What do you do when you perceive a threat? I spent some time observing Dall Sheep, and this is what I learned from them. #dallsheep #denalinationalpark #danger #spiritualselfcare #selfcaresunday #spiritualwholeness #improveyourphotography #write28days #blogger #instagrammer #photogrpahy #DSLR #camera #selfcare

What do you do when you perceive a threat? I spent some time observing Dall Sheep, and this is what I learned from them.

What do you do when you perceive a threat? I spent some time observing Dall Sheep, and this is what I learned from them. #dallsheep #denalinationalpark #danger #spiritualselfcare #selfcaresunday #spiritualwholeness #improveyourphotography #write28days #blogger #instagrammer #photogrpahy #DSLR #camera #selfcare

Is it a Dance or a Hike?

“On this disco hike, we’ll get off near a stream and hike uphill towards Cathedral Mountain,” the park ranger told us.

“Disco hike? I didn’t realize we had to dance!” one of the other participants grumbled.

“We call them ‘disco hikes’ because it’s easier than saying ‘discovery hike’ each time,” the ranger said with a grin. “Hopefully we’ll see some Dall Sheep and other wildlife along the way.”

The bus pulled over next to the road and the dozen disco hikers piled out. I settled my camera backpack on my shoulders and adjusted my hiking poles.

“Where’s the trailhead?” one of the other hikers asked.

“No trailhead, and no real trail,” the ranger said. “In Denali, you can hike anywhere. We just ask visitors to spread out when they travel over the tundra ecosystem.”

“Cool!” another hiker enthused. “I’ve never hiked off a trail before.” Others murmured their agreement.

“How do we get back to our camp?” someone asked.

“Good question,” the ranger said. “You can flag down any transit bus and ride back to the park headquarters on a space-available basis. Which is what we’ll do when this disco hike ends.”

When You Perceive Danger

We started up a narrow animal trail next to the creek, and quickly gained elevation. I’d tried getting good photos of Dall Sheep for the past three summers but hadn’t had any success. Maybe this time.

Halfway up, we stopped to catch our breath and take in the views. I heard a rock rattling down the side of the mountain and whipped around to see what made it fall. A small flock of Dall Sheep skittered away.

I pulled out my camera, determined to have everything ready if we saw the sheep again. Because Dall Sheep in Denali aren’t hunted, I hoped they wouldn’t perceive our friendly group of hikers as a serious threat.

We continued uphill, moving from side to side of the creek as the vegetation demanded. Suddenly, we came out next to a rocky outcrop with a green carpet of grass. Not 50 feet away a ewe calmly ripped a mouthful of grass and turned to gaze at me while she chewed it.

What do you do when you perceive a threat? I spent some time observing Dall Sheep, and this is what I learned from them. #dallsheep #denalinationalpark #danger #spiritualselfcare #selfcaresunday #spiritualwholeness #improveyourphotography #write28days #blogger #instagrammer #photogrpahy #DSLR #camera #selfcare

Other hikers pointed and looked, and a few stopped to snap photos. Not wanting to get too far behind, I hiked, but stopped to take photos every few yards. After fifteen minutes, I noticed something moving higher up on the ridge.

I grabbed my binoculars to get a closer look and saw a small flock of lambs and medium-sized sheep running down the ridge towards me. The ewes noticed the movement and stood at attention while their lambs came charging towards them.

What do you do when you perceive a threat? I spent some time observing Dall Sheep, and this is what I learned from them. #dallsheep #denalinationalpark #danger #spiritualselfcare #selfcaresunday #spiritualwholeness #improveyourphotography #write28days #blogger #instagrammer #photogrpahy #DSLR #camera #selfcare

Evidently, the lambs and sub-adults had escaped higher up when the flock first noticed our movement. Once they categorized us as a non-threat, the ‘babysitters’ brought the lambs back to their mothers.

