Reflection on Gougane Barra



"Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord …. that He may teach us his ways

so that we may walk in his paths" (Isaiah 11 3).


Mountains figure prominently in God’s dealings with human beings. Moses, the great leader of God’s people, went up a mountain when he wanted to talk to God "as a man talks to his friend".


When Christ wanted to reveal Himself in an especially vivid way to His close friends, Peter, James and John, He took them to the top of a mountain "and there He was transfigured before them".


I think "mountainy people" ---- I don’t use the term in a disparaging sense ---- must be humble. The fact of living among these great, immovable parts of the earth must help them to realise how small we all are in the sight of the Creator God. When I do the forest walk at Gougane Barra I find I am helped to get a sense of my own helplessness without God, and I certainly get a sense of how transitory even the longest human life is, compared to the unchangeability of the mountains that surround me there.


But this does not make me feel "hard done-by" or unhappy. On the contrary I look at the lake, and then at the mountains, and try to let the tranquillity of the scene sink into my heart. After all, many of us come to Gougane to "unwind".


When I stand on the little bridge to see the infant River Lee as it leaves the lake, and I think of the broad river it will have become by the time it reaches Blackrock Castle, it’s easy to understand "go mbíonn gach tosnú lag".


And the silence is so full of messages ---- "slow down", "you don’t have to solve all the world’s problems", "be still, and know that I am God".


And one evening in May that unwinding was greatly helped by hearing the cuckoo, for the first time in many years. I tried to pinpoint where the bird was, until I remembered the poet’s question, "O cuckoo, shall I call thee bird, or but a wandering voice?".


Then, one rainy morning in September, I found the Tailor’s grave, with it’s intriguing quotation, "A star danced, and under it was I born". I am not quite sure what it means, but it sure sounds good!


Thank you, Fionnbarr and your mountain retreat, for all that you give the wanderer who spends some time with you.

A Visitor