This account, by a young woman who with her husband built a house and lived for over two years on a deserted lake island in northern British Columbia, is yet another example of the recent shift from cheery wilderness diaries to sternly searching chronicles. Liz Arthur labors at tracking down essences and essential relationships in the progresses of wind and water, of human and animal. ""Survival,"" she writes, ""is the essence of being at the center of yourself. . . you become well lit."" She details the construction of the house, a symbol of the power to create: ""The piers looked like. . . some great Stonehenge. . .we are always living in ruins which have not yet crumpled, or in buildings which have not yet been built."" Liz and husband Bob are forced to leave, to take winter jobs in a town 40 miles distant, but they make friends, among them some local Indians. Arthur perceives their dilemma--sad, idling elders, poor, pathetically proud, frustrated young militants. There are magnificent, stormy crossings to and from the island, both threatening and intimate (""I smooth out the wrinkles in the sky, privately. . .""); there are heart-stopping visions of an eagle, of swans contemplating the end of fall, of the shooting and soft death of a moose. And a raging, violent cabin-fever war erupts between Liz and Bob, underlining the island experience as a magnifying glass for the emotions. ""Self-containment"" on an island is pure fantasy. Vigorous, scouring reportage which places Arthur firmly in line to join the Hoaglands and Dillards and other astringent precisionists.