It’s Complicated



The Tomb of the Patriarchs (Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah) in Hebron in the West Bank. The building was constructed by King Herod.

If I had a shekel for every time that was said while I was in Israel and Palestine, I would be as rich as King Solomon.

But the truth is: “It’s complicated” essentially sums up the situation. Having spoken with both Palestinians and Israelis, there is no easy solution to the problem.

Why? I think I will lay the blame on the United Nations. When it was decided, about 70 years ago, that the Jews that were being killed and chased of out of Europe deserved a Democratic State of their own, the Arabs who were living in Israel were forced out, killed, or herded into refugee camps.

And that’s when the United Nations began the big lie. The Palestinians were told that someday they would be given the “right of return”. And are still being told so.

But two generations or so later, they remain in refugee camps or trapped in Gaza or scattered across the West Bank and the rest of the world. There are probably now more than five million Palestinians who have been promised the right of return.

And to put it bluntly, there is no way in hell that Israel is going to risk losing its Jewish state to an Arab majority. All the Israelis I spoke to, whether in the IDF, Knesset, or Arab themselves, all felt that the state might be willing to make sacrifices for a two-state solution. They would be willing to give up their settlements in the West Bank and lose Holy Sites like the graves of the Patriarchs in Hebron, in order for the Palestinians to have their own state.

Palestinians, on the other hand, whether in the PLO, shop owners, or residents in refugee camps, are insistent on their right of return.

And so, therefore, as Rudyard Kipling noted, “never the twain shall meet”, and the deaths in Gaza continue. As the Right Reverend John Taylor, Bishop of Los Angeles, and fellow pilgrim on our journey to Israel wrote:

Two generations of Palestinians have been raised on the narrative that God and justice demand that they be allowed to return to their forebears’ land in Galilee. Since March, this dream, fed by the discontent of living in a kind of prison along the Mediterranean coast, victimized by Israeli and Egyptian blockades and Hamas mismanagement, has inspired the Gazans’ demonstrations and in some cases suicidal moves against the border.

It’s impossible to fault Palestinians for trying to go home. It’s impossible not to fault the IDF for overreacting, for using live ammunition against people throwing rocks.

And yet the young soldiers and their commanders are also products of trauma narratives, not only the whole of Jewish history (including two millennia of Christian antisemitism) but also the second intifada from 2000-05, in which 1,100 Israelis died and 3,000 were injured. Proportional to Israel’s population, that’s Vietnam. Or Pearl Harbor. Or September 11. Think about what such moments do to a nation’s heart.

When children throw rocks, look not just for terrorist masterminds. Look for their hunger for home (an impulse common to all human experience) and all Gazans’ urgent hunger for economic opportunity, shelter, electricity, water, and enough to eat.

When an army has a hair trigger, look not for evil hearts or even right-wing governments. Look for the perception and indeed reality of existential threat.

Is there a solution that’s acceptable to both sides? It’s complicated, but the one thing I do know is that the only solution will have to be worked out by Israel and Palestine. What they probably need less of, though, is having possible solutions West-splained to them.


The End is Where We Start From


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It has been a busy year, and I haven’t yet had time to develop a newsletter–BUT I DID: finish a short story, finish the edits on the two books coming out in June, co-curate an art exhibit, take a 10-day trip to Israel, survive a snow storm, and I am beginning the prep work on my next novel (finally found an idea I have real passion for).

So here is a glimpse of my newest short story. If you like what you’ve read, you can follow the link to finish the story at the end.

The End Is Where We Start From

            The morning light filtered through the thin fabric of his tent and he rose to consciousness slowly, trying to remember where he was. It wasn’t the single bed in his cramped apartment. That he knew for sure. The mattress was too hard, the air too chilly.

Camping, he remembered, groaning as his eyes adjusted to the dimness of his tent. He was in a state park known for its bike trails, and his intent was to spend all of Saturday and most of Sunday biking before heading back to the city and his boring IT job.

He had arrived at the campground with his bike in tow, just as the sun was beginning to set so he really hadn’t had a chance to look around, get a grasp on the terrain. His time had been spent setting up his tent, making sure his bike was locked to the rack on the back of his sedan. What was it his father called it? His Oldsmobuick? A line from some Chevy Chase movie that was before his time. He shook his head. Honda, the new Oldsmobuick.

He sat up, blinking the sleep from his eyes. He needed to get a start on the day if he wanted to finish more than one trail. There were numerous challenging bike trails within the park he had camped in, and he wanted to explore as many of them as possible.

Now, definitely more awake, he unzipped his sleeping bag, slipping into his bike shorts, sleeveless top, and a pile pullover to ward off the early morning chill.

Then, pulling the zipper to open his tent, he stepped outside to get ready for the day. He deliberated which was most important, and then opted for putting the coffee water on to boil before making a run to the bathhouse. The water was getting close to boiling when he returned, so he quickly readied the French press before retrieving a couple of hard-boiled eggs from his food pack.

Taking a deep breath, he surveyed the sky. It looked like it was going to be a glorious early autumn day—cloudless with temperatures predicted to be in the upper 60s. He heard the water bubbling and lifted the pot to pour it into the carafe, then, as he waited the four minutes for it to brew, he peeled an egg and studied a trail map. Which trail did he want to bike first?

