BLANCHE TRASK
Funeral Eulogy
by
Willis Jepson

 

Blanche Trask Funeral Eulogy

Transcribed from
Willis Jepson Field Notebook for November 11, 1916

"....... - went to the funeral of Mrs. Blanche Trask, the local botanist of Catalina Island, in San Francisco. She died at Colfax, November 11, whither she had gone on accouont of her pulmonary trouble. The service in Gray's Undertaking Chapel, conducted by the Rev. Bradford Leavitt, was very beautifully done. It was simple and in most excellent taste everyway. Nevertheless I found it difficult to fix my mind on the words of the service. Mrs. Trask was as Miss Eastwood expressed it, "a wild woman." She had given up all that wealth could afford to live her life on Catalina! If she had died on Catalina it would have seemed fitting. But she was buried in a great city with only two or three persons present who had known her and no relatives! It seemed tragic, and as the words of the service went on my mind left the confines of the undertaking chapel and I saw Mrs. Trask, once again, on a high ridge beyond Avalon standing in the moonlit shadows far in the night in silent worship of the sea and air, completely controlled by love of strange beauty and mysticism. Mrs. Trask botanized ardently on her island. She took long journeys on foot, with a shepherd's staff and bit of food. She discovered several new species and collected many rarities. Cercocarpus traskiae is a good species and will keep the memory alive in relation to the Botany ofo Santa Catalina Island - November 14, 1916. The casket was covered with several clusters of very beautiful garden flowers, and one end Mis Eastwood had laid a flowering spray of Cercocarpus traskiaee and also a branchlet of Ceanothus arobreus, both Santa Catalina Island."


OBSERVATIONS by a 21st CENTURY ISLAND NATURALIST
by
Robert Roy van de Hoek
There is mystery, curiosity, nostalgia in reading about someone from the past, as perceived through a person of that era. 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. It would seem that even a funeral eulogy is a type of biography.

So it is that Blanche Trask has captivated me. She was a great writer of natural history. Her poetry still lives as very descriptive of nature, and her explorations and discoveries are interesting and significant to naturalist today. She knew writers 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. I suppose that I have written a new eulogy, to supplement Willis Jepson's words.

Once one begins to search about a person of the past, and once some discoveries are found, be it unpublished journals of friends, 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. And then there is the journal entry that Willis Jepson wrote at Blanche Trask's funeral service.

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.