Links to Opal's Diary and her first book, The Fairyland Around Us,
plus selections from her poems, The Flower of Stars
The Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE) at the UofO has reprinted the ORIGINAL diary approved by Opal in 1920 - different from all others. CATE develops learning tools for students. With dozens of historic photos.
Opal was a student at the UofO in 1917-1918 - perhaps UofO's most mysterious student. This project is the brainchild of CATE's director Dr. Lynne Anderson-Inman and Dr. Mark Horney.. They hired Opal Memorial director Steve Williamson to fill the diary with rare photos and text notes of the people, places and events in Opal's diary. He continues to be a consultant on the project/
"The Fairyland Around Us" was Opal's first book - out of print for 85 years - complete with all photos & drawings. Fairyland is the key to understanding much about the life of Opal Whiteley. Developed by David Caruso.
Opal published these poems in 1923 - shortly before leaving the US. Here are are selections from this rare book.
See dozens of historic photographs of the people and places Opal writes about. This link goes to the UofO's PictureBook, with research by Steve Williamson. Each photo has historical details and a link back into Opal's diary. It's a whole new way to read Opal's diary.
There are now at least 3 versions of Opal's diary - an edition for all ages, including children. Here are the most popular ones.
These short diary excepts will give you some idea of Opal's childhood writings. Her diary describes a magical world where the wind and the creatures in the forest spoke to her.
To some, these are the words of a child with schizophrenia who hears voices and sees visions. Other people find similarities in the mystical stories of St. Francis and the young Indian girl, Pocahontas. These passages also reflect some of the words that were later to become so controversial, such as Opal's accusations of child abuse by her mother.
There is little dispute that Opal wrote the at least some of these diary pages in 1904 and 1905, when she was a young child of six or seven. The oldest she could possibly have written them at is age nineteen. However, her writings as a young adult are very different than what she wrote as a child. It is hard to believe that she wrote them at the same time. However, whether she wrote them when she was a child or a teenager does not matter. What does matter is their lyrical beauty and her powerful understanding of nature. They are works of genius, at any age.
NOTE: All page numbers refer to Benjamin Hoff's The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow, published by Penguin Paperback Books, 1995.
This diary entry describes the transition from fall to winter - the evolution of life from birth to death and rebirth, and how nothing in nature ever really dies.
The Clouds go slow across the sky. The water goes slow in the brook. No one seems to be in a hurry. Even the wind walks slow. I think she wears a silk robe today - I can hear it's faint rustle. I think the wind is dreaming, too. With the whispering leaves, she sings a dreamsong. This is a dream day ...
Now are come the days of brown leaves. They fall from the trees; they flutter on the ground. When the brown leaves flutter, they are saying little things. They talk with the wind. I hear them tell of their borning days, when they did come into the world as leaves.
Today they were talking of the time before their borning days of this springtime. They talked on and on, and I did listen to what they were telling the wind and the earth in their whisperings.
They told how they were a part of earth and air, before their tree-borning days. And now they are going back. In gray days of winter, they go back to the earth again. But they do not die. And in the morning of today it was that I did listen to these talkings of the brown leaves.
Then I faced about. I turned my face and all of me to the way that leads to the house we live in, for there was much works to be done.
This is a very accurate description of the landscape in 1904 near her home outside of Cottage Grove, Oregon. All of the people and places have been verified.
Between the ranch house and the house we live in is the singing creek where the willows grow. We have conversations. And there I do dabble my toes beside the willows. I feel the feels of gladness they do feel.
And often it is I go from the willows to the meeting of the road. That is just in front of the ranch house. There the road does have divides. It goes three ways.
One way, the road does go to the house of Sadie McKibben. It doesn't stop when it gets to her house, but mostly I do. The road goes on to the mill town, a little way away. In its going, it goes over a hill. Sometimes I do go to the top of the hill. I looks down upon the mill town. Then we do face about, and come again home.
Always we make stops at the house of Sadie McKibben. Her house, it is close to the mill by the far woods. That mill makes a lot of noise. It can do two things at once: it makes the noises, and also saws the logs into boards.
About the mill do live some people, mostly men folks. There does live the good man that wears gray neckties and is kind to mice.
Another way, the road does go to the schoolhouse where I go to school. When it is come there, it goes right on by -- on to the house of the girl who has no seeing. When it gets to her house, it does make a bend, and it does go its way to the blue hills. As it goes, its way is near the way of the river that sings as it comes from the blue hills.
So go two of the roads. The other road does lead to the upper logging camps. It goes only a little way from the ranch house, and it comes to a river. Long time ago, this road did have a longing to go across the riviere. Some wise people did have understandings, and they did build it a bridge to go across on. It went across the bridge, and it goes on and on between the hills -- the hills where dwell the talking fir trees.
By its side goes the railroad track. Its appears are not so nice as are the appears of the road, and it has got only a squeaky voice. But this railroad track does have shining rails -- they stretch away and away, like a silver ribbon that came from the moon in the night. I go a-walking on these rails. On this track on every day, excepting Sunday, comes and goes the logging train. It goes to the camps, and it does bring back cars of logs, and cars of lumber. These it does take to the mill town. There, engines more big do take the cars of lumber to towns more big.
The one room schoolhouse Opal attended is still standing. She was a brilliant student, despite often getting into trouble for daydreaming and bringing her pets to school.
Today I do sit here at my desk, while the children are out for play at recess-time. I sit here and I do print. I cannot have goings to talk with the trees that I mostly do have talks with at recess time. I cannot go down to the river across the road, like I do sometimes at recess-time. I sit here in my seat. Teacher says I must stay in all this whole recess time.
I was quite late to school. Teacher made me stand in the corner with my face to the wall. I did not mind that at all. There was a window in that part of the wall. It was near the corner. I looked at my book, sometimes. Most of the times I looked out the window.
I had seeing of little plant folks just peeping out of the earth to see what they could see. I did have thinks it would be nice to be one of them, and then grow up and have a flower, and bees a- coming and, having seed-children in the fall.
I have thinks this is a very interesting world to live in. There is much to see out the window when teacher does make one stand in the corner to study one's lesson.
Lichen is the moss that grows on rocks and trees in the Northwestern United States. Seven year old Opal correctly notes that it grows much faster in the wet winter than summertime.
As I did go along, I saw many gray rocks. Some gray rocks had gray and green patches on them. Some of these patches had ruffles around their edges. The gray patches on gray rocks are Lichens.
Lichen folks talk in gray tones. I think they do talk more when come winter days -- I hear their voices more in December than I do hear their voices in July and June-time. Angel Father did show me the way to listen to lichen voices.
Most grownups don't hear them at all. I see them walk right by in a hurry, and all the time, the lichen folk are saying things; and the things they say are their thoughts about the gladness of a winter day. I put my ear close to the rocks, and I listen. That is how I do hear what they are saying.
Then I do take a reed for a flute. I climb on a stump -- on the most high stump that is near. I pipe on the flute to the wind what the lichens are saying. I am piper for the lichens that dwell on the gray rocks, and the lichens that cling to the trees grown old.
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