As I felt the stones beneath my shoes and looked down, I couldn't quite believe I was there.
Walking on the same ground my parents and grandparents had played on as kids.
The exact road my mother, wearing a white dress and flowers in her hair, rode on her father's donkey to meet her love (my father)...who was eagerly awaiting the love of his life to marry her.
I couldn't believe I was actually walking on the same soil and stones that were part of the very life and labour of my grandparents and their parents before them.
I could hear with my own ears, the church bells that my ancestors heard.
I watched the same sun rise and set in the distance...and gasped each time I witnessed a soft blanket of clouds mysteriously covering the twinkling lights of the village below, ready to fall asleep for the night.
At every moment, I was completely stricken with a myriad of emotions.
Thankfulness, sadness, jubilation, love.
But to all those newfound family and friends around me, I was simply a traveler checking out the place.
Did they not know that I was a writer in search of my history?
Did they not know that I was the daughter of those great men and women who went before me...whom I greatly loved (even those I had never actually met)?
Did they not know that I had an inexplicable love for a land I had never before set foot on?
Did they not know what I had been through to get here?
Nope, they didn't know.
They knew only what they could see.
A curious, carefree girl checking out their humble hometown.
The breathtaking views they'd seen every day of their lives.
The majesty of the cedars, olive orchards and grapevines they'd witnessed on a regular basis.
The harvesting of fruit and vegetables that was their labour, not just a novelty...the fresh organic produce they ate daily.
And I noticed them gaze into each other's eyes each day. With love yes, but also a familiarity. Perhaps they don't know, as I do, that today could be the very last day they get to look into one another's magnificent eyes.
Or perhaps they know it better than I.
Maybe that's why they live much less complex lives than ours.
Maybe that's why some choose to live and die in their beautiful mountain village home.
Maybe that's why they hold on to a faith, deeper than I've ever known, as though it is as vital as the air they breathe.
I loved Lebanon before I ever set eyes on it.
I loved Lebanon when I eventually trod on its soil.
And now, I love Lebanon more and more....
...knowing that I may never have the privilege of stepping on its holy soil again, may never harvest and eat of its nutritious produce, and may never look into the beautiful eyes of my beloved family there....
Lebanon will be in my heart forever!