk shed.

What feels like losing,
reckless abandon,
careless casting of life,

is but part
of the broader, longer
resignation and relinquishment;

of clenched fist,
of calloused cruelty,
of haughty disregard

that seek only to condemn,
control, contradict
the gush of grace.

This free-flowing seedtime shower
drenches and disturbs
to draw newness out through the crack.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Indeed the hardest part of growing new
is not giving up, but giving in
to the relentless rush of restoration.

To believe again,
through necessary change in mind and heart-sight,
that nothing is ever really lost or wasted.

For the worst and worn out
still is needed
to fertilize the new and freshly unexpected.

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have these two
housed as they are in the same body.

Mary Oliver

After a winter of lonely longing,
may you bury deep despair
and plant a joyful seed with tender care!

joe

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

Fresh Start

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

In the dark before dawn, he awoke and went into the wilds to pray.
Simon and his companions sought him out and finding him said,
‘Everyone is looking for you.’

Mark 1:35-37

Seeker,
What are you looking for in this fresh and fragile new year?

On the cusp of a year brand-new,
we wonder what to hold and what to let go;
means and mindsets that need to die, so newness now can grow.

Names and faces in hallowed memoriam held;
losses that will never leave us, lashed to our regret;
lessons we cannot afford to ignore or too quickly forget.

Upon this weathered threshold,
we dare not wish away
a past, now part of us, that brought us to brink of day.

They are what saves the world: who choose to grow
Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor

Mary Oliver, On Winter’s Margin

For we must believe in beginnings,
resist the draw to replicate or retain
previous patterns, expectations and well-practiced distain.

In mind and mode, already things have changed,
hopefully so will we.
For a start to be new and fresh, we really must break free.

Often we embark with committed resolve,
which quickly dissipates and leaves
as we fold back into the familiar that readily deceives.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

In policy and practicality,
what must we bring to an end,
so we might at least start to make amends?

Will we listen hard to injustice at the root,
reject rampant falsehood, face our fears within
to bravely embrace a wider truth so reconciling might begin?

Will we loose spirited imagination not ours,
to revise, renew and creatively restore
the scoured face of earth, scorched, parched and sore?

Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush …

R. S. Thomas

Though we may lack capacity
to realize what begs to be done,
still, can we decide who we each intend to become.

Reshaping community and beyond,
will require of us “good trouble”
to fins a pathway clear through all the smoke and rubble.

So in this dark before dawn
let wild soul searching start
for the Christ we must reclaim when our world is torn apart.

joe

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

Wintered Wisdom

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Like gatekeepers on the watch
whether at eventide, midnight dark and break of day,
ever vigilant stay!

Mark 13: 34-35

Seeker,
Before your much-needed shot in the arm,
what have you learned from this season of dark discontent?

Warily we waken
to winter’s deeper reason
as cautiously we welcome a chilly challenging season.

As north leans away
from our daystar’s angled rays,
we roll into a shadowland of shorter, starker days.

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!

William Shakespeare

Midwinter assured
our ancestors,
a terribly trying time:

a struggle for fuel and food
warmth and shelter,
to safeguard them till sunlight’s return.

Now watchful, we observe
companion creatures
endure seasonal hardships.

And the awakened among us
witness brutal weather ravage our kin,
denied adequate hearth and home.

But winter shoulders special graces
to draw us close
to the fire of each other

with storytelling,
sweet treats and new kindling,
to coax the light’s return.

Still it remains
a time of waiting and wondering;
ever watchful for:

danger and distress,
disease and disaster,
despair and delight.

Rather than decry
this shadowed season
in these terribly troubled times,

wintering urges us
to imitate
our creature-kin:

to prepare for it,
learn its lessons,
make space for its darker graces.

Wintry wisdom,
schools us to honor
and enter the dark together.

Those black sharp and flat
notes in our lives
are necessary keys to change and harmonies.

For in meandering course,
every life must traverse
many veiled valleys:

a dark night of the senses,
soul and spirit,
a long twilight of the earth.

Other shadowed vales appear:
Isolation and injustice,
climate calamity, deprivation, indignity.

Black indeed is the backdrop
upon which Creation
sparkles and glows.

Darkness everywhere lingers.
Even bright of day
births shadows.

For much of our brief span
we are blind to the breadth of beauty
and depth of tragedy.

Though we cannot see it,
a riot is silently running
just beneath our feet.

Even as winter looks
like desolation,
the wakeful perceive creation

in frenzied preparation
for another eruption
to meet resurgent radiation.

And while we decorate
this sacred cycle
in the gaudy garb of liturgy,

such solemnities,
and their heady abstractions,
insulate us from the shivering shock of raw reality.

Faith, hope, and love above all
do not let us flee life’s harsh splendor
by retreating into ideation.

What if for one day each being acknowledged the fear
and let it go? Suspended beliefs
opened their arms, drew strength
through earth, grass, rock, sand.

Melissa Shaw-Smith

With chilly bareness,
earth coaches us
about dying, watery light, necessarily difficult days.

And turning toward the light
we open ourselves
to life signs amid desolation.

Advent dark proclaims
that wrapped in humble solidarity
and fragile vulnerability

Emmanuel approaches:
One come to bide with us,
who cannot abide to be without us;

at one with all
our loves and losses,
aches and limitations.

