keep on planting

 photo Iris_reticulata_2237_1.jpg

image of Iris reticulata from Wikipedia Commons

Collections of Virginia Woolf’s copious letters and diaries have sustained me through some dreary, uninspiring times. By turns bitchy and transcendent, but always dependably filled with trenchant and unflinching observations of her life and times, I return to them periodically as supplemental oxygen when the present seems unbearably thin and life-sapping. Vox reminded me of this precious resource today, the balm of brave, enduring words from the past, this time quoting from Leonard Woolf and his memoir Downhill All The Way, which I have yet to read. After starting out as a novelist, Leonard’s energies turned more to politics and managing their Hogarth Printing Press that published (and actually printed, with woodcuts by her sister Vanessa Bell for the covers) his wife’s ground-breaking modernist fiction. His own legacy includes his internationalist work with the League of Nations that later became the foundation for the United Nations. And he was a very enthusiastic gardener. Here’s the quote from Vox:

I will end … with a little scene that took place in the last months of peace. They were the most terrible months of my life, for, helplessly and hopelessly, one watched the inevitable approach of war. One of the most horrible things at that time was to listen on the wireless to the speeches of Hitler — the savage and insane ravings of a vindictive underdog who suddenly saw himself to be all-powerful. We were in Rodmell during the late summer of 1939, and I used to listen to those ranting, raving speeches. One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers. … Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: “Hitler is making a speech.” I shouted back, “I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.” Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard.”

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10 Responses to keep on planting

  1. Jane Strong says:

    That is a very scary comparison to today. I will plant iris.

  2. Kris P says:

    Gardening is a life-affirming activity. The quote is a good reminder but the current mayhem is still hard to stomach day-by-day.

  3. Damn. Instant tears. Thank you Denise.

  4. Linda from Each Little World says:

    Who would have thought we’d be where we are today after two World Wars? I am planting but I am more nervous than I ever expected to be. Thanks for a lovely post.

  5. Lorinda says:

    That’s lovely. Keep doing what you’re doing for this too shall pass?

  6. Alison says:

    Great post! I ordered Iris reticulata a few weeks ago, so I’ll be planting some this fall, and when I do I’ll remember this post.

  7. hb says:

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    Will planting be enough?

  8. Denise says:

    Hoov, planting doesn’t preclude other plotting 😉

  9. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Planting it is. Iris reticulata have been added to my bulb order and I’ll think of this and you as I plant them this fall. Thank you.

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