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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

July 31, 1994|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

TEMPORARY HOMELANDS by Alison Hawthorne Deming. (Mercury House: $18 ; 208 pp.) The first half of this book is set in one of Deming's chosen homes, an island in Maine, "fifteen miles long and five wide." It helps to be able to picture the landscape, to know what it feels like to take the ferry out with all your necessities and return regretfully home with only half of them after a temporary time. Indeed, there may be several words in here unfamiliar to Westerners: sog, dulse, weir and wrinklers (periwinkle pickers) to name a few. Many of the islanders make their living by the weirs, fishing for herring, an ancient method "handed down by the Micmac and Passamaquoddy." One islander has known 58 men lost at sea. Deming's descriptions of the wildlife around her are detailed and unsentimental--she is a nice blend of real rural Maine, historian, anthropologist and hippie idealist. She had a child at 17, a daughter she raised alone, but this is mentioned only in passing. The last essays on nature and poetry I find more self conscious and less charming than the first few chapters, which combine Deming's observations of New England and the Southwest with fascinating random bits of history from these areas; namely the things that one would expect to stay in the soil--like witchcraft and Anasazi rituals.

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