In her new memoir, Bird Cloud, novelist and short-story writer Annie Proulx recounts the many experiences—from the nearly tragic to triumphant—that she encountered while making her home along the North Platte River in Wyoming. Sound boring? Far from it. A master storyteller, Proulx fills her book with birds and animals, towering mountains and unbroken horizons, among many other iconic images from the West. Here, among others, are 10 crucial things she learned while building her home.

 

Root out and destroy any kitchen that can be described as a “beige horror.”

Set your home among lodgepole pines—preferably not beetle-infested ones. Lots of cottonwood trees, too.

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Heat your driveway to avoid the formation of miniature glaciers.

Arrange for a view of big cliffs and at least one river.

Have resident populations of “mule deer, pelicans, bald eagles, great blue herons, waterfowl, ravens, scores of bluebirds, a harrier, a kestrel,” and assorted other critters, up to and including elk.

Hire an architect “with an office no more than twenty miles from the building site.”

As a corollary to the preceding, “put more value on the ideas and opinions of the construction crew” than you might ordinarily do.

Pick out your own plumbing and lighting fixtures.

Put a sofa and chairs in the kitchen, if it’s big enough to do so.

Build bookshelves, and then build more bookshelves, and then fill them. Add lots of table space to spread out maps and files. Tolerate disorder, with a recognition, as Proulx writes, that “my habits and work do not tally with clean minimalism.” Maximize the mess, and enjoy your new home.

 

Pub info:

Bird Cloud: A Memoir

Annie Proulx

Scribner / Jan. 4, 2011 / 9780743288804 / $26.00