The owner of the nursery, Chip, picked up the potted magnolia tree and stuck it in our trunk.This “tree” was small; no bigger than a modest bush.
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.
I love this post, Ann. I especially love that I can hear your voice saying, “Twenty years ago!” 🙂 Funny, I was thinking of L.L.’s message today too, and just posted some thoughts on it. Not the tree part but the trust part. Something I struggle with.
Hazel I. Moon says
Our apple trees that we planted 10 years ago are finally producing lovely apples.
I desire a special Orange tree – – – but I can’t wait 20 years for it to grow. Our neighbor sells his oranges each year around this time, so I will settle for his bounty.
Krista @ Life in Texas says
oh I feel your pain. I ache with the desire to buy LAND where I can plant trees that will put down roots and flourish, and give fruit in season. my suburban backyard now is full of baby apple, lime, lemon, mango, and blueberry trees sitting in pots, longing for a permanent home. I suppose there’s some deep spiritual metaphor there, that we are like those trees in pots, longing for our forever home. but really I do hope to have enough years on this earth to make my many-fruited orchard a reality.
awesome post. the last line made me laugh out loud.
Stretch Mark Mama says
Yes, I can totally see you having that conversation with the shopkeeper (much like I would do) and it is hilarious!
Marcus Goodyear says
And the best time to plant a blog network is 3 years ago… 🙂
L.L. Barkat says
And, Marcus, the second best time is today. And so we continue… 🙂
Ann, I’d completely forgotten about the tree proverb! Fun to see it here. Your tree is lovely, btw. 🙂
Kathleen Overby says
Planting a tree is having faith for yourself and providing some leftovers for others without any. In Israel there are thousands of trees planted one by one by people who wanted to be part of the rebuilding…… It is a living testament to courage….and faith. So will yours be. This made me so happy. 🙂 The desert blooms as paradise because people still do. I always see faith as the color green.
Noelle Kirchner says
Ann, I recently found your blog through a friend who sent me this post – yes, a couple of years after you wrote it! First of all, it’s lovely to find you. I hail from Indy originally actually. Second, your post inspired one from me this week. Check it out! Sending blessings, Noelle
Ann Kroeker says
Noelle, I’m so glad to see you. I’ll read your post!