So I say to one what I say to all: Keep awake!

Mark 13:37

joe

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

Being Well

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

A house is divided against itself will not be able to stand.

Mark 3: 25

Each day, in tragic tones,
pandemic exposes a world completely intertwined;
your wellbeing inextricably tied to mine.

Healing cannot be reduced
to mere self-preservation;
saving the strong by abandoning the frail.

For plagues carry
lessons in their lesions
and wisdom within their wounds.

Though forced to isolate and shelter
behind masks and shields,
a disease of the whole human body calls for corporate care.

The miniscule might of viral particles,
like grains of sand in machinery,
arrests and infects our every movement, meeting and market.

Stealing breath from our bodies,
and loved ones from our lives,
plague unmasks inequities and exposes vulnerabilities.

Yet every blight brings unwelcomed blessings.
Pandemic, like climate change, is a natural response
that carries remedies not retribution.

Every crisis intervenes to force a pause,
redirect energy
and rectify behavior.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

Intractable problems
require a totally different tack
than merely attacking symptoms.

The road to restoration
must first arrive at truth
before realizing reconciliation.

Whether we are ready or not,
disease, death and social disintegration
make no accommodation or exception for willful ignorance.

Perhaps humble truth-telling takes hold
with the admission that we cannot return
to mean old ways and wayward means.

A change of direction,
a radical reorientation
is required to achieve the remedy for our “mal-addictions.”

The greatest, most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble …They can never be solved, but only outgrown.

Carl Jung

Global emergencies
present us with the hard reality
that our world house remains deeply divided.

The priceless pearl within COVID’s shell
is the gift of a common cause,
a rallying reason for a whole human response.

Such unifying consciousness lays bare
a truth buried by profiteers and personal prosperity preachers;
that all shall be well only when all the family is made well.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

Abraham Lincoln, 1858

If a tree falls and blocks the trail,
we can expend our energy
hacking at the obstacle, refusing to be redirected.

Or, we can simply forge another path;
choose a new
or long-forgotten way to wellbeing.

In autumnal glory
nature leaves us lessons
about living by letting go.

“Relinquish the old
to make way for the new!”
in golden splendor she schools.

“This way of being
you dearly hold,
for wellness sake, you must let go.”

The books the Holy Spirit is writing are living.

Jean-Pierre DeCassaude

Undoubtedly this involves
a tectonic shift in mindset.
But first, hearts must be made malleable.

We transform transactions into relationships
by naming and claiming
and falling back into an economy of care.

May you tap that well
of great-fullness within
to release a reservoir of resources,

if not for ourselves,
then for the wellbeing of our children
all and every one.

joe

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

Humble-Hearted

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Wherever is your treasure, there too will be your heart.

Matthew 6:21

Seeker,
When has life required courage; living from your core?

There is so much we’ll never know,
far less we understand,
till wisdom in unknowing extends her guiding hand.

Thus, the universal scope
of our ignorance,
does not dim the tiny spark of comprehension.

A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit I shall put within you.

Ezekiel 36:26

One thing we know—
no matter how oblivious we appear—
there is a reliable rhythm to everything:

a flow and cycle of receive and release,
a give and take in constant exchange.
Whatever we put out, in the end, comes back.

Whether out of sync or sorts,
heaving and harried, drowsy and distracted,
distressed or disconnected,

we can recalibrate
the measure of each moment
to the pulse of life.

No mystic secret needed,
nor discipline austere,
just a heart-felt intention to be in unison.

We need only place a hand
upon that center of ache and desire,
to sense the throbbing tempo at our core.

When in secret I was shaped, my frame was not hidden from You.

Psalm 139:15

Weeks after conception
a tiny pump
begins to pulse and push.

Uninterrupted, this regularity
matches the meter of each breath,
till inevitably life leaves us.

To feel life-force coursing through us,
evokes awe—
with its tiny twinge of fear.

How many beats has your precious heart registered?
How many skipped? How many remain?
So fragile a force that that safeguards your life.

All complex creatures have hearts
and each human has a core,
a chamber of secret longings, and so much more.

Listen carefully to the master’s instructions,
and attend to them with the ear of your heart.

Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict

Consider trillions of beating hearts
in this synchronous second,
all working tirelessly to stay alive, somehow all connected.

The hearts of creatures,
tiny and tremendous,
made in the likeness.

Whether in gated communities and ghettos,
forests, fields and factories,
we all share a tenuous connection to aliveness:

a heart where every wound,
wonder, worry and woe,
is oxygenated, nourished and healed.

Such awesome awareness,
this incalculable, incessant beating
across a pearlescent pebble, spinning in the dark.

Put a gentle palm upon the chest,
and sense the Sacred
at the heart of it all.

In its quiet rhythms,
behold infinite-intimacy
with every beating being.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel

The pathway to heartfelt
understanding (standing under)
is humility.

And wonder ripens into awe
when hearts are humbled
by such smallness in the face of the infinite.

Give me a pure heart—that I may see Thee,
A humble heart—that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love – that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith—that I may abide in Thee.

Dag Hammarskjöld

joe

Find me on Facebook and Instagram@InTheStormStill
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
A new book by Joe Grant