I vividly remember settling into the movie theater with my mom and sister during a visit home from college for the oh-so-satisfyingly sappy film, A Walk to Remember.
Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel by the same name, it is the unlikely teenage romance between the sweet and wholesome yet underestimated minister’s daughter, Jamie Sullivan, and high school rebel, Landon Carter who has always been far too cool to notice her.
Although I do recall crying my way through more than a few tissues and being stunned by Mandy Moore’s incredible voice (in the role of Jamie), most of the other details are a bit fuzzy over a decade later with one notable exception.
The scene to remember was this one:
We see Jamie, sick in her hospital bed, and there is this intimate moment of sharing a book of quotes passed down from her now deceased mother with the one she is falling in love with.
It’s got quotes from her favorite books and quotes by famous people, her thoughts…”
Without flipping a page, we hear from a vast spectrum of contributors: Aristotle takes up residence alongside Dolly Parton and St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Written out in her own hand, these were the words that meant something to the one who kept them, words that she wanted to pass on to those she loved most in the world to have after she was gone.
Here is her daughter, finding strength in this most treasured possession and relying on its insights during her own time of sickness. The consolation offered is evident on Jamie’s face as she closes her eyes to savor words that have become so dear that she knows them by heart.
That, my friend, is the beauty of a commonplace book.
What so struck me as I watched this scene unfold in the theater was that I had been saving words by writing out quotes in blank journals, across scraps of paper, receipts, napkins, (anything I could get my hands on) for as long as I could remember. Since I could read and write, it was just something that I did. That being said, I had no idea that anyone else did it or that it could be done in such an intentional and beautiful way until that moment.
Although, I still didn’t know it was called a commonplace book and wouldn’t learn that commonplacing was a practice dating back as far as Aristotle himself until I began to research classical education as a homeschooling mother years later, this scene was the first glimpse I ever had of the art of commonplacing in action and it was love at first sight. I have never forgotten it.
How about you?
Had you ever heard of commonplacing before now? Is it something that you have been doing without ever realizing what it was? Do you have any inclination to keep a commonplace book?
I would love to hear your thoughts.