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There I am, foreground, in a little white sweater, pacing the tree with my siblings. It’s 1960. We lived in London that year, but this moment has us in Sea Palling, beside an eerie old holiday house our parents had rented.

I remember little from that long ago, but distinctly recall crawling in and out of the strange hidden little rooms and crevices of the Sea Palling house on dreary days when we couldn’t walk the beach.

This woman for awhile mapped every monkey puzzle tree she could find in England, but no Sea Palling tree appears in her search engine. Is this one still there? They live for a thousand years and grow to over a hundred feet. This one looks to be about thirty feet. If it exists, it’s massive.

I’m in love with the name Sea Palling. Like pure music, it means everything and nothing — I mean, the words pulse with significance, yet when you actually look at them together they’re semantically silent… The town used to be called only Palling – Victorians attached “sea” in a bid for tourists – and could have meant anything even at the beginning. No one, that is, can tell you what the name of the town means. The two words compressed seem to become one – seapalling … appalling? The sea palling, fading in power or beauty, its waves receding… Or in a deathly (funeral pall) way, the sea whitening, blanching, as when Blake describes

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls
.

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5 Responses to “Margaret and the Monkey Puzzle Tree.”

  1. Anon Says:

    Everyone needs a hobby, I guess. But consider this anonymous commenter skeptical that monkey puzzle trees live up to 1000 years old. And certainly not in England.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Anon: Well, a bit of reading around suggests that hardier ones can live for hundreds of years – some live up to 700 years, and it’s even possible for a few to reach 1,000. Far too soon to know whether any British monkey puzzle tree can live that long, since they weren’t brought to the country all that long ago.

  3. Anon Says:

    You’re right, one was found in 2015-2016 in Chile that was 1021 years old. But that’s just one!

    I was thinking more of Araucaria heterophylla that is planted widely in South Florida and falls over when you look at it funny.

  4. Jeremy Bangs Says:

    “palling” (modern spelling, paling): Dutch word meaning eel.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Interesting, Jeremy – maybe there’s a source for the name somewhere in there? Certainly, migrating from the Netherlands – or attempting to – happens…

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