“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

In this age of continuous instantaneous gratification, it’s easy to forget that there are many things that simply take time and cannot be rushed.

A great modern ill is severing people’s ties to the land by making labor mobility a near must. The idea that you will prepare and condition the land for not only your use but also your future generations is foreign, almost alien to the modern world. And yet, that’s how America was built.

When the Pilgrims, settlers, colonists, explorers, and other pioneers came to the American continent they found a vast, untamed wilderness with parts contested by various warring tribes. Those early pioneers got down to business, cleared land, build homes, planted crops, founded orchids, built dams, bridges, and treaties. They suffered, died, had families, sacrificed, and wrested civilization out of very little but raw nature.

With historical hindsight, it all seems inevitable now. To the settler laying his young child to her final resting place in a small grave behind the house, it didn’t seem that way. To the widow that mourned for her dead husband, a good man whose life was cut short because of a hostile raiding party, the future seemed to be nothing but sorrowful ashes of the heart. To the family that lost all their crops due to a sudden shift in weather, the future was bleak while starvation hovered in the background.

Some made it, some did not, but they all added to the future. A nation was formed from the successes and tempered by the failures.

I can now sit in a house that’s heated or cooled by my whim, I have plenty of water on demand, my garden is a hobby and not a necessity, food is always easy to get. My life would be almost incomprehensible to my distant ancestors but I have it due to their efforts.

Building something of value takes time. It takes effort. It takes the ability to put aside immediate gratification now and then to see the bigger picture. It takes sacrificing what you want now for something you’re betting on being better in the future. It takes discipline and vision. And it takes character to roll with the punches when something doesn’t work out how you imagined. Trees don’t always survive. Insects, bad weather, bad luck can all take down a tree you planted and nurtured for a long time.

If that happens, the next best time to plant a tree is now.