President, Ground Zero Books, Ltd.
As you know, Ground Zero Books, Ltd., is located in Silver Spring, Maryland—an immediate suburb of Washington DC. As such we annually experience the Cherry Blossom fixation that besots the citizens and attracts tourists from around the globe. With admirable consistency, the National Park Service predicts weeks in advance when the cherry blossoms will be at peak bloom. Sometimes they are correct. Irrespective of the calendar or the prognostications, there is a yearly ritual of honoring the beauty, fragility, and brief existence of the fully bloomed blossoms. Frequently the Cherry Blossom Festival does co-exist with the time of blooming.
Cherry blossoms in full bloom last only for two weeks. It’s like Life, because Life is also short.
To the Japanese, celebrating cherry blossoms has a significant meaning. The cherry trees in Washington were a gift of friendship by the Japanese to the United States in part as a thank you for Theodore Roosevelt’s role in ending the Russo-Japanese War (and being awarded the first Nobel Peace prize). In addition to being a celebration of life, cherry blossoms are also a metaphor for Death. Japanese culture honors the act of dying gracefully and beautifully, such as the passage of the cherry blossoms from bloom to petals falling to the ground. Samurai and other Japanese soldiers and civilians preferred committing suicide than being killed by someone. Just as “Aloha” in Hawaiian can mean hello and goodbye, the cherry blossom can symbolize life and death.
While the cherry blossom is perhaps currently the most common association with the word “Cherry” in American (as well as Japanese) culture, there are many other cultural as well as linguistic associations. Cherry blossoms come from cherry trees—such as the one, according to Parson Weems, which the young George Washington chopped down with his axe and could not lie about it. Accepting responsibility for one’s actions is a lesson passed down through generations.
Now, you might say that there are any number of other examples I could have used, but I cherry-picked the one about Washington, because the home of the Cherry Blossom Festival was named after him. I did not need to ask Uncle Vanya when he was out in the Cherry Orchard.
Or, one could ascribe the selection as indicative of great taste—such as one gets with cherry jam, maraschino cherries, or Cherrystone clams. Any of which can be satisfyingly accompanied by cherry wine or cherry soda.
Now, is there a challenge in getting this column into a discussion of war, peace and politics? We think not. The cherry is a heart shaped fruit, and where there is a full heart there can be peace. Cherry is also a color, and has often been used to illustrate political campaign posters and other materials, and even entire political parties (can one really trust the Reds?) As for war, the cherry bomb can speak for itself (loudly). Historically, one can generally refer to the Napoleon cherry. We could go on, but risk being accused of proving that April is the cruelest month.
So, having demonstrated the centrality of “cherry” in its many forms, uses, and associations to war, peace, and politics, we now come to that part of the column where we remind you that we appreciate your business very much. We strive to continue to earn your custom and to delight your senses by adding new, intriguing, and often remarkable items every month. We actively seek want lists and your search requests. Your comments on our columns and suggestions for future topics and recommendations for additions to our key word lists are always appreciated. We look forward to hearing from you by phone, e-mail, snail-mail, and through our website. In the immortal words of Dean Martin, please “keep those cards and letters coming.”
As is our continuing practice, in addition to offering our items indirectly through third party sites, we are pleased to be able to sell our products to you directly. We are happy to reduce our price, upon request, by ten per cent since we avoid paying commissions to these third parties when we sell directly to you. We never tire of your requesting these discounts—for us it is a pleasure—like the cherry on top of a sundae.