Tag Archives: hiking

Lessons from Lebanon: The Grand Mother

20 Apr

View from our homestay, Lebanon

Third of the Lessons from Lebanon series, this poem is about one person who impacted me maybe the most during my time in the land of hummus and labna mmm… Ahem, um, yes so we stayed with a family six miles’ walk away from civilization in any direction. It was an awesome hike getting there and when we finally did, we stayed with a small family in one of the valleys. The house was made up of four rooms build right into the mountain side: a kitchen, living area and two small rooms, plus an outhouse.

The grandmother of the family was amazing. I do think all grandmothers are quite special and this one was pretty amazing. Imagine a small – I’m talking 4 feet – woman with no teeth, bandana round her grey hair, face all scrunched up with wrinkles, large belly, hands so calloused she took a pan straight out of the oven with no gloves. NO GLOVES! That is awesome.

P.S. Next week is the final Lessons of Lebanon series and it’s a featured poet! Also I’ll be featuring a video as well so be sure to follow me!

The Grand Mother

We travelled six hours by foot to the glorious Qadisha Valley
to stay the night with a young family and watch the stars.
Beautiful, the view from the hermit’s cave;
Delicious fresh salted goat’s yoghurt from Paradises
and all those shimmering olive trees.

When all we had were smiles to understand each other,
I watched for a long time the grandmother who
would speak to me for long moments in Arabic
in a tone of assured agreement. I watched the lines
on her face from pure mountain life (no distractions).

I watched her pull a hot pan from the oven bare handed.
I, wide eyed, could not comprehend the wisdom she must
possess from bearing children with only the comfort
of age old advice passed down. How I longed
to have such wisdom shared with me.

And we smile at each other and she touches my arm
And she is strong and gentle yet fierce
and in that moment where we mirror
a small gesture of kindness,
we understand something of the other.

We have many lessons to learn from them.


Qadisha’s Thousand Gifts

25 Mar

As many of you know by now I spent a glorious week in Lebanon last month that inspired much of my recent writing. One poem I have gone back to numerous times to edit and add in details was the two-day hike I did in the Qadisha Valley. We were six miles’ hike from civilisation in any direction and stayed with a family who did not speak any English. We visited one of the last known hermits in the world. The electricity cut out between 6pm and 10pm and the stars, they were just incredible. “Amazing” simply cannot give it justice.

Photos below and poem after!

Sharing a drink with the locals

Fresh salted goat's yoghurt

Under the sun

Writing the poem "Olive Trees"

Where's Waldo? Trying to find the homestay we were hiking toward was a challenge!

Top of our homestay


Expansive view over Qadisha

Our feet

Qadisha’s Thousand Gifts

Luke 9.5: “If people do not welcome you,
leave their town and shake the dust off your feet.”

Two parallel mountains cut steep and deep by thousands of years: How blessed I am to receive your thousand offerings.

Hundreds of wild Autumn’s leaves and Spring’s blooms confuse the senses lining the paths we take to begin the climb. Thirty fallow peach trees lie to one side; waiting on the other, a herd of russet coloured goats who stop their grazing to watch new visitors.

Deeper in, a village of 16 pale-eyed Lebanese greet us with fresh salted yoghurt, a welcome treat. We too soon leave them behind for the sea of shimmering grey green olive trees and the smattering of purple berries underfoot where 12 curious flies land on our bare arms.

Finding how nature consumes herself: a single sheep’s jaw bone clean in a bed of pink tulips. We climb and climb until the blooms turn to butter yellow daisies and two pastel butterflies meet us for a long moment on the mountain. We gaze around, looking, seeing

Feeling our way across the moss laden rocks, and slipping into a waterfall’s stream. We trudge onward, smiling and absorbing the milieu. We traverse the cliff edge and find solitary stone homes with natural gardens of wild oregano, cinnamon barks and pomegranates.

Night falls and fistfuls of scattered stars glow from afar. A meal of tabbouleh and roast chicken is served by candlelight amid banter in several languages all edging closer to the understanding of the other. Night becomes quiet atop the mountain and sleep comes too, too quickly.

Eyelids warmed by the rising sun, we take in dawn’s view of a pink sky and snow tipped mountains on the far horizon. We share a breakfast of fresh eggs with the yellowest of yolks, true Easter eggs, and sweet, bitter coffee. Bidding the family goodbye,

We climb along the sunrise. A hermit emerges from his cave and surprises us with his many languages and sense of humour; his black robe sweeping the sand along the mountain’s path. Saint Anthony’s chains and Saint Marina’s single handprint left behind long ago are religion’s relics.

The sun illuminates the whole of the valley; my eyes blur with the size of it. With all the grandeur of these mountains, their magnificence and their offerings: how can I take it all in? I carry now with me the warmth from their sun, a belly of good foods and the dust on my feet. I will not shake it.