Into the Quiet

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

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

Matthew 13:16

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

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

Conditioned by saturating sound,
buzzing hum
and raucous rattle

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

With senses attuned
to subtler resonances
below sonic blast,

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

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


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

Wisdom of the Desert Hermits

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

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

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

joe

Available here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neighboring

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julian of Norwich

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

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

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

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

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

Thich Nhat Hahn

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

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

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

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

Lead us from the unreal into the real …

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

joe

Available here

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

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

Noticing Nature

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

In seeing they fail to perceive and in hearing fail to listen,
nor do they truly understand.

Matthew 13:13

Seeker,
How much do you notice when you let life come into focus?

Beneath clamoring commerce,
despite the bombed-out sacrilege of war,
spring continues to sing.

And through every concrete crack
relentless reclamation
bravely outbreaks.

Abandoned lots, littered alleys,
rusted railyards, blasted buildings,
all emerald spackled with tenacious tendrils.

Seasonal softening
coaxes birds to turn twists of trash
into baskets for little shelled miracles,

as once again,
drains and ditches
are dappled with delicate wildflower blossoms.

So, out of wastage and neglect,
Nature brings
spectacular newness to life.

With gratuitous displays of gentle resilience
in resplendent beauty, Creation calls out,
willing, waiting, wanting to be noticed.

Always surprising, vibrant, and verdant,
irrepressible spring softens winter sharpness.
So long we languished,
in urgent anticipation
of this stunning revolutionary season.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Yet, how many work-a-days
blur passed
with scarcely a sideways rearview glance?

Thus, the seasonal details and brilliant illustrations
of hard, healing wisdom are lost
to unseeing, unhearing, uncaring appetites.

Is this not the exuberant way of wisdom, where
losses fuel and fertilize disparate awakenings? And
here perhaps lies a distinction between fecundity
and productivity. In broad dispersal, not every effort
need come to fruition, not every idea conceived lead
to invention, not every initiative achieve realization,
for not all hatchlings are destined to fledge, nor every
seed take root.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

A first blush of wakefulness
naturally stops at the stain, balks at the blemish,
punctured by sorrow, arrested by travesty.

But persevering in the practice of noticing
presents other soul-penetrating perspectives
in all-surrounding scent, sight, and sound.

Only from the mire
of failure, death, and defeat
is hope resurrected.

The hardest part of giving
is not giving up, but giving in
to relentless resurgence.

And yes,
to believe again,
with a necessary change in hindsight,
that nothing is ever really lost,
for the worst and worn-out and wasted
still are needed
to fertilize the freshly seeded.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Out of spare soil
and cold starkness,
tender possibilities erupt

and springtide becomes
our most reliable parable,
a living illumination of enduring love.

How surprising,
uncontrollable and inconceivable
this slowly expanding explosion.

How could we miss its message,
overlook its wonders
or fail to receive its earth-shattering revelation?

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

e.e. cummings

May your days be interrupted
detoured and delightfully disrupted
by the largesse of lifegiving abundance.

May you be stopped and stunned
heartsore at malignance,
breathless before magnificence.

Yet, from the smallest sparkling smidgen of
radiation, a life-making planet redeems gracious self-giving
with miraculous expressions of life in myriad form.

All this snatched
from glancing solar breezes,
so life might endlessly endure, less concerned
for harvest, resolutely focused
on bountiful
seeding.

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

Wide-eyed Wondering

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

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

Mark 14:38

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

Decades ago,
when my eyes were
sharp and fresh,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observation is
our portal
to fuller participation,

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

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

Bill Plotkin

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Wandering and Welcome

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Still in the Storm

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

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

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

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

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

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

Thich Nhat Hanh

joe

Available here

Joe Grant is a seer and a sayer, a prophet and a poet. He divines the divine in the everyday stuff of life and speaks the essential truth that every place can be a thin place, every time Kairos time. Scratchings is Joe at his alliterative best, offering us a beautiful sacramental vision in which Spirit weaves us into a great, timeless community with each other and with the more-than-human world. This quiet, gentle, but powerful book is absolutely necessary medicine for our troubled times.

  • Kyle Kramer, Executive Director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center,
    author of Making Room: Soul-Deep Satisfaction Through Simple Living
    (Franciscan Media, 2021)

Becoming Human

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

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

Matthew 8:20

Seeker,
Where do you find restful restoration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Berry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami

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

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

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

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

Hildegard von Bingen

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

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

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

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

Thomas Merton

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

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

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

Wholly Grounded

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

joe

Available here

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

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

Wake Up to Wilderness

Text and images by Joe Grant © 2022

I am a wilderness voice, shouting,
“Straighten a pathway for the Holy.”

John1:23

Seeker,
What awakens you to the wilderness cry?

Light lengthens,
flowing inexorably toward equinox,
and all round the northern rim spring is tightly coiled.

Reeling from the roar
and wanton wastage of war,
we worry as history predictably rhymes.

In confused wastelands
of ash and rubble
where precious lives lie cruelly crushed,

behind suffocating smoke and sorrow
an ancient ache heaves and sighs for another way,
a different direction, a great turnaround.

Surely the era of domination,
supremacy, subjugation
has long since passed.

The wreckage of “civilization”
cries out
from monumental ruins and museums

broadcasting its humbling truth
that, sooner or later,
every empire must crumble.

Inevitably, under nature’s patient vigil,
monumental epochs and idols, return to dust—primordial
paste of recreation.
With stubborn tenacity, green shoots and soft
rains eventually expunge every trace of hubris, and with
gentle persistence welcome human-kin back into a greater
chorus, with the wild embrace of natural renovation.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

When the Carpenter’s Way became Roman Rule,
some returned to the life-affirming palace of wilderness,
to recover “eremos”- wild place of silent solitude.

These desert-dwelling hermits
sought to reclaim age-old
wisdom that inspires the poet, prophets and mystic in us.

Bewildered by nature, among untamed creature kin,
healing they sought
and hermitage they found, from …

imperial forces and slavish lifestyles,
the conquest of land and populations,
the commodification of Creation and canonization of violence.

We each must have two pockets …
In right pocket are the words,
“For my sake was the world created.”
In the left, “I am earth and ashes.”

Rabbi Bunam

While contentious cries, faded flags, false ideologies
rouse and rally masses
for the manufacture of death,

rooted in imperial domination,
consumer culture continues
to exact its toll on soil and soul.

Deprived of sacramental communion with the wilds
humus-beings seek solace in synthetic spiritualities
and distant, divorced divinities.

Deaf to the voice of wilderness,
how on earth do we recover hermitage,
solitude of the wilds that reclaims and leads us home?

Something sacred is coming this way.
That is how my ancestors would have said it.
In the midst of all this turmoil and confusion,
when we cannot clearly see the path before us,
when we feel trapped in a situation we cannot control,
then I believe the wise elders of my holy heritage
would climb to the high place of the heart,
draw the circle of reason and faith around them,
and stand to sing their prayers into the open sky of the history to come.
They would not shrink into a corner afraid,
but rise up to catch the first light of what was coming into being all around them.
We are living in a time of emergence.
We are the witnesses to a great renewal.
The world is full of the fear of birth and change,

Steven Charleston, Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, memeber of the Choctaw nation

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.