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Text from MARCH by Geraldine Brooks

When I came across this word recently, I experienced a minor moment of deja-vu. It somehow seemed familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure until I examined its origins. Maria Popova, who author’s Brain Pickings Weekly wrote about it a couple of years ago in a great post chronicling Vintage Social Media from years ago. She identifies Twitter as modern-day florilegium. I know it, though, from my days of studying theology.

The quick definition? A collection of other people’s writings–like a common place book.

Florilegium itself comes from the Latin flos (flower) and legere (to gather). Flower gathering! But how I know the word is that it was used to describe extracts from early Christian authors and others that were combined into a single tomb.

Mowinski Florilegium

Mowinski Florilegium

Here is a stack of mine. I’ve been keeping these books since the mid-1980s. One reflects a period of time when I was reading Dakota, Thomas Moore, Thomas Merton and Paulo Freire. Another is pure late-teenage mix of angst and hope. Right now, one of them combines text on the left with a collage on the right–this one holds a random compilation. I have another that is more theological based and one that contains commentary on creative practice/pedagogy. Do you keep a florilegium? Tell me how in the comments below.

Here are two entries from the most recent one. I’ve included the quote for you below the picture. The creation of these collages sometimes finds its way into my own going morning daily practice. I limit myself to less than ten pieces of paper for the collages…although I can add pen to them, like in this one below.

Text from MARCH by Geraldine Brooks

Text from MARCH by Geraldine Brooks

I do not ask your absolution. I simply ask you to see that there is only one thing to do when we fail, and that is to get up, and go on with the life that is set in front of us, and try to do the good of which our hands are capable for the people who come in our way. That, at least, has been my path.    ~Mrs. March to Mr. March, p268 in March, by Geraldine Brooks

Text from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Text from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

Because–is it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture–? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mr. Rodgers, its a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? Ho do we know what’s right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: “Be yourself.”  “Follow your hear.”

Only here’s what I really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed by a heart that can’t be trusted–?

p. 761, The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt



  1. Julie Luek says:

    A very thought-provoking and beautiful post. thank you.

  2. mlbrowne says:

    And now what you’ve written adds to the bouquet of my own florilegium. Thank you.

  3. eteal says:

    exquisite. useful and ephemeral at once. i have none so crafted, or such things of beauty! but stacks of journals filled with sketches from hotel windows and new friends balconies with tea bag tags, and the gold mined from rare chocolates pressed with small alpine flowers. what a joy to find you this morning!

  4. […] read and I come across a phrase or passage that challenges or inspires me, I record it in one of my Commonplace Books. Today I share with you a passage from “We are Called to Rise,” by Laura […]

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