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

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