Good Intentions

I meant to post this last night. I meant to do it before I got distracted by other things.

It's one of those pictures that seems simultaneously open and closed.


Step Out

Here's a tiny balcony that I admire every time I see it. Look how small it is. It's just big enough to host a small gathering of plants, just big enough for the lucky resident to throw open the shutters and step out into the sun.



I saw this amazing place while I was walking the other day.

There's a lot to love here, a lot to comment on. But the only thing that I'm going to say anything about is that absolutely perfect teardrop shaped window. It's baffling but also completely charming.



One morning, I passed this odd set of wheels on the sidewalk. The crates had been bound together. The bases of the two on top had been cut out, so all together they made one really tall jumbo-crate.

I haven't seen it since that day. It hasn't been there. I guess that's what they call serendipity.



I know the angle is odd. But I like it anyway.

I also like the long shadows.  And, for no good reason at all, I like how the curvy, new building appears . . . as though peeking over the shoulder of it's aged neighbor.


So Many

There are so many textures, so many forms in this image. It's tempting to describe them in terms of opposites--new and old, hard and soft, flexible and rigid, organic and manufactured. Yes, it's tempting. I think it's also a mistake.

The mistake is in oversimplifying the visual complexity of this space, reducing a brilliantly eclectic cacophony into a checklist of yes and no.


Rain is Coming

The rainy season is coming. It's here, actually. We've already had our first drenching downpours.

Good thing too because those plants are looking rough.


Green Shutters

It's sunny, really lovely and sunny.

I'd love to sit by this window and watch the world outside, and then close the shutters and take a nap.


Exactly Thoroughly

One reason why construction sites really appeal to me is that, for most modern structures, there is a tremendous amount of repeatability. Often every level is exactly the same, repeated over an over until the penthouse level. This fire-escape on the side of a half finished building downtown reminded me of it:

Amazing! Each level of the stairway is exactly, thoroughly the same.

That's something that age does away with--over time the roof will sag a bit at one end, or maybe the corner of one window will crumble, or perhaps the facade will deteriorate or half the shingles will go missing. A window breaks, a balcony gets bombed in, maybe a bullet grazes the cornice overhead.

But new buildings haven't had the chance. They're like newborn babies who haven't so much as skinned a knee yet.



Lighting matters. The quality of the light in a photograph is usually the first thing I'll envy in another photographer's work. In my own pictures, light is usually a big part in my decision to publish or not publish a photo. It's even a factor in whether or not I like an image, which is another mater entirely.

That's true this time. I like the light on the deteriorating exterior of this building.

But I didn't publish this picture because of the light (though it's good). I published it because of that upper window--the one with the shutters thrown wide, the one exposing the perfect darkness within, a blackness that draws my eye and holds it and will not let it go.


Hundred Hands

Sometimes I wonder how many hundred hands have gripped this knob and entered through this door.


Sea Turtle Watching

There are sea turtles in Beirut.

Or perhaps I should say there is at least one sea turtle in Beirut that I spied while walking on the Corniche with my kids. I had never seen one here before.

Happy Weekend, everyone!


Up and Down

Up goes the eye to the top of the house on its way down.

The other day my husband said he'd love to buy it and rehabilitate it. Maybe in another (wealthier) life?


Piles and Piles

Just south of Achrafieh, there's a lovely public park that I wrote about months ago, and just down the hill from it, you'll find this amazing lot:

There's so much to see at a place like this: piles and piles of dirt--three different colors of it--and huge tubes that could become excellent storm sewers and heavy machinery to get the work done and (in the background) lots of pallets of concrete blocks.

It's really something.


White Wall

There was a mid-day glare on the white wall. Time had taken its toll. The wall was damaged. It looked like it has been through several rounds of poorly-done retrofitting. Pipes crept up and down and wires hung sideways. The wall is elderly.

It wasn't always that way. Once a long time ago the building was young. Back then the wall and these windows weren't anything special. They were very likely thoroughly unremarkable features of a thoroughly unremarkable structure. That's one more thing time has changed. This architectural style is growing rarer in Beirut. Now that it is rare, this wall has become special. It's special because it is dying out.

"Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, But beautiful old people are works of art."

Eleanor Roosevelt said that. I think she was right. And I think it might have something to do with architecture and why old buildings pull on us the way they do.


My Favorite Plant

It's called Lantana. There are varieties with purple blossoms, magenta, or lemony yellow and the one shown here with orange, and there might be others still that I haven't heard of yet. The plant sort of tumbles over itself as it grows, and it gets bigger and bigger year after year since Lebanon's rainy season is never cold enough to kill it.

One year I tried to keep a Lantana alive through the St. Louis winter. It didn't work and when I asked an expert at the botanical garden if there was anything I could try next time she silently shook her head.

This huge one cascades down a wall near the sea beside a doorway that probably leads to an undiscovered paradise.


From Above

Brains are funny the way they link ideas together like so many dandelions in a chain.

Take this rooftop. It's crowded. There are at least 9 satellite dishes and as many antennas hovering over and around them. These are objects of utility, necessary gateway devices to bring an amazing variety of programming into the homes below the roof.

But as I walked past I considered their aesthetic quality and thought of them functioning just as well as ornamentation, didactically proclaiming the significance of entertainment, our collective mediated existence, the wonder of media transmission sent trough thin air.


Park It Here

This weekend has been the Hamra Street Festival. We dropped in on it yesterday just as everything was opening up. I took this picture as we ambled about.

Hamra Street was closed to all cars for the Festival, so nobody needed this parking lot, but I still really liked the sign.

It's been a good weekend, a much needed break from an unbelievably busy week. My 7 year old starts school tomorrow, and the 5 year old begins next week. We're doing well, making new friends, having a happy time, and were very very glad to be back in Beirut.


Blue Sky

I grew up near the geographic center of the United States. The topography of that region is hilly, sitting only a little above sea level. There's a lot of farmland there, but also plenty of wooded, forested areas.

During the summer there was usually plenty of rain, which is good for farms, good for forests. There was also plenty of humidity. Most days, the sky looked white. It was because of all the water in the air. On days with unusually low humidity, the sky was a soft, baby blue.

When I was a kid, truly blue skies existed only in pictures. I also found them on family road trips to the American West. Out there, arid and semi-arid climates went hand in hand with far less humidity and spectacularly blue skies.

This picture reminded me of the color of a clear western sky.

I took this picture near the Corniche. In the photo the area looks desolate or even forbidding, but it isn't. It's funny how a photo can do that.


New Land

It used to be that if you wanted more land you had to go out and conquer it.

Now you can just build more. That's what they've been doing in Beirut for years now, just north of downtown.

They've recently opened sections of the new land to the public. We took the girls there to ride bikes recently. Here's the view of Beirut from what was once the sea.

For those who like comparisons, here are two maps of Beirut's north shore. The one on top was made in 1912, the one below it is current. You can see the massive expansion into the sea where the old port once was.