Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now

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Lois Phillips Hudson was a novelist, essayist, professor at the University of Washington, environmental activist, and mother of two daughters. She was born in 1927 in Jamestown, North Dakota. Because of the Depression, her family was forced to move back and forth between North Dakota and Washington State. In 1937 her family finally settled on a twenty-acre homestead in the rural Sammamish River Valley near the town of Redmond, Washington, population, then, only about 300.

Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now recounts how that valley was transformed over the course of Hudson’s lifetime, roughly the sixty-five years from 1937 to 2003. The Sammamish River Valley was for her what Walden Pond was for Thoreau, what the Lake District was for Wordsworth, what the farm at Port Royal, Kentucky, is for Wendell Berry. It was both her home land and it was the womb of her imagination. Day after day, year after year, she rode her bicycles, first along the county gravel roads of her youth, then along the asphalt pathways of the Kings County Park and Trail System. As she rode, she observed the natural order and its cycles; she observed the human habitation of this world and how it changed the natural order; she saw rivers where salmon had once been plentiful now dammed for power generation and straightened for flood control. Parking lots covered wetlands. Golf courses and soccer parks replaced farm fields. Suburban housing developments overran apple and cherry orchards. Hudson’s rural habitat of small farms, salmon streams, forests, and the human community closely tied to the natural world were transformed into the suburban technological-capitol of the world, the headquarters of Microsoft, Hudson’s new “neighbor.”

Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now was not published during Hudson’s lifetime.  Hudson left a manuscript that is substantially complete, but not fully finished.  The book tells a unified story.  It has a clear beginning, coherent development of ideas, and a satisfying conclusion.  But it is obvious that Hudson had not done her final editing.  There are many parenthetical comments within the text where she reminds herself to recheck sources, to verify facts, and to delete repetitions.  We are able to observe Hudson’s thought process as she makes suggestions for further revision of her book.  Also, there are a few typographical mistakes.  However, the text is being published as Hudson last left it, without editorial corrections. 

Praise for the work of Lois Phillips Hudson

“It is possible . . . that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson’s story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.”  —New York Times Book Review

“Hudson does a superb job of revealing the physical texture of farm life on the prairie—its sounds, smells, colors, sensations. Then she goes further, examining the spiritual texture as well. Her characters are bound to each other and to their land in a kind of harsh intimacy from which there is no relief. Weather, poverty, anger, and pride are the forces that drive them and ultimately wear them down. . . Like the best books of any era, [The Bones of Plenty] convinces us of its characters’ enduring humanity, and surprises us, again and again, with the depth of emotion it makes us feel.”  —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“At her best, Lois Phillips Hudson can make the American Ordeal of the 1930s so real that you can all but feel the gritty dust in your teeth.” —Omaha World-Herald

“Hudson writes with grace and beauty and an abiding understanding of the meaning of those bitter, tragic years.”—Chicago Tribune

“These tales [Reapers of the Dust] are to ‘discomfit civilization,’ in the tradition of personal accounts of the settling of the West by such writers as Mari Sandoz, Wallace Stegner, and Walter Van Tilburg Clark.”—The Nation

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