This one looks intriguing, he thought, biting into the egg, if for no other reason than the name—Lost Limbo Loop Trail. Someone had fun with that. It was an unusual name for a bike trail. The common denominator was usually something like Lakeshore or name-of-park or something natural that involved pines or oaks or even more boring, the trails named after the colors that outlined them on the trail map.

He always preferred the trails with off-the-beaten-track names like Turkey Run or Ghost House Trail. Something that made you wonder why they were named that, but those trails were rare.

Well, Lost Limbo Loop first, he decided. It was an intermediate trail and only twenty-five miles long. That would definitely warm him up and only take a portion of his day.

The alarm on his iPhone chimed, and he pressed down on the grounds. He could already taste that first cup.

It wasn’t until he was packing up that he noticed that the campground was eerily silent. He was rarely the first person up. The ubiquitous AARP folks who frequented these campgrounds were usually awake before even the sun could drag open a sleepy lid. But, while he could see RV upon RV parked all around him (he was the exception in a tent), not a soul was in sight. Odd, but he didn’t guess it really mattered.

He intended to have this site one more night so he left his tent up, but packed everything else away in his car. Even his sleeping bag.

Yes, I’m that paranoid, he thought, glancing over his shoulder to see if anyone had noticed. He hated to admit it but he was doing a bit of glamping. It was just that he liked having the ability to re-charge his phone, computer, what-have-you, and even read by lamp instead of lantern when he returned to camp in the evening.

Hydration pack settled firmly on his back and stocked with his emergency first-aid kit, some protein bars, and a few other things to munch on, he climbed on his bike and wheeled out of the campground.

To continue reading . . . go here: The End is Where We Start From

Eclectic Life


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Beginning in 2018 (oh yeah, that’s the day after tomorrow!), I will no longer be using The Wilderness Road as a blog. Instead, I intend to publish a quarterly newsletter via Mailchimp and that will feature what I’m currently working on, upcoming books, what I’m reading, and that type of thing. In addition, I may send out the occasional email to let you know about books about to go on sale and other things of a timely nature.

If you’re interested in signing up for my newsletter, Eclectic Life, you can do so here:


Coming Soon . . .



Desert sunrise

Beginning on January 1, 2018, I will begin a daily blog featuring wisdom from the desert fathers and mothers. Below you will find a sample–advice from Desert Mother, Amma Theodora.

Stay tuned for a special announcement about this blog, The Wilderness Road, coming next week . . .

Amma Theodora said, “It is good to live in peace, for the wise man practices perpetual prayer. It is truly a great thing for a virgin or a monk to live in peace, especially for the younger ones. However, you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through accidie, faintheartedness, and evil thoughts.

“It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees, and all the members. It dissipates the strength of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray.

“But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away. There was, in fact a monk who was seized by cold and fever every time he began to pray, and he suffered from headaches, too. In this condition, he said to himself, ‘I am ill, and near to death; so now I will get up before I die and pray.’

“By reasoning in this way, he did violence to himself and prayed. When he had finished, the fever abated also. So, by reasoning in this way, the brother resisted, and prayed and was able to conquer his thoughts.”

If you want to savor a piece of daily desert wisdom in 2018, you can follow my blog here: Franciscans Day by Day

Morning light on the Superstitions.

O Come, O Come Emanuel




It is Advent, and the time when we sing one of my favorite hymns as Christmas approaches. But O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is not just one of my favorite Christmas hymns (O Holy Night and What Child Is This? are high on the list as well), but it is also the song from which I picked the titles of the three books in the Hallowed Treasures Saga.

Here is a video my husband, Frank, made of O Come, O Come Emanuel:

The song came first. The first two books had several working titles before I decided on The Path to Misery for the first book in the trilogy. But the song appeared early in the first book when the Princess Eluned, Jabberwock, and Bonpo finally make it through the snowstorm in the Mountains of Misericord, and Eluned sings: O come, Thou Key of David, come and open wide our heav’nly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.

Once I decided on The Path to Misery for the first book, it made it easy to incorporate lyrics from other verses into the next two books and to choose In Lonely Exile and Death’s Dark Shadows at their titles.

The hymn is a translation of a Latin hymn, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, which is a metrical paraphrase of the O Antiphons, a series of plainchant antiphons attached to the Magnificat at Vespers over the final days before Christmas. The 1861 translation, which I used to choose the titles, is from Hymns Ancient and Modern, and is the most used, by far, in the English-speaking world. Because the original song is in Latin, though, you will find many versions with different lyrics by artists who wished to copyright their version.

Each antiphon is a name of Christ, relating one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:

  • December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
  • December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
  • December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
  • December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)

According to Fr. William P. Saunders, “The exact origin of the O Antiphons is not known. Boethius (480–524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time [the sixth century]. At the [Benedictine Abbey of Fleury] these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the O Antiphons was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, Keep your O and The Great O Antiphons were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the O Antiphons have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.”

While the hymn is often linked with the 12th century, the earliest surviving evidence of the hymn’s text is in the seventh edition of Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum, which was published in Cologne in 1710. The familiar tune called Veni Emmanuel was first linked to this hymn in 1851, when it appeared in the Hymnal Noted, paired with an early revision of the English translation of the text. In 1966, British musicologist Mary Berry (also an Augustinian canoness and noted choral conductor) discovered a 15th-century French manuscript containing the melody. Most versions are sung to this tune today.

Here is the version from:

Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861)

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

And here is Punk version Frank created: