Saturday, December 24, 2011

Another Corner Turned

Winter solstice has passed, the saternalia is in midswing and the sun will be travelling north a little further each day. It all means long, sunny days are just around the corner.

How do you picture the calendar year in your mind? In my mind's eye, I actually see it rather like an oval shaped race track with January and February at the top and July and August at the bottom. The months of March, June, September and December are all at the curves of the track, while October and November and April and May are along the sides.

I'm always happy when we "round the club house turn" where December sits and we head into the top of our calendar oval. It means, up here in the Pacific Northwest, that we are getting near the end of our winter. Sometimes in mid-January dear little snowdrops bravely show their faces and by February the green spears of daffodils are poking through the ground.

Those long, dark days of November and December are difficult to get through and it's easy to understand to some extent why our pagan ancestors living in northern climes instituted the Saturnalia to add some winter cheer. I often wonder if that is not what modern day winter festivals are all about.

Whatever your thoughts are about the Saturnalia, be safe and happy in the new year. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Review of "The Last Ride of Billy the Kid"

The windup to the wine tour of the Okanagan Valley gets put on the back burner for another week. Last week my husband had an angioplasty which meant an overnight stay in St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. St. Paul's as one of the foremost heart centers in the world, so he was in good hands. But it rather took my mind off my writing, as he had to take it easy for the past week and I was looking after him. Well, it all comes under the heading of Senior Moments.

So here's a book review for a new book being released this month that I think a lot of seniors will enjoy. Back in the day we all knew about Billy the Kid, and my friend, John Aragon who is a defense lawyer has written an exciting book about him. Gives us a different perspective about the lad, as I say in the review. Here it is: "The Last Ride of Billy the Kid"

This really is so much more than just about Billy the Kid, although he makes a wonderfully pitiable, albeit flawed main character. It’s a true saga of the west and is wonderful in its scope.

In spite of the violence, I enjoyed reading John Aragon’s fascinating version of Billy’s life, which provides the reader with a different perspective on what made the young man the bad dude he was. Mr. Aragon, a trial lawyer, is able to take this flawed young man and make him a likeable character who stuck by his friends. He also shows how the circumstances of his life forced Billy off the narrow path and into a life of crime. One has to feel empathy for the lad. As I read, there were so many places where I wished his life had taken a different turn—that  he could have pursued his dream to ride south to Mexico, with the woman he loved, and live peacefully ever after.

I was 15 years old when I first saw the movie “The Outlaw.” starring Jane Russell who was quite famous at the time. The man who played Billy the Kid was a virtual unknown, but he was extremely good looking, and I had a crush on him for a long time. Consequently, although history has often told us that Billy was a bad dude, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for him.

Mr. Aragon’s wonderfully descriptive narrative transports us into the sun-filled, blue-sky country of southwestern United States. His settings carried me back to the four trips that my husband and I made through Arizona and New Mexico. I remembered how much I loved the terrain of that dry, pinion-studded and mesa filled land. There’s even a special smell to it.

I also liked how the author interweaves the story of the milquetoast, New York reporter, Percival and his search to know Billy as well as his obsession with Rosa. It adds comedy and breaks up the tension of the constant violence in Billy’s life. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the episodes with the steer outside the outhouse, and the encounter with the rattlesnake while Percival goes about his “business” were hilarious.

Mr. Aragon is a gifted writer and I think we will be seeing more of his work.