Doing sensible and human things.

Not only is my mind typically scattered to the four winds, but it is also buffeted and pushed down and downright dominated by currents of thought — and current events — that somehow turn into raging hurricanes. But in my daily life, they are only passing and mental hurricanes, so when I read this quote from my daughter Pearl, I was freshly encouraged to call frequent moratoriums on the practice of wondering whether it might be a Viking or a bomb or a car wreck that will eventually make my loved ones suffer.

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

—C.S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948)

I also don’t need to spend (all my) time researching how bombs are made, or why the Vikings are so ruthless. Which is great, because it leaves more time for writing a chatty blog post to my friends, which is a very human thing to do, and I hope sensible as well.

September 1st really felt like the first day of fall! It hasn’t warmed up much since, but I’m sure we will get some hot days in the next weeks. My fig tree is absolutely loaded, and one of the four winds that my mind goes to is Preparation for Preserving. Get out the dehydrator, and gear up for the harvest: pushing through the perennials and bushes that surround my tree, and stooping under the low-hanging branches to extract the plump fruits, which are revealed by contrast with the big green layers when one by one they turn black.

I went to a nursery the other day to lay in a supply of echinacea purpurea plants to set out this month. Some areas of my “new” landscaping need reinvigorating after six years, and I have been longing for the standard echinacea species that I used to have. The white ones in my front garden are thriving, the multicolored ones in the back are not.

A friend who was moving across the country asked if I would like any of the potted plants he’d kept on his small patio. I evidently hadn’t paid much attention to them when I’d visited his duplex, because I said I’d take them all, and was quite surprised to end up with 37 pots of plants. Three of them are quite large, and two of those are gorgeous jade plants.

So — I have more lovelies in my garden to keep me company and give me good work to do. This morning I  went out to take pictures of a couple of them to post here, and ended up watering. Not one but two blue jays were visiting my property, and adding to the ambiance with their scratchy voices that make me feel for a moment that I am in the mountains. I noticed a ripe fig, and ate that as a fast-food breakfast. Then… a few ground cherries for dessert! Ah… September.

16 thoughts on “Doing sensible and human things.

  1. Oh lovely! Figs for breakfast! We just had a thunderstorm and I wanted to go out and pull up tangles, but after making the dinner soup I decided to knit or do my Daniel study instead 😄 I love September so much❤️ and I love this friendly post❤️


  2. Thank-you for passing on the excellent quote. I find myself comforted in knowing there is nothing new under the sun. There has, is, and will be much destruction and darkness in this world. The battle of good and evil is real. I’m glad we can cling to the Light!

    Your fig harvest is beautiful!

    Love to you.


  3. September is one of my favorite months. The flowers are still well in bloom; there is tons of fresh produce. Days are still warm but not usually so hot. Things quiet down in some ways, ramp up in others. I love the idea of the figs — I think they must be hard to grow but so delicious! This is such a terrific post — I love everything you said and shared.


  4. This is lovely! That C.S. Lewis quote has been making the rounds on social media I’ve noticed. Yours is the nicest presentation I’ve seen. And it’s certainly apt for these times. Enjoy your garden activities! You have certainly come into a windfall of potted plants.


  5. Winter still has its grip on the season – unwilling to hand over to spring! The sight of those plump figs on the tree in your garden has my mouth watering!! What joy to receive so many potted plants – they will keep you going for a while as you decide what to do with them.


  6. I love that CS Lewis quote! He had so many wise words to share with the world. I find them still so appropriate for our own era of troubles. I note that someone also mentioned his line from The Weight of Glory: ‘Human life has always been lived in the edge of a precipice.’ Although It’s not exactly a comforting thought, I still take solace in it, thinking that every age has had its own ‘edge of a precipice’ and now it’s our turn to endure… with grace, love, kindness, beauty.

    Thank you, Gretchen, for the quote and for the lovely photos from your corner of the world. What a bevy of floral treasures from your friend who moved.


  7. As I was reading the quote I kept thinking how sensible it was and looked at the end to see who had written these wise words. I was not surprised to find it was C S Lewis.

    37 new plants would be a bit of a shock. I’m sure you’ll find lovely spots for all of them. Potted plants do take a lot of time watering but it’s such a relaxing job.


  8. Our figs are getting ripe now and our echinacea is flowering beautifully like every year. We try to enjoy the here and now, our garden, our community and our surroundings but at the same time being aware of what’s going on in the world.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


  9. I love the C.S. Lewis quote. It earned a spot in my daily journal. It could well be applied to current times. I just hope I don’t dream tonight of “Scandinavian raiders landing and cutting my throat.” 37 pots…what fun!


  10. It’s hard to imagine that your mind is ever scattered to the four winds, or to anything – you always manage to get it together for this space. 🙂 But I think that’s part of my problem; I am watching so many youtube videos and other informational things about what’s going on that my mind gets numb, and I have nothing to say on my blog. An imbalance.


  11. Looks like perhaps you have a Mission fig variety? I also LOVE standing “inside” my fig tree, under the canopy, and looking up at the light filtering through the variations of green. I’ve picked mine for this year and froze them whole, and made my first batch of fig/rhubarb/lemon preserves this past weekend. I’ve never dried them, but I bet that’s yummy too!


    1. My fig tree is a dwarf variety called Blackjack. I think it must have Mission parents!

      I don’t ever eat jam, so I had to come up with a different way to preserve the figs. Last year I bought the dehydrator; I dry them to be as crispy as possible, and they come out like candy. I do eat candy!


  12. Congratulations on inheriting a bounty of plants. I love the jade plants. I have been propagating them from cuttings from a plant along my dog walk, and I’m glad I did, because I noticed last week it has been pulled out of that garden! Saved just in time..


  13. HALLELUJAH to the Lewis quote! As much as I love and read his writings, I’ve never seen that one. I so needed to hear that. I’m really looking forward to hugging Jack when I get to heaven! 🙂 Count on him to have a sensible and human outlook on things. And you as well! Enjoy your lovely green garden and carry on living and loving the good things God has given us. Hugs from Minnesota! 🙂


  14. What a wonderful quote your daughter shared! I would like to post it on my blog. I hope you don’t mind. Will give credit, of course. How wonderful to have been given so many plants by your friend.

    I’ve had very little experience with figs except in eating lots of Fig Newtons growing up. One time, a young man appeared at my door carrying a box of nearly-ripe figs and asking me if I’d like to buy them. I did, but was ignorant about how fast they go bad. Learned the hard way (no internet to ask back then). Haven’t bought them since! 😜


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