Loving Land

Photo and text by Joe Grant © 2022

“Love the Holy One with all heart, soul, and mind.”
This is the great and first command. The second is:
“Love every neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22: 37-39

What do you hear when you listen to the language of land?

Despite surging storms and challenging climate
that make for inhospitable terrain,
land upholds us all the same,

we who are forged from it,
ever belong to it
and all too soon return to it.

So much more than soil,
storehouse, shelter, sanctuary,
and final resting place,

we cannot
fully understand
this ground of our being

we use
and become used to,
until we learn to love land.

We may be attached
to native landscapes,
and claim territorial identity,

but practical politics, religion,
and corporate cultivation reveal
relationships rooted in ownership, utility, and commodity.


How Thou loves this world,
all and every bit of it,

Joe Grant , Scratchings

Every lasting life-giving relationship
starts with love,
or the possibility of it.

Consider the loving,
living and dying
crammed into an inch of topsoil.

Since love liberates,
none can claim
to possess or use what they truly love.

In a global neighborhood garden,
love-of-land is an organic expression
of love of neighbor and Maker.

Conscious connection entices us
to fall in love with enchanting sea, sky, star,
and landscapes that decorate wakeful existence.

And wakefulness carries
an urgent appeal to profess
our love for every expression of land.


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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Timeless indigenous wisdom
reveals we are neither visitors, nor aliens
nor exiles on this holy home.

And with colorful ritual and archetypal story
they illustrate
how we emerge from earth.

Penetrating heady shades of separation
primal people
safeguard the humbling truth

that earthlings, of humus-made,
are land waking upright,
ground embodied, aware of itself, ever outreaching.

The relief we seek is right under our feet…
If we understand our deep connection and relationship with the Earth,
we will have enough love strength and awakening
to look after ourselves and the Earth so that both can thrive.

Thich Nhat Hanh

When heeded, the wildness within
that bridges soul to soil,
becomes a conduit to passion and compassion.

May you know in the sinew of your soul
land that is willing, wanting, waiting to welcome you,
not as exile or explorer, but as pilgrim on holy home-ground.

May you fall deeply in love ,
and become intimate with your humus-ness,
before your bones go back to it.

May you widen the arc of kinship care,
and celebrate your creaturehood
as you reach for the roots of an indigenous spirit.

May you put the “w” back on “w-holly”
so your rounded, re-wilded heart
might make room for a wider embrace of life.

May you hear the windy wilderness cry:
“Welcome back, welcome home,
how we have all missed you.”


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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