My husband and I walked back to the building with Chip to pay for it.
As we crossed the parking lot, I asked, “I heard it’s best to plant a tree in the fall. Is that true?”
“When they’re in pots like this, it doesn’t make much difference,” Chip responded. When we got inside, he slipped behind the counter to ring up our selection.
“Actually,” he continued, “people ask me all the time what’s the best time to plant a tree. You know what I tell them? I look them straight in the eye, and I say ‘The best time to plant a tree is–‘”
“Twenty years ago!” I interjected.
“That’s right! How–how did you know?”
“It’s a famous Chinese proverb,” I said.
“Well, there’s more to the proverb. Do you know the rest?”
Chip shrugged and shook his head.
“I think you’d sell more trees if you include the second part,” I said. “It goes like this: The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is…today.”
I paused as he considered it. Then I added, “Don’t you think you’ll sell more trees with that line? I know it makes me want to run home and stick one in the ground as fast as possible!”
He nodded and grinned. “I’ve got to order more trees.”
We bought a tiny magnolia tree from Chip as well as an apple tree so thin, it looks like the weight of two apples would bend it to the ground. Isn’t there another saying that a civilization flourishes when people plant treesunder whose shade they will never sit? We planted the trees a week ago. Check back in 20 years.