(Feb. 29, 4:00 p.m., NATIONAL EDITOR'S COLUMN) My wife Sally recently forwarded to me one of those e-mails we all get from time to time — not an e-mail conveying news of the unexpected windfall from Nigerian royalty or the bogus payment due notice for an E-bay auction — but the inspirational e-mail that tries to inject some positive thinking in our day.

I have to say I appreciate those e-mails, since so much of the unexpected arrivals filling our in-box appeal to our baser instincts and are immediately assigned to the junk mail folder.

Happily, this brighten-your-day e-mail was all about square watermelons.

Here is how it began:

You don’t have room to waste. Watermelons, big and round, wasted a lot of space. Most people would simply tell the grocery stores that watermelons grow round and there is nothing that can be done about it. That is how I would assume the vast majority of people would respond. But some Japanese farmers took a different approach. If the supermarkets wanted a square watermelon, they asked themselves, "How can we provide one?" It wasn’t long before they invented the square watermelon.

Simply put, the lesson of the square watermelon reminds us that if there is a will, there is a way. The takeaway from the e-mail is that growers put their heads to the problem and solved it with ingenuity (grow the melon inside a box!), thus benefiting retailer, consumer and themselves.

The anonymous e-mail continues:

“It turns out that all you need to do is place them into a square box when they are growing and the watermelon will take on the shape of the box. This made the grocery stores happy and had the added benefit that it was much easier and cost effective to ship the watermelons. Consumers also loved them because they took less space in their refrigerators which are much smaller than those in the U.S., meaning that the growers could charge a premium price for them.”

The implications for the rest of us — who don’t grow round or square watermelons but have round pegs that don’t fit in a square hole — is that we shouldn’t assume that the possible is impossible. Square watermelons can be grown, after all, if one thinks “outside the box” and the melon is inside the box.

Other lessons offered: be creative, look for a better way.

The e-mail concluded:

“If you begin with the notion that something is impossible, then it obviously will be for you. If, on the other hand, you decide to see if something is possible or not, you will find out through trial and error.”

As I put together this column, I wondered about the back-story of the square watermelon.

I found a 2001 story about the square watermelon on the BBC online.

As it turns out, the idea for the square watermelon is attributed to a farmer in Japan’s southwestern island of Shikok, who conceived the technique in the early 1980s.

Back in 2001, the price for each square melon in Japan was about $83, or about triple the price of the regular round watermelon.

I don’t get the idea that the “square watermelon” is the best thing since sliced bread in Japan. It has not made consumers reach for their credit cards just because it takes less space in the fridge. It is prohibitively expensive for most consumers.

Still, there has been no stopping just at the square watermelon. Now, in Japan, there are pyramid shaped watermelons and watermelons that have facial features.

In England, a story published in August 2006 promised that square melons were “on the way” to Tesco stores from growers in Brazil.

One unconvinced British reader comment about that story in The Daily Mail was this:

Square or round, the pesky things are too heavy to pick up with arthritic fingers, I’d be far more impressed if they grew them with handles.

Remember, nothing is impossible. I sense a challenge looming.

I wonder if American melon marketers and retailers have been ignoring this premium, multi-shaped melon market.

If so, I’ve got the perfect e-mail motivator I would be happy to forward to them.