“This place is, perhaps, where I will end my days. Or so I think”
Annie Proulx’s Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place demonstrates a remarkable likeness to the experiences that I’ve lived at our ranch over the last couple of years just a three hour drive south of the setting of her book. In a heavily researched account, the author delves into her ancestry, the construction of her new home and the interactions of wildlife around her location to share more a memoir of person than a memoir of place.
Through an early life of almost constant change and moving, encouraged by her immigrant father’s ‘American Dream’ pursuit for bigger and better jobs, and a desire to seek out her vague family’s history, the author’s own perceived past impacts the design, location, and character of her home under construction in Wyoming. Ironically, just as her narrative ends, she too, like the eagles nesting above her home that adapted to new situations, endured loss, and survived the weather, had to realize her dream of creating her final home would have to be deferred.
The author knowingly shines with impatience. And to a large degree, I understand her frustrations. Winter, wind, and construction are not easy. I’ve often begrudgingly dealt with each through the re-skin and insulation projects of both the lodge and bunkhouse, renovation projects in cabins, pipes freezing, feet of snow to plow and shovel, gusting winds (though I do not believe our wind is as bad as the Bird Cloud location), etc.
And yet, about fifty head of elk moved across the ridge above the ranch this very morning that I write my review of Bird Cloud. “We live for those fantastic and unreal moments of beauty which our thoughts may build upon the passing panorama of experience” (116). Bird Cloud is simply a location for her to seek out those unreal moments of beauty and is only a piece to the puzzle. The author’s memoir shows us a reflective person shaped and influenced by the past, whose construction of her ‘place’ is not finished. For the weather, the wind, and her surroundings keep her ever moving and adapting.