Annie Proulx, one of America's finest writers, invites us to share her experience in the building of her new home on a rich plot of untouched, unspoilt prairie and her pleasure in uncovering of the layers of American history locked beneath the topsoil.
‘Bird Cloud’ is the name Annie Proulx gave to 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie and 400 foot cliffs plunging down to the North Platte River. On the day she first visited, a cloud in the shape of a bird hung in the evening sky. Proulx also saw pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, great blue herons, ravens, scores of bluebirds, harriers, kestrels, elk, deer and a dozen antelope. She knew she had to purchase the land, then owned by the Nature Conservancy, and she knew what she would build on it – a house in harmony with her work, her appetites and her character – a library surrounded by bedrooms and a kitchen.
Proulx's first non-fiction in more than twenty years, Bird Cloud is the story of building that house – solar panels, a Japanese soak tub, a concrete floor, elk horn handles on kitchen cabinets – and an enthralling natural history and archeology of the region, inhabited for millennia by Ute, Arapaho and Shoshone Indians. It is also a family history, going back to nineteenth century Mississippi river boat captains and Canadian settlers, and an illuminating autobiography. Proulx, a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and compassion, turns her lens on herself. We understand how she came to be living in a house surrounded by wilderness, with shelves for thousands of books and long worktables on which to heap manuscripts, research materials and maps, and how she came to be one of the great American writers of her time.