Perhaps some of the most majestic structures of the Willamette Valley are those that are home to nature’s creatures and plants. In the early 20th Century it was a precocious 5 year old in the Cottage Grove area who began to put such ideas to paper, but it wasn’t until Benjamin Hoff, of Tao of Pooh fame, explored and delivered an engaging biography of this girl genius that we can truly appreciate Opal Whiteley’s acumen.
Benjamin Hoff’s biography of fellow Oregonian and nature lover, Opal Whiteley, has aided in dispelling many myths concerning Whiteley’s mental stability while adding credence to many of her early fanciful claims. Web sites, memorials, parks, venues, and books about Whiteley have become popular in recent years, and she is becoming one of the more intriguing literary figures of the 20th century. So many, many questions spring from her writings and lectures. Was she schizophrenic? Adopted? A genius? Did she talk to fairies among the fir forests surrounding her home near Cottage Grove? It is entirely possible that a more interesting, multi-layered individual may not have ever graced the natural cathedrals of the Willamette Valley.
Steve McQuiddy has written a nice piece about Whiteley which can be downloaded here, and the University of Oregon maintains a fantastic web site which contains Whiteley’s complete diary here. Cottage Grove maintains a The Opal Center, a venue operating within the strictures of Whiteley’s philosophy of art/nature/knowledge accessibility to all. The Cottage Grove Historical Society has a concise yet excellent bio of Whiteley on their website.