BLANCHE TRASK
Naturalist, Poet, Scientist, Mystic

 

Blanche Trask: Biography & Chronology


by
Robert Roy J. van de Hoek

There is mystery, curiosity, nostalgia in reading about someone from the past. Biographies of people have interested me since being a child, perhaps this is true for you as well. It seems to be a way to be part of the large society of Humans on Earth, to live vicariously through someone else, their adventures, successes, failures, triumphs, discoveries.

So it is that Blanche Trask has captivated me. She was a great writer about natural history, her poetry is descriptive of nature, and her explorations and discoveries are interesting and significant. She knew writer and scientists alike, such as Charles Lummis, Willis Jepson, Charles Sargent, Alice Eastwood, and perhaps Mary Austin. She was in a circle of literary figures and scientists of her day. There exists no biography of Blanche Trask to this day. There is a poetry, rhythm, and a charm about her words. There is the right amount of science included, by using the botanical names of plants, the right amount of wildlife, that no longer exists, such as Eagles, Otters, and Seals. I also feel that one can get a better sense of early California Natural History and wild nature through a biographical analysis and reading of Blanche Trask's essays and poetry.

Once one begins to search about a person of the past, and once some discoveries are found, be it unpublished letters, botanical specimens, science articles, or published poems and essays, one catches the bug, and further research and compilation occurs, and there results a biography.

And then, if you are want to share your findings, and it is the 21st Century with Internet accessibility, there is the ability to instantly publish and share the findings. This is true education, sharing, but is it reaching very many people. Who knows? Perhaps, the writings and life of Blanche Trask only interests me and no one else?

Perhaps discovering Blanche Trask requires discovering the California Channel Islands. And if you are fortunate, you stumble upon Blanche Trask spirit and mysticism while walking on the islands.

In any regard, Blanche Trask, wrote 10 poems, all mysterious and beautiful, all with a story. And she also wrote several published essays on Catalina, San Clemente, and San Nicolas Islands. Why was Santa Barbara Island not written about? It is true that her time was limited there. She mentions Santa Barbara Island in one line of her writing as follows: "a brief tarrying on the island." But in that time she collected numerous lichens. But you can only ascertain this lichen collecting of Blanche Trask by reading a science article on lichen systematics that Charie Bratt wrote in the last Channel Islands Symposium publication. It is a fascinating detective-like process to piece together her story. What of her personal life? She had a daughter, got divorced in the 1890's, and move to live on Catalina. But was she alone, did she have companions, partners, significant others while living on Catalina? You get a glimpse that she had escorts while exploring San Clemente and San Nicolas Islands. Perhaps visiting these islands by boat, necessitated a companion on the trip.

But on Catalina, her explorations appear to be primarily alone. However, the famous genius botanist of California, Willis Jepson, who was a bachelor that never married, visited Catalina for 5 days. His field notes describe the wonder of Blanche Trask and her beloved Catalina Island. She wrote mystical-type letters to Doctor Willis Jepson. He wrote back periodically. Did she love him from afar, or just adoration for a botanist-scientist of much knowledge.

So much to know, so much never to know, the mystery of biography, the past, and to live vicariously and curiously through the past, to the present, and into the future-present 21st Century. This biography will continue to evolve, with a life its own, via the Internet, as the author is inspired to add to the biography. For example, for the month of November 2000, I have added this chronology:

AGE...YEAR ...BLANCHE TRASK LIFE EVENTS
0.. .... 1865 ... born Luella Engall, Waterloo Iowa, July 1865
5.. .... 1870 ... Cedar Falls School, Iowa (from U.S. Census)
14. ... 1880 ... Attending school in Minnesota
20. ... 1886 ... Marries Walter Trask (24), March 6, Minnesota
21. ... 1887 ... Caroline Blanche born December 6, Minnesota
25. ... 1890 ... Trasks moves to Santa Monica, California
27. ... 1892 ... Trasks residing in Santa Monica
29. ... 1894 ... Residence in Monrovia for Walter Trask
29. ... 1894 ... Blanche meets Charles Sargent on Catalina
29. ... 1894 ... Marriage separation in October
29. ... 1895 ... Collects plants on Catalina April-June
30. ... 1895 ... divorced December 4 at Caroline 9th bday
30. ... 1896 ... First poem-MASKING-published-Land of Sunshine
31. ... 1896 ... Second poem-LONGING- in-Land of Sunshine
31. ... 1896 ... Third poem-The Dead Past- in Land of Sunshine
31. ... 1896 ... Explores San Clemente Island, October
31. ... 1896 ... Corresponds with Jepson as ERYTHEA editor
32. ... 1897 ... Article on "San Clemente" published in ERYTHEA
32. ... 1897 ... THE HEART OF SANTA CATALINA ISLAND published
32. ... 1897 ... Explores San Nicolas Island
33. ... 1898 ... Fourth poem published -A Song
34. ... 1899 ... Fifth poem published -Coming of the Silence
34. ... 1899 ... Article on "Catalina Flora" published in ERYTHEA
35. ... 1900 ... Explores Santa Cruz Island in October
35. ... 1900 ... Explores Santa Rosa Island, collects lichens
35. ... 1900 ... Article on "San Nicolas Island" published
36. ... 1901 ... Explores Santa Barbara Island for first time
37. ... 1902 ... Explores Santa Barbara Island for second time
37. ... 1902 ... Explores San Nicolas Island again.
37. ... 1902 ... Explores San Clemente Island 2nd time, October
38. ... 1903 ... Explores San Clemente Island 3rd time, Spring
39. ... 1904 ... Sixth poem published - Catalina Fog
39. ... 1904 ... Seventh poem published - The Pines
39. ... 1904 ... Paper Read at South. Calif. Academy Sciences
39. ... 1904 ... Two articles in South. Calif. Academy Sciences
39. ... 1904 ... Eight poem published - How Can it Be?
39. ... 1905 ... On San Jacinto Trails published in OUT WEST
39. ... 1905 ... Explores SAN MIGUEL ISLAND
40. ... 1906 ... Writes 8 LA TIMES stories on Channel Islands
42. ... 1908 ... Jepson botanizes with Blanche on Catalina
42. ... 1908 ... Last Poem published - Moonlight at Catalina
43. ... 1909 ... Explores Death Valley, California
44. ... 1910 ... Recognized & Acknowledged in Jepson "Tree" book
46. ... 1911 ... Explores Sonoran Desert, Indio, Jan.-March
46. ... 1911 ... Three letters from Harvard Botanist to Blanche
47. ... 1912 ... 6 months ill, recuperates at Pt. Fermin Lighthouse
48. ... 1913 ... Explores Grand Canyon and Yellowstone
50. ... 1915 ... Avalon Fire destroys home, plant-archaeology collection
51. ... 1916 ... Dies of pulmonary problems in November
51. ... 1916 ... Jepson and Alice Eastwood attend Funeral Service