On the Pig’s Back
By Stephen Watson 7th June 2016
You’ve probably heard the saying about being ‘on the pig’s back’, commonly taken to mean being in luck or in a prosperous, happy state. Well recently my brother and I found ourselves ‘on the pig’s back’ in a rather more literal sense. The word ‘Muckish’ is the Anglicisation of the Irish ‘Mhucais’ meaning ‘pig’s back’. Muckish Mountain stands impressively in Ireland’s gloriously rugged north-west Donegal and is likened to a pig’s back due to its very distinctive shape. And we were on it! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
As we stood at the foot of an imposing incline we looked up. The walk starts up a former ‘miners’ trail’, which from down there seemed to end at a wall of impenetrable cliffs. There was no obvious way to the top and yet this was an established, well worn, route to the summit. Even as we progressed it was impossible to see our route beyond the next 100 yards or so. There are many twists and turns in the route and on more than one occasion we found we had missed a turn. Once we found ourselves on a narrow ledge where hands as well as feet were called into action in the name of ‘health and safety’!
In due course we came into a level area among some long decommissioned quarry equipment. From here we found a way through the upper cliffs to the summit, where stands the seemingly mandatory cairn (a gradually expanding man-made mound of rocks and boulders). On the western edge there is also a large cross. From up here you get a 360 degree vista of exquisitely crafted mountains, valleys, coastal beaches and headlands, and offshore islands.
I have since discovered (thank you Wikipedia) that what was mined on Muckish was high grade quartz sand which was mostly exported for the making of optical glass, which I take to mean glass for spectacles or perhaps cameras.
I am reminded of some words of the Apostle Paul. Writing to a group of young Christians he said ‘Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known’. Sometimes in this life it’s as if nothing makes sense, we feel like we’ve lost our way or we struggle with potentially life-changing decisions. We sometimes ask where God is when tragedy or disappointment strike. But one day God will make it all clear. We will be able to look back and see how His hand has been all around us, to catch, caress or to guide us in those difficult times.
In the meantime He asks that we trust Him for the next step, the next little bit of the route that He chooses to reveal to us. We can walk in anticipation of highs, and lows, in this life, before reaching the glorious summit, being heaven, where there will be no more tragedy, disappointment, pain or suffering, and all will be joy in the presence of Jesus.
And that, dare I suggest, will be somewhat like being ‘on the pig’s back’ forevermore.
The Valley of Despair (and Hope)
By Stephen Watson 18th April 2016
Where once the waterfall cascaded
strong, with life’s refreshing flow,
and the valley floor thrived verdantly
with vibrant colours and soothing shade,
now but a dribble drips, as if to
tease the dry parched vale.
And cliffs rear up with menace
‘gainst a fading glimmer of light,
the extinguishing of hope
that an end to despair and death will come.
Yet come it will, as surely as the seasons change
and nature showers her earth with rain again
to end the pain of life laid low,
and buds will blossom joyously
in welcome of new life.
‘Even though I walk through the valley of despair I will fear no evil, for You, O Lord, are with me.’ Psalm 23 vs 4