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Trimming the lines between cities, towns and villages

A ride in eastern Mediterranean mountains
Dlebta – Kesrouan | Lebanon
December 12, 2015

Spending a whole week in human-made environments and moving along the coast from cities to towns to accomplish the weekly ‘to-do-list’ drain all our energy out, especially with noisy places and congested highways with much traffic. Looking from the window to spot a space to enjoy a peace of mind away from metropolitan area, Mediterranean breezes took over my intellectual and emotional bruises resulting from a whole week of hard work and shoot me out in a ride on the slopes of eastern Mediterranean mountains. In fact, escaping to green spaces can be around the corner, at two steps from towns and cities in Lebanon.

At the entrance of the valley, stunned by the beauty of the place and the harmony in the landscapes, I had the illusion of hearing an extract from Rumi ~
~ I can’t help thinking of rhymes,
and my sweetheart says to me,
‘Don’t think about anything except seeing me.
Sit comfortably,
Oh my rhyming friend;
in my presence you are rhymed with happiness’ ~[1]

At this moment in time, what came to my mind is that ‘the intensity of our love to things is correlated with the depth of our knowledge’; I could be wrong! But never mind, for me this is true for how I value nature!

As a first impression, you have the illusion that the green tapestry trims the lines not only between human-made and natural landscapes but also between the city on the coast and the surrounding towns and villages. ‘Bouquets’ of pine trees dispersed in the valley bring to the eyes perpetuate aesthetic patterns; and to the memory the woven carpets or embroidery of crafts made by villagers. In day’s dreams, kids in early spring can be either giant imagining pine as green cushions where they can lay their heads or miniature in mid summers running to hide from the sun under these gigantic green umbrellas. In reality, the stunning green ‘scapes’ kindles the feelings of contentment and gratefulness of reaching in less than fifteen minutes a place where we reconnect with nature amidst modernized cities and towns. I thought that stepping-stones in fragmented landscapes are only beneficial to the survival of plants and animals; I realized that they are also buffer spaces for people while migrating from the ‘sink-city’ to ‘source-forests’ to recharge their souls and minds. During the ride, if you wished to connect with the divine, you can break in St Jacob church which dates back to 1893. In its backyard, the shade of the old cypress seems to hide village’s stories, part of its history and all type its joyful and sad ceremonies.

In our search for resourceful places to break the pace of our every day’s life, we cannot but think of peri-urban green spaces like this one. To the first comer at the entrance of the valley, ‘wilderness’ glow from either home gardens in squares or terraces blending unexpectedly with forest or from a thick duvet joyfully stitched with the leaves of evergreen and deciduous trees. In home gardens, you can see traditional and common types of fruit trees and ornamental plants found in Lebanese gardens mixed with the seasonal varieties released in early spring each year. You can identify cedar, cypress, bouginvillae sp., cuphea sp., lantana sp., as well as loquat, walnuts, almond, and plum. Unlike mulberry and orange, chestnut is not common but you can spot it standing exceptionally in the middle of terraces. The thick duvet invites you to dip in a mixed rich forest of pine, Syrian maple, common hawthorn, strawberry tree, laurel, Judas tree, storax, pistachio, clematis and sumac among many others.

Turning right in the village’s square, the forest expands to cover the uplands of the valley giving you the impression that it is spreading to the sky. Surprisingly, when you reach the cliff on the hilltops and you give a glimpse to what you have left behind; another form of blue nature is revealed; it is the ‘blue scape’ drawing the lines between the sea and the coast in Jounieh bay. Short ‘escapades’ to nature can always end up with religious landmarks in Kesrouan, as in many regions in Lebanon. During this ride, it can be the Virgin Mary of Harissa and it can be any other place.

1 Mathnawi I; 1728-1735
To be continued…
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