Friday, November 12, 2021

Restorative Lines from Leonard Woolf

"Field with irises near Arles"
Vincent van Gogh

As we all know, the pandemic has turned the world upside down, impacting society, impacting us as families and individuals. With these and other strange and ofttimes disturbing events going on around us, it is so easy to focus on these circumstances. I came across a little story Austin Kleon mentions in his book Keep Going that shifted something for me. It was from a passage in Leonard Woolf's memoir Downhill All the Way in which he described a scene that took place just months before the start of World War II. Just so you know, Leonard was husband to Virginia Woolf, well known author of books like A Room of One's Own. He edited literary journals and wrote books on history. Together they ran a printing press.

For me, Leonard's words had such a restorative element—I could feel my chin lift and my shoulders straighten. Having just commemorated Remembrance Day, it feels appropriate to share today:
"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." —Leonard Woolf

Woolf's defiant comment about his irises reminds me of what Martin Luther is quoted as saying: "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."

And, as Austin Kleon points out in his book after he read the passage above: "I don't know for sure what kinds of flowers I'm planting with my days on this planet, but I intend to find out, and so should you. // Every day is a potential seed that we can grow into something beautiful. There's no time for despair."

* * *

On this grey and blustery Friday,
here's wishing you a lighter load for your weekend.

With love and heart hugs,


(Top)Imagine found on Pixabay 


  1. Perfect words. Keep one's eye on the really meaningful things of life, they will be with us longer than the unimportant .

  2. There's such wisdom in these words. We (I) need to remember this during these dark days. Thank you.

  3. I love this! Thank you, Brenda.

  4. What encouraging thoughts! Yes, let's plant those flowers!

  5. “No time for despair.” Absolutely bang on. 😊

  6. Hello, Brenda. I'm a faithful reader but perhaps commenting for the first time. Your email in my inbox always gives my heart a lift. I was overwhelmed with the to-do list today and where to start but your message aligned my priorities. I'm going to shop spring bulbs and a few last items for Operation Christmas Child: Shoeboxes-- gifts for hurting children around the world. In other words, I'm planting hope in the earth and in little hearts. Thanks and Blessings to you!

  7. Bren, I love this post and the words of Leonard Woolf. I have actually read them before and I can't remember where. But they are something we should all strive for and that is to see the good and try to scatter it around. Thank you for this post and for sending out hope to everyone you has the pleasure of reading your blog.

  8. Beautiful words. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. Makes a person want to plant some tulip bulbs. ☺️

  10. What a beautiful post for us all to take to heart. "There's no time for despair." And so we plant and write and cook and sing and look for the beauty in the world, as you so often remind us to do. Thank you.

  11. Lovely inspirational stories. I too enjoy Austin Kleon -- I have one of his books immediately to my left as I've been mulling over much of what he shares. I enjoy reading his blog also.

  12. Thank you so much for this. I needed this reminder today.

  13. The iris being alive long after Hitler died was a pleasant thought, Brenda. We must plant flowers for the children of tomorrow. Then we add beauty to this weary world of ours, long after we disappear from the earth. That's a lovely flowering legacy to think about. Hugs. Susan


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo