A Super Moon in the mountains of Bsharre, northern Lebanon
On the day of October's full moon last year I bought a telephoto lens for my camera to try photographing the moon. Every month since then I have tried to capture the full moon rise. Somehow it has become a monthly ritual, a grounding date in my calendar, taking me, by necessity, to beautiful places up high.
This month I knew the Super Moon of 2014 was coming so chose to go to a town called Bsharre, high up in the mountains of the Kadisha Valley in northern Lebanon. Bsharre is the birthplace of Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet who wrote The Prophet among other works. In his Spirits Rebellious he wrote that
'we are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side.'
He penned these lines:
"Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."
High up in the Kadisha Valley, above the town, ancient cedar forests still exist. You might know the cedar tree from the Lebanese flag. It is a beautiful, tall tree made up of horizontal branches that spread our from the trunk like palms outstretched to catch rain. After half an hour in the cool, fragrant forests, I think I began to understand Gibran's words.
The trees reminded me of a short film I had watched just days before, One Hand (2012), an animation by Syrian film maker, Wael Toubaji, at the Cabriolet Film Festival in Byblos. You can watch it here if you like. The name of the film, one hand, is recognised as the slogan of Syrian revolutionaries from 2011 who believed that Syria should be unified in the face of an oppressive regime. The film had a simple message: if you cut something down, you will never see how beautiful it might have been or understand why it wanted to grow in the first place.
It is hard to forget the stories of displacement and violence that now haunt these border valleys and mountains between Lebanon and Syria, but the beauty of Bsharre, and the magic of the full moon, put such thoughts to rest, for a night at least. Full moon nights have become beautiful moments to share with strangers, family, friends, old and new.
One friend who came with me last night was Giulia, my once yoga teacher and now friend here in Beirut. She was born in the mountains of northern Italy and told me that because of the high peaks, she grew up never seeing the sunset. Last night, we made up for that.
Last night we waited until seven in the evening to hike up towards an amphitheater of mountainsides, where we could look directly south east to the moonrise. The Super Moon seemed to be on Lebanese time, rising an hour later than expected. Until then, we were completely alone in the desert-like mountains, hearing only the softly hooting sounds of strange desert insects in the distance.