But the world veils the spirit and callouses the instincts, dulls honest curiosity and replaces it with criticism and doubt. Those who are removed from Nature demand facts and backgrounds, theories and precise explanations.
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As a child growing up in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon at the turn of the century, Opal Whiteley roamed the fields and forests and logging camps, recording all she saw in a secret diary. She began her diary at the age of six, writing with colored pencils on scraps of butcher paper, wrapping paper and the backs of envelopes.
Opal preferred to be alone, spending her days in the forests with the animals and trees. Opal was considered by her family as an odd and different child. She had a heightened sense of awareness of the sights and sounds around her. She was learning constantly, both from the abundance of local flora and fauna, as well as an insatiable reader.
Opal : The Journal of an Understanding Heart by Opal Whiteley (1984, Hardcover, Reprint)
She was well ahead of all of her peers and probably all of the adults around her. Her heightened sensibilities and her genius for expressing herself combined to create the most fascinating diary ever written. I have thinks these potatoes growing here did have knowings of star-songs. I have kept watch in the field at night, and I have seen the stars look kindness down upon them. University of Sydney Library.
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Central Queensland University. City of Boroondara Library Service. Deakin University. Eastern Regional Libraries. Fraser Coast Regional Libraries. Whiteley traveled to India in the s as her supposed biological father had done: she was the guest of the Maharaja of Udaipur , and wrote several articles about India for British magazines.
Leaving India, she eventually settled in London. She was committed to Napsbury Hospital where she was known to the staff of Napsbury as "the Princess", and visitors remarked that she actually behaved like one. Whiteley remained at Napsbury until her death.
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According to Whiteley and her grandmother, as a child Whiteley was usually punished for daydreaming and "meditations", for running away to go on "explores" instead of working, for misguided attempts to help around the house which ended in disaster, and especially the time and effort she spent on caring for the animals around the lumber camp. She had a great many animal friends, both wild and domestic, to whom she gave fanciful names derived from her readings in classical literature. Despite her troubles, Whiteley wrote of her childhood as though she had often been very happy: even after a severe beating, she could write "I'm real glad I'm alive.
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She began tutoring local children and young adults in natural history. She became famous throughout the region as the "Sunshine Fairy" and gave numerous lectures on geology and natural history. Whiteley attempted to self-publish a textbook in , titled The Fairyland Around Us , which was developed from her popular talks on the natural world. She then went in search of a commercial publisher, without success. However, in a meeting with Ellery Sedgwick , publisher of the Atlantic Monthly , she arranged to publish her childhood diary instead, which, if authentic, would have been written c.
Whiteley, Opal Stanley [WorldCat Identities]
According to Sedgwick in the foreword to the published diary, Whiteley brought in Fairyland , and when asked about her background, her detailed memory led Sedgwick to ask if she had kept a diary. When she replied that she had, but it was torn to pieces, Sedgwick requested that she reassemble it. However, one of Whiteley's biographers uncovered a letter from Whiteley to Sedgwick in which she requests an appointment with him and describes having kept accounts of her observations of the natural world from a very early age.
Sedgwick claimed that Everett Baker, an attorney and head of the Christian Endeavour organization in Oregon, wrote a letter to him that said that on two occasions Whiteley's mother admitted to him and his wife that Whiteley was adopted. Photos which initially appeared in The Story of Opal showed Whiteley at work on the reconstruction and pictures of two of the diary pages. According to Sedgwick's account of the reconstruction, it was a laborious undertaking, as many of the torn pieces were only large enough to contain a single letter and the pieces had been stored in a hat box for years.
Disputes over the authenticity of Whiteley's diary began shortly after their publication in , with many alleging she had actually written the diary at age This claim was initially made by Lawrence in Opal Whiteley, The Unsolved Mystery , who said she had had the diary pages submitted for scientific scrutiny. Some claim that she fabricated the diary to gain publicity and that she suffered from a psychological disease possibly schizophrenia that led her to engage in fantasies about her "true" parents.
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