Homecoming

Photo and Text by Joe Grant © 2021

People who dwell in darkness have seen great light,
and daylight has dawned on those who in death’s shadowland abide.

Matthew 4:16

As we welcome
the gratuitous gift
of one more daystar pilgrimage,

and the northern sweep of sphere
wobbles us back
into golden glare,

as we relentlessly roll on,
it is fitting to review ways and means
we need to leave in the shadows that stretch behind us.

For, together and apart,
long have we traversed a lonely wasteland
of extremes in climate, calamity, and confusion.

As ice melts, cultural crevasses expand
heated fissures in the fragile façade
of social and spiritual convention.

With raw humanity exposed,
our hurtful, vulnerable hearts on show,
we each must decide which way to go.

You know, now that anything can happen,
it’s hard to know what will, and what will you
do now that you know? What words will you say
now that you could say anything? What hands
will you hold? Whose heart will beat inside you?

Joyce Sutphen

Now the promised light returns
to beckon us from clammy caves,
burn off fever dreams and delusions,

and entice us with the amazing grace
of being brought back together,
from isolation to congregation under the same sun.

In the reclamation of relationship,
we find our way out of the dumps,
and uncover treasure that truly matters
amid the rest of the mess.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In the wilds we are taught
to trust and listen to earth
who longingly waits to welcome us all home.

Yet the rocky road to homeland reclamation
is uneven terrain
that requires us to lighten the load.

In this lightening, lengthening season
may you cultivate contemplation and choose compassion,
in celebration of our whole earth community.

May you freely gift attention
to the needs of neighbors and nature
and decline the addictive poisons of distraction and division.

And may your come into your own
in a green and growing and goodly
sanctuary home.

What would you harvest from heartache and pain
if you understood loss as a way to regain
the never-forsaken terrain of belonging?

Bernadette Miller

Let this be your homecoming year
as you embrace a slower, lower, gentler,
quieter quality of presence,

so nature might reclaim you
and lead you to the rest
and restoration you sorely seek.

joe


A Personal Note
After ten years, this Still In The Storm blog will reflect a personal shift in my own life to include time shared in a new rural hermitage in the Holy Hills of Kentucky. You may notice this shift in focus and format in the year ahead.

I offer this poetic illustration as a grateful blessing to you for this new year.

Just when you think
you’re all by yourself by Joe Grant 

After a week of home internment
I stole away from my downtown hermitage
to a wilder woody place,
where I was sure no one else would be.

There, for some time I stood
by the pond where once a wood drake
dazed me
with red-eyed iridescence.

While drinking in delight
re-baptized by nature,
the raucous complaints of crows
roused me from reflection.

Looking up, I met the yellow stare
of a red-tailed hawk,
proudly perched,
pale breast to the wind,
as she monitored her domain.

Quietly we communed
before she swept majestically away,
and the song of Amergin,
ancient bard of the Celts, flew to mind:

I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Stag of Seven Tines,
I am Hawk on a Cliff,
I am shining tear of the Sun
I am fairest of flowers ... 

Realization came to light
as clouds shifted,
flooding land
with a brilliance that narrowed
eyes to a peep.

Here was I,
solitary but not alone,
and with slightest transmutation,
isolation evolved into solitude.

While no thing essentially changed,
everything glowed
with the golden welcome of the wilds.

Getting out of my head,
distance dissolved
to let me
let everything come near.

Though nothing had become clear,
I found myself
communing with congregations
of fair wildflowers
that glistened back
with smiles of sun-sparkled dew.
Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
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

What Awaits?

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2021

Stay watchful and awake for neither day nor hour are known to you.

Matthew 25:13

Seeker,
Have you ever felt that everything has been waiting for you?

Enthralled by the wind-whisked waltz
of crinkled leaf casings
skittering across the path,

or blood-red berry bunches
glistening on stickled twigs
that decorate a crisp winter morning,

could it be ridiculous
to consider that all this
was just waiting, wanting, willing to be noticed?

What else might beauty be,
if not the beaming resonance
of being, fully recognized.

Landscape isn’t just matter.
It is actually alive, and it recalls us
into a mode of silence and solitude
where you can truly receive time
.

John O’Donohue

As we enter the umbra of ecological eclipse,
where earth and moon, stars and galaxies
are blotted and blotched by our own shadow,

surely now is the moment to incline ears to the ground,
and raise the gaze skyward
to heed the urgent appeal of this hour.

Before rushing headlong,
committed to compliance or rebellion,
first comes attentive watchfulness,

welcoming wild wisdom
offered by beauty and blight,
wordlessly proclaimed by nature.

For earth herself is hermitage,
miraculous, solitary sanctuary
silently spinning through spacious dark.

Revolving
Rolling dark to light
in endless revolution,
bright fades back to black.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Could contemplation,
simply understood and eagerly embraced,
be the art of attention, the practice of noticing?

Could such communing too
evolve into mutual conversation,
where a waiting world readily reveals itself to the watcher;

this golden morning,
this smoldering evening,
this patient blanket of night,

this breathy moment,
dressed up in delight and disturbance,
wanting to be noted and known?

In relation to the earth, we have been autistic for centuries.
Only now have we begun to listen with some attention
and with a willingness to respond to the earth’s demands
that we cease our industrial assault,
that we abandon our inner rage against the conditions of our earthly existence,
that we renew our participation in the grand liturgy of the universe.

Thomas Berry

Without willing attention,
waiting and watching,
listening and learning from lengthy conversations with life,

how can we enter
the fullness of now,
this appointed time, this critical hour?

Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall
Be silent, they try
To speak your

Name.
Listen to the living walls.

Thomas Merton

Counting down the days,
months and minutes
to global climate catastrophe,

the earth clock gives us a handful of years
to wake up and shake up
demented patterns and degrees of separation,

and alerts us to disastrous portents,
already in motion,
that await our children and theirs.

All the while, a living tapestry
anxiously anticipates our awakening,
waiting to welcome us home.

Awash in mass distraction,
with “virtual” misdirection
masquerading as reality,

may you awaken from hypnotic hallucination
to attend the miracles that await
in sights, sounds and scents all around.

Let Life lead us from the unreal into the real,
so together we might face all that awaits,
clear eyed and open hearted.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now 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

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

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