Tag Archives: lesson

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.


Lessons from Lebanon: Strangers

31 Mar

This week’s poem is the first of half-a-dozen in a collection entitled “Lessons from Lebanon”. There were so many fantastic experiences and surprises that I encountered there. This was one – totally unexpected – and we went with it. 

If you have travelled to the Middle East you will know of their unabashed welcoming of strangers. Typical conversations go as follows:

Lebanese: Where from?

Tourist (me): (caught off guard) …uh… (hmm… should I say America or England? England, definitely England.) America. (Drat!)

Lebanese: Welcome, welcome!

Tourist: (relieved) Thank you! I love Lebanon! (Ok, don’t go OTT.)

I just hope I can help others feel more welcome too, wherever I am in the world.


Wandering the Byblos markets, I saw a man

enjoying the sunshine and his za’atar meal

of thin freshly baked thyme seasoned bread

and shouting a greeting, thrust a torn wedge

in my direction. He would not take no for an answer.


So good, it could not be missed: the sharing:

their community, their looking out, their senses.

I left with the taste of welcome warm

salt in my mouth and a question in my mind:

when did I last share my meal with a stranger?