The monkey-puzzle tree

monkey puzzle

When I was a kid, I rode the bus to school. I spent forty-five minutes on the bus every morning and every afternoon. I was the first kid on the bus in the morning, and the last kid off, because I lived farthest away from the school.

The bus route was very scenic, actually. It was mostly deep forest where I lived, alternating with pastures and farmland.

The halfway mark between home and school was a kind of double-turn in the road: if you were driving east from Battle Ground, you took a sharp right, then a sharp left. I don’t know why. Property lines?

It had a double name. The sharp right was “Johnson’s Corner”; the sharp left was “Gravel Point.” (Who knows about these things?) This is what it looks like on the map:

gravel point johnsons corner

There was a big white house at Johnson’s Corner, or at least it seemed big to me as a kid. I passed it twice a day on the bus, so I should have a vivid memory of it. But – you know? – I just remember a big white house.

But I remember the monkey-puzzle tree.

It was huge – taller than the house, I think. It was the only monkey-puzzle tree in the whole area. Did the owners (whether or not they were named Johnson) plant it? Or was it already there? At any rate, it was awfully big when I was a kid.

There was an article in a recent Financial Times about the monkey-puzzle. It’s Araucaria araucana, from Chile / Argentina. I had no idea! I assumed it was a foreign import, but not from so far away!

But no wonder it grew so well, and felt so much at home, in warm wet Washington state. Its home country was volcanic and warm, like the coastal Pacific Northwest.

The monkey-puzzle tree at Johnson’s Corner was beautiful and strange. It always fascinated me.

And it whispered to me that the world was a big place, and that there was more to life than what I saw around me.

Smart tree. It was right.

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