I am tired tonight. The ups and downs are beginning to take their toll on me. This morning as I headed for the office, driving down the Corniche, the air was crisp with the remnants of a northerly wind, and the early joggers were huffing and puffing their way by a sea so deeply blue and so still you could have thought it a painting. Over there, in the distance, Mount Sannine rose through low-lying mists and stood high and magnificent, crowned in dazzlingly white fresh snow. A scene so achingly beautiful you’d want to wrap it and take it home with you.
The same stretch, tonight. A different affair altogether: in near pitch darkness, under streetlights for some reason turned off, hardly a soul to see, not even a single amorous couple, and two, heavily manned and nervous looking army checkpoints, separated by less than a mile and no less than two police patrols, driving slowly in the still night.
What is it about this country that can make the mood swing so violently in the space of a few hours? Why is it that a morning so full of promise, so pregnant with anticipation, can become a foreboding, brooding evening that closes curtains, shutters windows and locks up doors? Why is it that a people who has already had so much to endure, be condemned to endure further? Tonight I wondered why on earth I came back to Lebanon, just as this morning I was pitying those who have decided to leave.
Alain Peyrefitte, a distinguished French writer and politician wrote once of a tragic event that occurred during the winter siege of Leningrad in WWII. On that night, the horses of a Russian artillery regiment caught in a huge forest fire, galloped through the inferno and into the nearly-frozen waters of Lake Ladoga. Triggered by a phenomenon known as surfusion, almost instantly, and with the snap of broken glass, the lake froze solid around the horses, trapping them in a deadly, icy grip. The next morning, a terrible spectacle was awaiting the first Russian patrols: that of a mirror-like surface out of which emerged, eyes petrified in fear, the marble-looking heads of hundreds of frozen horses. In his book, Les Cheveaux Du Lac Ladoga, Peyrefitte saw in this anecdote a metaphor for justice between two extremes. I’m seeing it in a different light altogether tonight.