A MAGICAL PLACE

In this scene from A Beirut Heart: One Woman’s War we are leaving Beirut  to spend time with friends in Ghazir.

 

In the spring, Ghazir, a small village of some fifty families about nine hundred feet above the sea, is a magical place. The homes are built on stone terraces that from a distance look like giant steps. It took us only about fifteen minutes to reach Ghazir one we left the coastal highway. It was a lovely day and we drove with the windows open. Naim and Nayla sat in the back seat with luggage piled between them. I was behind the wheel while Michel, lost in thought, stared out the window. The last twenty-four hours had been difficult. Our apartment had taken a direct hit. As we neared the last bend in the road, I said, “We’re almost there,” the cue for everyone to look up to the right and catch the first glimpse of Marga’s house, perched on the edge of a mountain ridge atop a canopy of green.

It was the roof we saw first, the bright red of the tiles that shone in the sun. Great clusters of poppies ran wild along the terraces below the house. After I parked the car and we began walking, a multitude of speckled butterflies danced around our legs. Our feet brushed against a new crop of wild thyme bordering the path releasing a delicate perfume. Trees full of white apple blossoms with soft-red-rose interiors dotted Edith’s green terraces, and pink flowering succulents overran the cobblestone path in front of the house. As we neared the front door, Naim gently pulled one of Marga’s trumpet vine flowers to his lips and pretended to play it, announcing our arrival.

Within a few days the children appeared to have recovered from the bombing. Nayla and Marianne fell into their usual routine of playing with dolls and collecting wild flowers while Naim and Rami ran into the valley doing whatever young boys do when they are looking for adventure.

It was amazing after all the death and destruction of Beirut how a simple thing like a wounded bird could galvanize everyone’s attention. It was the Monday before Easter, a few days after we had arrived, when Naim and Rami on one of their treks, heard shots fired. They fell to the ground and waited for the noise to stop. When the guns fell silent they discovered an injured stork on one of the terraces. They rushed home with the news.

Watching from the window I saw the two boys emerge from the woods fifteen minutes later followed by Marga’s husband, Riad, who carried the large white bird in his arms. Marga had already covered the table on the terrace with newspaper and Riad placed the bird carefully down so Michel could examine him.

The bird trembled and we could see its tiny heart pounding. The men fashioned a splint to set the broken leg while the rest of us looked on. The children made a straw bed in the storage room below the house for the bird. They left water and bread soaked in milk and took turns sitting quietly beside it, willing it to recover.

“It needs peace and quiet if it is to get well,” Nayla said in a strange tone of voice. I stared at my daughter. I wondered from the urgency in her voice whether she was referring to the stork or herself.

The following day, while Marga and I baked cakes for the holiday, Nayla and Maryanne decorated Easter eggs. They spent a joyous afternoon at a white square table in the living room near the tall windows. The sun beamed down on their heads. When I peeked in on them they appeared to glow in the light, even their giggles sounded angelic. Judging from the smile on her face, Nayla appeared to have forgotten her pleas for peace and quiet, whether for her or the stork. I was greatly relieved. I thought what a wonderful thing peace was. All I had to do was look at their faces to see it. In that isolated moment in time everything was right with us. Marga and I enjoyed each other’s company. Michel found camaraderie with Riad, Naim and Rami went out exploring each day, and in the storeroom we had a wounded stork that appeared to be recovering.

This book is available for purchase here.

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