‘The Write Tools’: a blog series featuring authors, artists and their favourite tools.
Today's guest is author, publisher and scholar Amy Espeseth. In 2009, Amy won the Felix Meyer Award, Victorian Premier's Prize for an unpublished manuscript. Her winning novel Sufficient Grace will be published by Scribe in 2012. Amy is also a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne, and publisher at Vignette Press.
To write, I need to get low: down deep inside and close to the ground, back to where I come from. Gospel bluegrass takes me part of the way: When the shadows of this life have gone, I’ll fly away. Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away. My collection of dead things carries me home.
My birds perch throughout the house: a dusty pheasant judges the living room and a songbird guards a speckled egg near the bathroom. But the bookshelf near my writing desk holds most of my taxidermy collection. Beetles, spiders, snails and a stingray sit side-by-side with religious artefacts from my history and travels around the world. These natural things—a bat skeleton encased in Perspex, a complete tiny turtle, a found woven nest—remind me of my childhood in the Wisconsin woods and somehow connect that time to my life today. The departed are a bit jumbled up with ephemera, family heirlooms, and junk. An America’s Dairyland license plate is shelved with a painting from a friend and my high-school graduation cap. Gum nuts, seed pods and a hodgepodge of cicada shells are mixed in with my grandmother’s embroidered handkerchiefs and blue-glass canning jars. Conceivably verification of evolution—an Aipichthys fossil fish—leans on a faux-ancient Ichthys symbol from the Parisian catacombs.
Are you washed in the blood, In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? He’s the newest: my coyote pelt lies across the top of the bookshelf. The coyote obscures a degree, some beautiful butterflies, Our Lady, an old glass cross, and several iridescent insects. My partner, the source of most of my taxidermy collection, gave me the coyote as an anniversary gift. He does not adore my hobby but nonetheless encourages it; I saw him hurt when I unwrapped the very dog-like pelt. He loves animals, but not exactly like I do.
As the deer panteth for the water, So my soul longeth after Thee. You alone are my heart’s desire, And I long to worship thee.
Perhaps that is what these talismans, both natural and personal, truly are: love sacrifices. They are my path to hurts I remember and try to trace on the page. The deer antlers and bull horns—the tails, feathers and skins—are evidence of pain and suffering. And that is the only proof of life.