Interview with Megan Diddie
by Megan Diddie
What was your favorite school project when you were small?
It was the project where I had to dissect an owl pellet. If you have never seen an owl pellet, it looks like a fuzzy brownish-gray ball embalmed with bones. It’s the bits of the rodent or bird that the owl cannot digest, and so regurgitates.
Interesting. How did you go about dissecting it?
I remember using tweezers to pull out the bones. Then I reassembled them in order to figure out what the owl had eaten, and I glued the skeleton onto a piece of dark paper.
What is it that excites you most about that project?
It was fun to pick apart a dense ball of fur and extract fine, delicate bones. And it was a surprise because you didn’t know what the owl had eaten. Some of my classmates found that their owl had eaten two things, which reminds me of the time we dissected minks in high school… Everyone was jealous of the girl whose mink was pregnant.
Do you dissect any animals these days?
No, but I’ve got a few in jars on my bookshelf. A bat, a baby bird, a mammoth bone, a fox pelvis, and some dried seahorses…
One time, the shopkeeper at this Chinese herb store told me that dried seahorses “Make man strong!!” if you know what he means…
Haha. Yeah I know what he means…So did you collect all those specimens yourself?
Yes, and now I’m searching for some dead bees for a friend…
Have you found any beehives?
I know of one in an old oak stump in southern California. When I visited that hive this past December, I noticed lots of dead bees and I was worried someone had poisoned the colony. It’s right across the street from a suburban neighborhood, so it seems prone to attacks from the neighborhood kids…
What happened to the bees?
When I returned to the hive a couple of weeks ago, it was very lively, so I think all is well. I’m actually quite allergic to bees, so I probably shouldn’t be hanging around that sort of thing, but it’s so peaceful. It’s quite the opposite of life in the city.
It’s nice to go between those two different worlds…
How has living in Chicago influenced you?
Well, I’ve been very productive as far as painting, drawing, and reading. I really enjoyed hiding away in the apartment all winter with no reason to venture out except for basic necessities. It’s very different to be deprived of fresh air and real sunshine for such a long time. Having grown up in Southern California, I feel as if I’ve never experienced a real spring until now. Those dark days bring strange and inspiring ideas though..
Where will you draw inspiration now that summer is here?
I’ve recently picked up a book called The Dedalus Book of the Occult: A Dark Muse.
It’s an introduction to various occult figures, writers and practitioners. There is a woman I’m currently reading about who, “Along with distributing communion hosts to stray dogs, she decorated her flat with a disturbing blend of Catholic and
Satanic bric-a-brac, mixing altar-cloths, monstrances, and dalmatics with the work of Felician Rops.” (p139) And that is all I will tell you about for now.