Opal Whiteley
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That evergreen tree Opal climbed might have been Michael Angelo Sanzio Raphael, "a grand fir tree with an understanding soul." According to the diary, Opal would climb onto the barn roof and jump into the tree, nestle in the branches, or "arms," and have one of her conversations. "After I talked with him and listened unto his voice, I slipped down out of his arms. I intended to slip into the barn corral, but I slid off the wrong limb, in the wrong way. I landed in the pig-pen, on top of Aphrodite, the mother pig. She gave a peculiar grunt -- it was not like those grunts she gives when she is comfortable."

With Aphrodite, Brave Horatius the shepherd dog and her other animal friends, Opal went "on explores" through the woods. She seemed to have a special way with wild creatures. Her father said she could tame anything in the forest, and one person who knew Opal said that birds and butterflies would sit in her hand (a story reminiscent of Thoreau, who reputedly could row across Walden Pond and pet the wild ducks without disturbing them.) To Opal, all of nature was alive, and all beings of the natural world members of a grand chorus of the Earth. "Earth-voices are glad voices, and earth-songs come up from the ground through the plants," she writes in the diary, "and in their flowering, and in the days before these days are come, they do tell the earth-songs to the wind. And the wind in her goings does whisper them to folks to print for other folks, so other folks do have knowings of earth's songs. When I grow up, I am going to write for children -- and grownups that haven't grown up too much -- all the earth-songs I now do hear."

She also felt a scientific approach was necessary for a complete understanding of nature. To that end, Opal gathered thousands of specimens of plants and rocks and insects, which she studied with a dedication and voracity that would later amaze nearly all who met her.

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