Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pears and Hope

Just like the Dutch craze for tulips, there was a New World equivalent with regard to pears. There were pear parties in the mid-1800's and rampant speculation in what we would now call pear futures. According to the authors, juicy pears became all the rage in Massachusetts in the years between 1825-1875. Members of high society hosted pear tasting parties and investors threw capital into speculative orchards, most of them unsuccessful. According to P.T. Quinn (1869, Pear Culture for Profit), "There has been more money lost than made, for I could enumerate five persons who have utterly failed to every one who has made pear culture profitable." Would-be millionaires entered into fierce competition for the newest pear varieties and the idea of getting rich planting and growing pears led "legions of American amateurs to experiment with their own varieties." (The Fruit Hunters, Adam Leith Gollner and Adam Gollner, p.255)

I leave the tale of pear mania behind with some hope for today. Life went on, pears grew as did hope. The ruin of investors in pears was not quite a crisis by our present standards. As Tom Stevens of the Daily Telegraph said the word "crisis" comes from the Greek for "turning point." (Hope will only emerge when we're utterly submerged in bad news, 10/8/08) In the ancient language of flowers, pears symbolize comfort and affection. I find a lot of comfort in the fall, eating delicious, juicy pears, seeing them in crates with all their lovely colors. Knowing that I am eating the best fruits of a long history of pear breeding.

When pears are given as gifts, the sender is asking for a sign of hope. Hope is something that we adults often have a short supply of. When things are going badly, we tend to lose hope. Maybe at this time of financial worry and this season of generosity we all need to give the gift of pears and hope.

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