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

All Hallowed Be!

Photo by Joe Grant © 2021

Do not stop the little ones but let them all come near.
To the likes of these does the Hallowed Domain belong.

Matthew 19:14

Seeker,
What legacy are you leaving for the littlest?

Autumn arrives to decorate death,
and with fiery fullness lays a red carpet down
for stark winter’s dark approach.

Through this unspooling season,
we wonder and worry
about other changes still unfolding.

From the cavern of remembrances
a seasoned memory surfaces,
early echo from my Amazonian sojourn.

Once, while visiting communities
that toil in the muddy soil
of the rolling amber river,

the leader opened a sabbath gathering
with the call: “The world has changed!”
to which the gathered responded, “Thanks be to God!”

This was followed by the chant:
“The world is still changing!”
and the crowd released the cheer, “To God thanks be!”

Inner Eye
With only our eyes
so much do we overlook
that insight perceives.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

The terrors of climate catastrophe
and worsening devastations of global disease
can cloud even the clearsighted.

For the sake of our souls,
for our children and for theirs,
for the wellbeing of our creature kin,

urgently we need to listen longer
to the land from which we come
to which soon we shall return.

Over ever evolving eons,
earth has weathered
cataclysmic waves of extinction.

In a mere handful of centuries
catastrophic human “un-kind-ness”
has despoiled the soil, water, and air that all beings share.

Now, a fevered globe seeks to stem the chronic
contagion and contain the wastage of global consumer
culture. Though well-warned and informed, somehow,
we remain unwilling to weigh the cost of a consequential
truth:
Whatsoever we do unto neighborhood, we do unto ourselves.
And what, I wonder, will our children’s children say
as they bear the burden of our careless consumption?

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Weighing Worth
At what price this senseless squander,
who must pay the cost
that burdens children’s children
with life already lost?

Swamped by information,
wisdom out of view,
our scales all imbalanced,
our measurements askew.

Facing such distortion
lives no longer weigh the same,
some are offered privilege,
and others only pain.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

In an all-hallowed home
we re-place holiness that points to “perfected”
with the “wholly-ness” of being completely connected.

As northerners traverse the liminal line,
rolling from equinox toward solstice,
and enter that “thinning time” of darkening days,

may we reverence
all earthling creatures
both of day and night,

and with gentlest care
daily demonstrate
what it means to let the children near.

Hallowed all are we,
each and every one,
under a weak and wintry sun.

For we have arrived
this hallowed day
through strength of sun,
softness of air,
swiftness of water,
stability of soil,
shelter of shade,
chorus of creatures,
and warm embrace of friendship:

Holy before,
sacred above,
spirit within
homeland beneath,
inside, and all around.

and hallowed be the name
of all our earthy kin,
each a likeness of Thy image holy.

joe

Text and Images by Joe Grant © 2021

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here. To see more: inthestormstill.com

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

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

Table Setting

Photo and text © Joe Grant 2021

When you give a banquet, invite the people who are poor, broken, blind …

Luke 14:13

Seeker,
How do we live authentically in such divisive times?

When they were small,
our children would clamber onto our laps
each time we gathered at table.

Every conflict,
whether familial or foreign,
inevitably leads to a table.

Sooner or later
factions and fighters
convene at this woody altar.

In our mindful moments,
we set a table in the round,
holding souls open, ripe and available.

Here we leave space for unexpected guests—
wisdom, awareness, perspective—
to sit with us.

Stirring Silence
I dare not erase disquiet.
Struggles and sorrows
are not just background noise.

Aches, hopes, hurts,
gritty and global,
that always appear
are not a side-show I can choose to ignore.

For love is also a verb;
momentum to disturb complacency,
passion that pains,
burning as it heals …

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Receptive prayer
does not permit
tuning-out

but leans in,
to let in
life’s swelling symphony,

from birdsong to train horns,
sirens to serenades, protests to gunshots,
verbal disputes to quiet kisses.

In the Maker’s magnanimous lap,
whether troubled or tender,
both welcome and table are wide.

Here and now we can be,
the beloved community,
There is room at the table for everyone.

Carrie Newcomer

At its core,
contemplative living presents
the disturbing paradox of restful unease.

Settling into stillness,
ready and reachable,
we become hospital to grievance as well as glory.

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

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Awaken to those awaiting relief
in the wake of earthquake or storm,
or huddled in flickering candlelight after another massacre.

Listen to wails and worries of parents and children
facing illness and loss,
violent attack or repressive force.

Visualize yearnings for peace,
etched on faces
from every faith and holy land.

Here do we attend
to crisis and cries from creature kin,
across our tortured planet home.

And adding or opening new leaves,
we stretch the surface capacity
so all can hear what it takes to care.

In communion and commotion,
in celebration and reconciliation,
may we keep setting that table.

Companions cannot afford
to accept violations
as inevitable.

Just as we carry within
some fragment of discord and turmoil,
so too we bear some measure of tenderness:

listening hearts,
inclined to the torment and tears
of families dear, scattered afar and gathered near.

Don’t hide, don’t run,
but rather discover,
in the midst of fragmentation,
a new way forward:
a different kind of journey
marked by its fragility, uncertainty, and lack of definition.
And on that path
to hold these hands
that even in their brokenness create a new tomorrow.

Peter Millar

So, as you in silence sit
to weep and wonder,
set a place for unexpected visitors.

Windsong
Tickled by a breeze,
solemn chimes softly chuckle
discord to concord.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Crack the door at your core,
let that wilder spirit sweep in
who turns all strangers back to kin.

joe

Visit my website: inthestormstill.com
Now available here. To see more: inthestormstill.com

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)