Planting trees, for me, is one of life's most satisfying experiences. When my wife and I bought our house, we couldn't wait. Literally. The place was vacant. It would soon be ours. Who would know? So a full week before the real-estate closing, Susan and I bought four small fruit trees and boldly carted them into the back yard.

We dug holes, added top soil and peat moss, and planted our mini-orchard: two apple trees and two pear trees. It was an act of faith. They were scrawny saplings, but I could already taste the fruit they would eventually bear.

I recited the folk proverb: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

A week later, the house and the yard were legally ours, and the saplings were already taking root.

Over time we planted more trees: arborvitae for privacy, Colorado blue spruce for greenery when snow covers the ground, sugar maple for brilliant fall foliage of reds and orange. After the deaths of two of our children, ...

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