Blanche Trask: Poet-Explorer-Naturalist

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 (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. She corresponded with professors and scientists at UC Berkeley, Harvard University, the Smithsonian, and at the California Academy of Sciences in San Franciso. She also corresponded with Charles Lummis, editor of the Land of Sunshine, a literary magazine in which her early poetry first appeared. Land of Sunshine was merged into another magazine called Out West in 1900.

Blanche Trask published THE PINES in OUT WEST, which subsumed LAND OF SUNSHINE in March 1904 after living on Catalina Island for about eight years. As you can note at the end of the poem, she gave no location of the publication of the poem which is odd since all of her other poems list Avalon-Catalina as her geographic location of authorship, aside from a single poem apparently written at Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains of southern California. The poem was probably not written on Catalina as there are no pines there. However, Torrey Pines do occur on Santa Rosa Island to the north of Catalina. She did visit this island and those pines around the turn of the Century (1900). Also, there are pines near La Jolla, just north of San Diego. I wonder if this poem is based on those pines? There are abundant pines near Idyllwild. However, the poem context in regard to ships made of pine, indicates a location near the sea for these pines. A careful research of her travels via letters may indicate her location in March 1904, when the poem was published. THE PINES was published eight (8) years after her first poem called MASKING. THE PINES is the seventh (7th) of ten (10) poems published by Blanche Trask spanning 10 years between 1896 and 1905. The above narrative and the poem was written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, Otober 1, 2000 for educational purposes. The brief biography of Blanche Trask has since been revised in October 2000.

OUT WEST Volume 20, Number 3, Page 222. March 1904 


Oh! that strange solemn line
Of the pines on the hill!
Where the wind at his will,
Where the wind at his will----

Be he tender and kind,
Or wild and o'erbold;
At one with the sun,
Or in league with the cold----
* * * *
I climbed the long ridge
Which leads to the hill,
And I saw the great trees there
Bend to his will!

Tall, stately and grand--
I saw the tears shine,
As they drank his fresh breath
Like the rarest of wine.

The sun, a burnt ship,
Sank at last in the West;
And then for a moment
Each pine seemed at rest.

I ran down the wild ridge,
And I thought--can it be
That the heart of a woman
Bides in the pine tree?

(no geographic location given); her only poem with no location of authorship but it may be on the mainland in the mountains?