Deranged is a work of lamentation and praise, featuring three stories and three women who know that the world has been torn asunder and needs to be restored. Anna, Sophie, and Louise live at the margins of the cultures into which they were born.
Each woman wrestles with forces both personal and ancestral; they refuse to forget the tides of history, their dead, the land, and the animals they live among. In this work, grief arrives as a healer, a spirit, and a way for the true human being.
“In this terrible, gleaming, penetrating work, we learn what it is to be animal again, and so to be fully human. Nora Jamieson’s true and remarkable voice is so old and so aligned with the old, old ways, it is startlingly new. This is a Literature of Restoration. This is the way of sacred language.
This is prayer manifesting in blood, bone, terror, and beauty. This is the language of Creation. These words recreate the holy world and offer it from a fierce heart. Who would have dared to imagine that The Cailleach might be among us again?”
~ Deena Metzger, author, Ruin and Beauty and La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary
Edition #85 July 28, 2015
By Nora L. Jamieson
MY NAME is Louise Estey Sewell. I was born dangling on the edge of a decade, hundreds of years after the arrival of my people to the shores of North America, and within a stone’s throw of war.
After two miscarriages and one still birth, I am the only liveborn child of Salome and John Sewell. On that occasion, I was given the task of fulfilling my father’s one known wish. The only thing he ever wanted—a boy. My mother, remorseful about not birthing a son for my father, relinquished me to him, thus leveraging my life against her guilt.
My father was a fur and hide buyer and a taxidermist, as was his father before him and his before him. From the first moment I can remember I had been surrounded with fur. Pelts of deer, bear, raccoon and wolf had lined my bed. I never questioned it. They were a beautiful and warm comfort to me, my lap and my solace.
The pungent smell of drying hides by the woodstove and sitting beside my father as he worked became my world. When I was five years old, he gave me a my first scrap of soft deer hide on which to practice stitching. Many mornings I sat by the window, deep in concentration, making tiny stitches, the hide spotted with my blood.
It seemed that the furs and how they came to be were always an unquestioned fact of my young life. This was what my father did and I would some day do as part of a tradition. By the time I was six, I had observed the skinning of rabbits and fox, the great suspended bodies of peeled deer and caribou and bear.
I remember the mystery of the animal revealed. The molded meat and muscle, the bluish tissue that wrapped them, the open mouth, the lolling tongue. So this was dead. Is this, too, how I was made? This recognition of my own animal self sent a shiver of wonder and unease through me.
And so for the first ten years of my life, I proudly knew myself as the taxidermist’s daughter. Some said it was an unseemly work for a girl. Some say that it is an unholy work, making a trophy out of a life, this work of killing and hiding the evidence in plain view. A kind of stuffed resurrection.
But it is what I knew. The daily handling of death, the quiet sitting across from my father, the only sound the inevitable buzzing of flies come to lay their future in the skins we scraped and cured.
There were two worlds there. The shop where the men gathered around the woodstove, the air blue with their smoke, their language.
Nora L. Jamieson practiced depth psychotherapy for near thirty years, studying traditional theory and practice at Wesleyan and Antioch Universities with postgraduate work in body oriented gestalt therapy, self psychology, women’s developmental theory, feminist therapy, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, and Working with Spirit Craniosacral Therapy with Michael Boxhall.
Nora Jamieson’s stories have appeared in American Athenaeum, The Cold River Review, Gaian Voices, Women Witnessing, and Sisters Singing.
She resides in northwestern Connecticut (USA), where she writes, counsels women, and unsuccessfully tracks coyote. Nora lives with her spouse, Allan G. Johnson, their soulful dog, Roxie, and the sorrowful and joyful memories of four beloved goats and three dogs.