Just moments ago, I finished the book, Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx. This was a memoir that spoke to my heart and I was very much invested in the book from its beginning. This is NOT the reaction shared by so many critics with literary expertise, in fact, I found it an unusual thing that a review be entirely positive.
I think that the subject matter was appealing to me on many levels. First, I liked the courage that Proulx modeled as she solicited the help of so many different people in order to build her architectural dream and new home in a very challenging landscape. Bird Cloud is a location of extreme weather conditions, contributing to a sense of isolation. Wyoming was such an awesome landscape and Proulx did not disappoint in terms of her description and research of the location.
Next, as so many others have shared, I feel as though I gained tremendous insight into who Annie Proulx is, not simply ‘the writer’, but also someone acutely interested in history and wildlife. I relished her curiosity and felt excited, even at the countless failures in various steps of construction, whether it be deficiencies in the materials, suppliers and contractors or in the evidence of much after thought.
The book was most colourful as Proulx spoke of the historical relevance of the surrounding land and the nature of the those properties. I was brought to tears while reading the last two chapters, “…all beaded, all earringed, wing feather bowstring sided…” and “A Year of Birds”. Powerfully written, one is left with utmost respect for everything that ‘gets us here’. I feel, not only, enlightened, but challenged to grow in both knowledge and understanding.
Regarding ‘the build’ at Bird Cloud, I felt compelled to shift some furnishings around tonight…think about my personal aesthetic…and in a very understated way, to consider links between beauty and function, new materials and old. I think that ‘place’ is of utmost importance to all of us.
From page 169 of Bird Cloud, Annie Proulx tells us…
“Custer’s Crow scout, Curley, a survivor of the Battle of Greasy Grass, spoke in council in 1907 when pressure was on to sell part of the Crow Reservation to outsiders. He said, ‘The soil you see is not ordinary soil. It is the dust of the blood of the flesh and bones of our ancestors. We fought and bled and died to keep other Indians from taking it and fought and bled and died, helping the whites. You will have to dig through the surface before you can find the earth, as the upper portion is Crow. The land as it is, is my blood, and my dead: it is consecrated, and I don’t want to give up any portion of it.'”
Source: Frances Carrington, My Army Life and the Fort Phil Kearny Massacre (Denver:Pruett Press, 1990), 314 cited in John D. McDermott, A Guide to the Indian Wars of the West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 2.