It comes as no surprise to learn that even the mere possession of a red pen changes one. With a red pen teachers scribble more comments on papers, and mark more harshly. With a red pen in my hand, nothing is safe from editorial comment. Not even “bloom where you’re planted.” Distilled from the writings of St Francis de Sales in the same manner that “First, do no harm” is distilled from the Hippocratic Oath, “bloom where you’re planted” has been used to encourage individuals not to wait for more auspicious circumstances before deciding to bloom by no less a worthy personage as Mother Teresa. And yet my red pen itches, even though this aphorism is more applicable to my novel than to most.
All of the characters in Fever: 1877 struggle with having been tasked to become their best selves within the Cemetery where they have literally been planted. Dr Edward, Dunedin’s Provincial Surgeon, is struggling with the knowledge that he was not buried with the other worthies in the Southern Cemetery; Adeline is struggling to cope with her unexpected death, and her even more unexpected New Life in a country where she know nothing and no one. For my characters, “bloom where you’re planted” is apt, but they are exceptions.
My red pen itches, and finally strikes. “Bloom where you are planted” becomes “Bloom where you are”, and in losing the final word gains credence. Not all of us are planted; not all of us should remain planted. Opportunities exist to bloom elsewhere, and doubtless some should be grasped. We do not all need, we are not all required to remain where we are planted to bloom.
Bloom where you are planted. Bloom where you are. Bloom as you are. Bloom: adopt the surface glow of vitality, or open a flower to the sun or moon. Bloom.
And consider what else might benefit from losing the last word. Are not “What does not kill you makes you” and “Home, sweet!” improvements? There must be others, what do you think?