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Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Voice of the Pacific Northwest

Some years ago I wrote down something I had read, words first penned by an utterly unique and beautiful writer by the name of Opal Whiteley. Her name is attached to a book titled Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart. She has enjoyed an increase of attention in the past couple of decades, and I say hurrah to that. A child of the Pacific Northwest (Oregon) her prose is like dust and Homer and Goodnight Moon and sun glinting through tall trees in endless summer days. Like memories of heaven.

The words I jotted down began with this:
Under the steps lives a toad. I call him Virgil. He and I--we are friends. Under the house live some mice. They have such beautiful eyes. I give them bread to eat.
Her history is strange, incomplete, wandering. Her parents had died when she was young--no, wait, they hadn't. She claimed she was the offspring of French royalty--no, she wasn't, was she? She ended up in post WWII England, surrounded by books, broke, starving. She died at the age of 94 in an insane asylum in England, having lived there for the last fifty years of her life.
I like this house we do live in being at the edge of the near woods. So many little people live in the woods. I do have conversations with them. I found the near woods first day I did go explores.
A precocious and devoted diarist, she claimed to have lived in nineteen lumber camps during her childhood, having been adopted by an Oregon logger and his wife. Something of a literary sensation in the early 1920s for her diaries, she was soon suspected of having fabricated her writings as an adult, and somehow also guilty of the crime of being "odd." Her writing is sweet and gentle and mildly earnest--if from her hand at ages five and six (as she had claimed) then they are the closest thing we have to tasting the air a genius breathes when young. I can smell the Pacific Northwest when I read her words, and she leads me to the quiet perfections of her world...
One way the road does go 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. I tell her about the trees talking. I tell her cloud ships are sailing over the hills in a hurry.
There is a memorial for Opal in Cottage Grove, Oregon that depicts the young writer with a brief essay by Stephen H. Williamson, who ends his piece by writing
To this day there is controversy - "What Happened to Opal?" Different people see her Differently - like the Opal Gemstone.

Was Opal a Mystic or was she Mad? Was she a Fraud or a real Princess? Those Questions - and Others Remain Unanswered.
[snip] Maybe it's time people learned the truth about her. Perhaps Opal can finally come home.
Mr. Williamson further elaborates on the memorial here.

You can read more of Opal's diaries here.

A personal note from the jivester, who is moving to Oregon next month: Opal, so glad to have met you, if only in your words, which include:
Some prayers you pray a little while and answers come. Some prayers you pray more times and answers don't come. I have not knows of why.

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.