Behold, I will liken you to a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches and forest shade. ~ Ezekiel 31:3

Ottoman Turks axed many of the surviving cedars for trade, while British troops used cedar wood to build railroads during wartime. Only 17 square-kilometres, 0.4 percent of the estimated ancient cover of cedars remain in Lebanon nowadays, hanging on in a few scattered redoubts. ~ Al Jazeera

Early in my adult life, I moved to Beirut, Lebanon, to teach at the American Community School. Even amidst the conflict in the region, Lebanon was a wonderously beautiful time and place for me! And I explored many corners of it during my time there.

Almost every weekend we would hire a ‘service’ (ser-VEES) or communal taxi, usually a vintage Mercedes, to take us to the beach, to archeological sites, or to the mountains. One special place was the town of Bsharri high in the mountains. It is where Khalil Gibran was born. 

I took these photos more than 50 years ago. Above the town at the snow line, you can see a small dark area. That is virtually all that remains of The Cedars of Lebanon. The road up the mountain was harrowing, but a visit to the grove of beautiful old growth cedars and the skiing were great in equal measure. As was our time in Bsharri. Though I’ve traveled the world and seen many beautiful expressions of Mother Earth, this continues to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

Here are some of the words Gibran wrote about beauty: 

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory, she walks among us. 

Beauty is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden forever in bloom and a flock of angels forever in flight.

Beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

Excerpted from “On Beauty” by Khalil Gibran in The Prophet.

Photos by Barbara
Bsharri, Lebanon
Scans of 35mm slides