The Island Looms i' the Mists - 'Phantom Fair'
from
San Pedro:
BLANCHE TRASK
writes to
WILLIS JEPSON,
Letter of September 7, 1912



Point Fermin, California
September 7, 1912

Jepson Correspondence Volume 7. Page 305-306.

"There came to me last May a very pleasant note from you - which a sudden & very severe illness precluded me from answering: but it has not been forgotten! After 11 weeks in a city hospital, I am 'convalescing' here - near the Light-house at San Pedro! so to escape 'the summer People' on Avalon! How & where has this much of year 'sabbatical leave' been spent? I should be glad to hear. The Island looms i' the mists - 'phantom fair'!"


Preliminary Analysis of the Letter
by
Robert Roy van de Hoek
December 2000

Blanche Trask, poet-explorer-naturalist, did most of her California wild nature exploration and writing on the Channel Islands of Southern California. She was a resident of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island in Los Angeles County, California from 1895 to 1915. Her time on Catalina spanned 20 years. Her winter home was located next to the Tuna Club in Avalon, but she also had a summer home at the Isthmus where the Institute of Environmental Studies of USC is currently located.

As can be discerned from this letter, Blanche Trask was very ill in 1912. The view from the Lighthouse area of San Pedro is awesome and often is seen rising above the fog, or mists, as Blanche Trask calls it. There is a magic and charm to seeing Catalina, 20 miles distant, and it beckons to many people to visit. We learn in the opening sentence of the letter that there is a "note" from Willis Jepson, such that there was a two-way correpsondence. It is apparent that Willis Jepson was on sabbatical form at least part of 1912.

Blanche Trask corresponded with several professors and scientists from 1897 to 1913. Some of the institutions that she corresponded with include: UC Berkeley, Harvard University, Smithsonian Institution, and California Academy of Sciences in San Franciso. For example, Willis Linn Jepson, was Professor of Botany at the University of California (Berkeley) with a PhD and several books on botany published. About a dozen letters were written to Doctor Jepson, and one of those letters is presented below. The deep friendship to Willis Jepson is evident as well as is her affection for the ocean and the islands. Although Blanche Trask was aware of and appreciated all nature and her landscapes including desert scenery, it was the California Channel Islands that were her "sense of place." The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island. And indeed, "The Island looms i' the mists - phantom fair'!"

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