is a story about a moment in time, a great moment
some 15 years ago. But to explain its significance,
I have to go back even further.
first trip to Australia was back in 1980. I
was with my wife and first child. I was disappointed
by not being able to find a proper job. A year
later, we reluctantly decided to go back to
Lebanon, I got a good job almost immediately,
and was lucky enough to be able to re-rent the
house we previously occupied. We loved that
house. It was on a small hill overlooking all
Beirut and the coast. Few people in Lebanon
are lucky enough to live in houses with some
land; most live in apartment blocks.
few months later, specifically June 1982, Israel
invaded Lebanon. By then, we had a new baby.
My wife and I decided to leave home and seek
refuge at my parents’ place in Tripoli
(north Lebanon, which was relatively safer).
a few more months of turmoil and moving from
one place to another, we finally went back home
again. We were extremely delighted to go back.
were some of the most tormenting months in my
life. Tripoli at that time was under the Muslim
my wife and I could see no end to this, we decided
to leave Lebanon and go to Australia. To do
that, we had to go to Beirut (which has the
only airport in Lebanon). While we were there,
we decided to go to our house on the hill and
see how things were.
were again very glad to see this house. We hadn’t
been there for more than a year. The situation
seemed peaceful enough. So we decided to soldier
on and cancel the travel plans to Australia.
a couple of weeks, the civil war in Lebanon
started to take another turn. The beautiful
hill on which we lived and which was ‘safe’
turned into a battleground. We fled again, this
time to Beirut, and rented a filthy, small,
and very expensive furnished apartment. We lived
there for nearly a year. When finally that particular
part of Beirut turned into a battleground in
February 1984, we had to flee to Tripoli again.
At that time I lost my job. We stayed with my
parents for 5 months.
a couple of weeks, the calm was broken by the
occasional sounds of sniper bullets, followed
by more frequent skirmishes with machine guns.
Then the inevitable happened. Shells started
falling, and we would run with our babies to
a shelter. Luckily, most of the shelling was
a bit distant. When I say distant, I am talking
about a few hundred meters, not kilometers.
one day, as we were hiding in the shelter like
worthless beings, a 120 mm mortar shell fell
extremely close. We heard the shrapnel hitting
the thick limestone walls of our shelter. Our
next-door neighbors were all with us in our
little shelter, as their house didn’t
have one. Luckily, no one was hurt. It was late
at night, and as the power had been cut, we
couldn’t see much, except that all windows
next morning, during a lull in the madness,
we walked outside to see the aftermath. We found
a huge hole in our neighbors’ ceiling
(the same neighbors who were sheltering with
us); there were fragments of the shell, broken
glass, smashed flower-pots, and pieces of brick
and rubble all over the place. The whole landscape
was covered with dust. It was all the same color,
the ugly color of dust. It was one of the most
depressing scenes you could ever imagine.
the midst of all this, as I was cleaning up
somewhat, I beheld a scene which turned the
whole picture around. Among the many plants
we grew in our garden was a morning-glory plant.
As you know, the morning-glory flowers open
in the morning and close for the rest of the
day. Totally indifferent to what had gone on
around it the night before, the morning-glory
plant had produced new, fresh, clean, bright,
beautiful, and colorful flowers. In the middle
of the filth and rubble, and while the leaves
of the morning-glory plant were covered with
dust too, those flowers were the only things
mood changed from extreme sadness to extreme
joy. I showed those flowers to my wife and the
whole neighborhood. To my wife, they meant hope.
To others, they meant nothing at all. To me,
they not only meant hope, they also meant that
no matter what happens around you, no matter
how much filth is thrown on you, keep doing
the right thing and be beautiful. I then started
to take a different look at the name of the
flower (morning-glory) and the concept of "morning."
What a glory did those flowers bring to that
morning and every other morning. In most days,
they go unnoticed, I thought. I then wondered,
isn’t every morning a new beginning? Isn’t
every morning glorious?
was at that moment that we decided to stop clinging
to Lebanon and our house and move on. A few
days later, we were in Australia.
took photographs of that scene, but they can
never express the true meaning of that scene.
morning-glory plant was one of my great Dharma
teachers. Every time I see a morning-glory plant
now, I look at it, smile and say thank you.
times, I get asked what made me come to Australia,
and occasionally I say a morning-glory flower.