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Listen to some Scratchings
What the trees said
Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to trees.
Oh, I’ve heard them before of course,
but it’s taken time to pay them heed.
After all, they’ve been making music
since the first breezy tremble tickled a sprouted seed.
Even when wind drops
and shivering stops,
still they keep on speaking.
It helps to stand under them
when trying to understand their leafy lingo,
and avail the whole self:
eyes peeled, ears perked, heart skinned.
Rasping Cottonwood whispers about lengthening nights.
Dripping Pear leaks sap to ready for the freeze.
Leading the way, Ash tree litters the green with fine
Their seasonal work all but done,
coppering canopies dry and wane
reflecting late summer sun,
while the gusty lush and swish of early June
turns harsh and brittle.
As patchy green sinks
to ochre to mimic dying day,
“Savor this setting season that sets us aflame!”
colorfully they proclaim.
“Return to root by letting go
and let loose gilded gratefulness.”
Whether I pay attention or not,
sacramental seasons still unfold.
Beauty begs me out of my mind
to savor the succulence of ever-changing,
This much and even more
do trees tell,
and these scant scrawlings
cannot hope to conjure
the golden glory of their spell.
leafy sneezes everywhere
as fall draws them down.
Click below to listen
[Excerpted from Scratchings Poems & More by Joe Grant © 2021]
click below to listen
I watched a yellowed,
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,
There to join the messy mulch,
indistinguishable in littered disintegration;
a communion of countless fragments,
leaves and stalks, lately fledged,
from woody perches.
Watching, I wondered
whether other eyes were blessed to catch
this magnificent choreography,
this parable of release and relinquishment,
this golden-hued lesson
in living by dying and giving up and giving in.
How ignominious its end;
a dive into the miraculous mire,
after tireless months of generous toil,
transmuting sunlight, showers, and summer breezes
into sweet serum.
All the while, from beneath,
remnants of seasons long-forgotten
upward and expectantly gaze into the ruddy roof.
“Patiently we await your fall,”
they mutely proclaim.
Longing for the loss
that feeds the forever forest.
What they are saying about Scratchings…
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)
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
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
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.
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
[Excerpted from Scratchings Poems & More by Joe Grant © 2021]
I breathe in softness of air,
I breathe out sunshine bright and fair.
I breathe in swelling foamy seas,
I breathe out greening hillside breeze.
I breathe in winding river long,
I breathe out warbling birdsong.
I breathe in chuckling children’s cries,
I breathe out aged care-worn sighs.
I breathe in troubles without rest,
I breathe out justice long suppressed.
I breathe in longed-for liberty,
I breathe out Spirit wild and free
I breathe blessing of the One in Three
whose breath I gladly share with thee!
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Opportunities for Living Deeply & Loving Broadly
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In the Storm Still
A bi-weekly BLOG that explores ‘Engaged Presence’ in turbulent times: https://engagedpresence.org/
A Resource for Engaging Spirituality
Find my book here published by JustFaith Ministries in 2015.
My Ministry Story
For several decades, I have developed, led, and offered a broad array of unique spiritual presentations, keynotes, workshops, reflections and retreats. In the past, this retreat ministry ranged widely throughout the U. S. and beyond. While health issues no longer permit me to travel, I now offer personal guided retreats at Holy Hills Hermitage in rural Kentucky. If you are interested in retreat possibilities at the Hermitage, see my contact information below.
During my years in religious formation, I was the beneficiary of regular spiritual direction. As a minister, trained in pastoral counselling, I was privileged to offer spiritual accompaniment to individuals and groups. In 2015, I served as the Prayer Weaver for the Annual Conference of Spiritual Directors International . I am blessed to serve on the team of Spiritual Directors for the St. Luke Center in Louisville. I am also the Spirtual Director of the recently-etsablished Holy Hills Hermitage in rural Kentucky. If you are interested in exploring spiritual direction, feel welcome to contact me.
I have been writing text books, prayer books and spiritual resources for over twenty years. The first three books, published by St. Mary’s Press, focused on Scripture, Prayer, Justice and Service, and were designed for religious educators. In addition to creating and shaping a number of national, religious programs for JustFaith Ministries, I have published poetic reflections for Franciscan Media, as well as articles for scholarly journals, spiritual periodicals and religious magazines. Since 2011, I have written and maintained a spirituality blog. My most recent publications reflect the poetic writing style of the blog. Follow my Blog here.
All poems and haikus excerpted from Scratchings by Joe Grant © 2021
Losses and laughter
etch and furrow our faces,
lining folds in gold.
see a garden in waiting,
graceland not wasteland.
I thought the day was over
I thought the sun had gone
I thought I’d missed the moment
and night would now return
till the tiny, curtained corner
of a window ‘cross the street
glowed gold enough to blind me
and make the day complete.
through scintillating dances
love graces shining faces
with countless second chances.
In silent stillness
the swirling sediment sinks
and in creeps clearness.
A Blessing for Troubled Times
Deep Peace of the running wave, and the cleansing of the waters.
Deep Peace of the flowing air, and the clearing of the skies.
Deep Peace of the soft rain, and the shelter of friendship.
Deep Peace of the shining stars, and the memory of timeless beginnings.
Deep Peace of the quiet earth, and the kinship of all creatures.
Deep Peace of the gentle night, and the warm hearth of family.
Deep Peace of the ancient stones, and the tenacity of life.
Deep Peace of the heart of Mary, and the tender touch of every mother.
Deep Peace of the Christ among us, guised as stranger and kin.
Deep Peace of the Merciful Heart, and the Spirit who weaves oneness.
And to the terrors of the night, and to the troubles of your day, Deep Peace.
(Celtic traditional adapted by Joe Grant)
“Duty of Delight”
A Brief Conversation on the Earth and Spirit Podcast
The Earth & Spirit Podcast explores the intertwining of contemplative spirituality, ecology and social healing through dialogue with people who are rooted in a deep sense of place. Our conversation partners defy neat labels as they weave their vocations, activism and spirituality into unique stories of what it’s like to live an engaged life in whatever community they call home. Listen to Joe Grant here!
A Wee Bit About Me
I was born and brought up in the West of Scotland where, at an early age, I entered formation to become a missionary. I received a Masters of Divinity from Catholic Theological Union at Chicago and served as a minister in Europe, the U.S.A. and Latin America. Much of this time involved living with and learning from indigenous communities in the U.S. as well as the Brazilian Amazon. I now live with my wife Anne in inner-city Louisville, Kentucky.
For 12 years I served as Director of Programs forJustFaith Minsitries and developed nationally recognized enrichment processes and resources for young people and adults. In 2004, I received the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry award for Gospel Values of Peace and Justice. I was also a co-founder of CrossRoads Ministry (1999-2021) a retreat center in inner-city Louisville. Currently, I serve on the spiritual direction team of the St. Luke Center in Louisville. Most recently, I have become the Spiritual Director for the newly established Holy Hills Hermitge in rural Kentucky. I have authored numerous books and articles that focus on the intersection between spirituality and eco-social justice.
We are blessed to live near our three adult children and I now dedicate much of my time to writing, leading retreats locally, and offering spiritual direction. Poetry, music and nature photography are passions and practices that keep me grounded.