Opal Whiteley was a naturalist and writer around the turn of the century. She was a gifted child, and when she was a young woman, her childhood diary was published and became a bestseller. But her critics claimed that it was a fraud- that no child could have such insight and eloquence. Eventually, she went a little mad, and spent the latter part of her life in an English asylum. It’s a sad story, but at least her beautiful writing has lived on.
From “The Singing Creek, Where the Willows Grow”
by Opal Whiteley
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. And they whisper of the hoods they wore then. I saw them, I used to count them on the way to school. Today they were talking of the time before their borning days of this springtime. They talked on and on, and I did listen on 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.
Most of the diary concerns Opal’s animal friends, like Brave Horatius the dog, Elizabeth Barrett Browning the cow, William Shakespeare the horse, and Peter Paul Rubens the pig. If you want to read it, and learn more about Opal’s life, look for the book “The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow: The Mystical Nature Diary of Opal Whiteley” edited by Benjamin Hoff.