(click on any of my photographs to see an enlarged image)
Life is full of unexpected moments, and I had one yesterday morning. One of those moments that catches you completely off guard and that you’re totally unprepared for. You know, the surprise party moments that knock you off your step. Yesterday was a happy nature-and-photography surprise that caught me completely unsuspecting and utterly ill-equipped.
Alas, I hadn’t packed the telephoto lens. Sigh. Well, that’s how life happens, I guess. Sometimes we just have to make do, and make the best of the situation! And that’s just what I did.
Five months ago I was blessed to have been at Garden of the Gods when the bighorn sheep came down into the park. It’s a very rare sight. While they’re known to stand on the rocky hillside that borders the park to the north, they never jump the fence and enter the central garden of towering stones. That October day, they did. It was spectacular, wonderful, and amazing. You know you’re witnessing the unusual when even the park ranger is aghast!
So when I pulled up yesterday and the bighorns were way up on the hill, I got out to snap some shots- minus the zoom lens, but hey, sometimes the point is just to remember the experience, not get the shot that’s worthy of a magazine cover.
While I got some fairly nice shots (for having no zoom), the best part for me was sharing the experience with a complete stranger, a kind, friendly, charming man named Ron. For the longest time, we were the only two on the trail by the fence. The very few other onlookers were back by the road, so it was just me and this delightful soul sharing the bighorns up close. His equipment was fabulous, and he truly got some terrific shots. The sheep were putting on quite a show for us, seeming to pose and prance just for our entertainment.
Here we were, two stunned and surprised amateur photographers, smiling nonstop, letting out “ooh” after “ah” after “wow”. It was such delicious fun. He was as giddy as I, completely absorbed in the experience of seeing these great beasts up so very close, naturally, in the wild.
As we watched them lazily grazing on the hill and skillfully climbing about the rugged boulders, we decided to shift down the path along the fence so the sun would be at our backs and off of our lenses.
I’ll never know if our moving out of the way had anything to do with their decision, but much to our mutual surprise, the bighorns came down, down, down the hill… and jumped the fence.
The poor ranger wasn’t too pleased, but we photographers were pretty darn happy. We backed up to give them their space (they are large, powerful mammals) and eventually half the herd crossed our path and settled in to graze.
For the next hour or so we stood mesmerized as the sheep munched by the road and raced back and forth over the fence a few times (cars and dogs are rather scary, after all!). We pointed things out to one another and probably looked like two kids in a candy store.
Just to be in their magnificent presence was sheer joy. They move like a school of fish when startled, with remarkable gracefulness and synchronicity for such bulky creatures. When they look you in the eye you can’t help but feel mesmerized.
Ron got the treat of a lifetime at Garden of the Gods yesterday. He got to see the bighorn sheep up close. But I think more than that he had a great time. We both commented that it was so nice to have someone to “ooh” and “ah” with, to say “wow look what that one just did!” to, and to just share the moment.
As I write this the next day, I realize that that’s also why I blog. It’s to share what I see, to say, “Does anyone else see how cool that is?!” I blog to share the meaning and beauty I perceive, because it’s in the sharing that the experience takes on a new richness, fullness, and power. The life lessons I learn in nature mean all the more to me when they’ve meant something to someone else, too.
So the sheep taught me a lesson yesterday. They taught me to just enjoy the moment, to enjoy connecting with people more than trying to get the great shots. The sheep seemed to say just be here with us and take it all in. Put the camera down and just look at us. So I did. As much as I believe, wholeheartedly, in the power of focusing our lives meditatively through the lens, in those moments when you are already so focused on the moment, so present and aware, it’s okay to stop clicking and simply be present in the moment.
While I took a lot of photographs yesterday, I also had the presence of mind to ground myself in the present, to let time feel suspended and hang like a clock with stopped hands. I took in time with the sheep.
But you know I’ll be packing the telephoto from now on… just in case… 😉