Spiritual Lessons from Dall Sheep

While this post is about photography, it’s also about spiritual self-care and spiritual wholeness—part of my regular Self-Care Sunday lineup. I’ll never forget the exuberance of the lambs as they dashed towards their mothers. I also learned a few things about how to handle danger.

1. Be alert.

Wild animals must keep vigilant in order to perceive both danger and possible food sources. The Bible warns us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 We need to stay alert because the devil has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. We might not perceive his innocent-looking hooks as threats. Part of spiritual self-care involves asking God to help us perceive danger.

2. Remain calm (running encourages predators).

The Dall Sheep remained calm when they saw our group instead of immediately rushing off in fright. Likewise, we don’t need to freak out when we perceive an attack from the evil one.

Dall Sheep also understood their capabilities. They can scramble up and down places humans or bears would find difficult to negotiate. While the devil may be out to get us, we can remain calm in God’s capabilities to fight off the attacks for us. 

3. Send others to safety.

As soon as they perceive danger, the ewes send the youngsters to higher ground to avoid a threat. When we sense danger to our children, we can redouble our prayers for them. We don’t have to wrap our children in cotton, but we can entrust them to a higher authority—our heavenly Father.

What do you do when you perceive a threat? I spent some time observing Dall Sheep, and this is what I learned from them. #dallsheep #denalinationalpark #danger #spiritualselfcare #selfcaresunday #spiritualwholeness #improveyourphotography #write28days #blogger #instagrammer #photogrpahy #DSLR #camera #selfcare

4. Call Out to Others

While the Dall sheep didn’t roar or cause a ruckus, we could hear their quiet bleats as they communicated with each other. When we perceive a spiritual threat, we can call out to each other for support, too. James 5:16 urges us to pray for one another, and Matthew 18:20 assures us when we pray together, God will be with us.

5. Don’t live in fear

A hyper-vigilant sheep ends up malnourished. While aware of the danger, the ewes didn’t stop eating. Once they understood we meant no harm, they called their lambs to them and fed their lambs.

We have a Good Shepherd who will watch over us and guide us. All we have to do is ask.

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”

1 John 4:18 The Message

Take turns resting

I’ve spent hours observing Dall Sheep, both in Denali National Park and near Anchorage at Beluga Point. I’ve noticed how when one ewe lays down to rest, the others keep watch. I’ve never seen an entire flock resting at the same time. But they do rest.

We need to take time to rest as well. While we can capably do just about anything, it doesn’t mean we have to do everything. We can learn to delegate and enlist help from our family members so we, too, can take a turn resting. When danger lurks, we still need to guard our times of rest. If we fail to do this, we might not have the resources to cope.

Your Homework

Schedule some time to observe nature. We have a biblical precedent for observing nature in Proverbs 6:6 and Proverbs 30:25. I’ve discovered I learn more from nature when I have a camera in hand. The learning happens while I shoot, and when I process the photos.

Think about how you currently react to threats and dangers. Can you learn anything from the Dall Sheep?

What do you do when you perceive a threat? I spent some time observing Dall Sheep, and this is what I learned from them. #dallsheep #denalinationalpark #danger #spiritualselfcare #selfcaresunday #spiritualwholeness #improveyourphotography #write28days #blogger #instagrammer #photogrpahy #DSLR #camera #selfcare

28 days Behind the Lens

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and want to know where to find more posts about photography and life, click here. The series will help you learn how to use your DSLR camera and how to photograph specific subjects—bears, hummingbirds, sunrises, sunsets, the moon, and people.

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  1. Wow! What beautiful pictures of the dall sheep. I hope to be able to visit Denali when the pandemic is over. So many places I want to go! You learned some good lessons from nature, Anita. You are so right – I am a better observer when I have a camera in hand too. I especially love your takeaway #5. Thanks for the good reminder.
    Laurie recently posted…February Four SomethingsMy Profile

  2. Beautiful pictures of the sheep and their lambs! I enjoyed your observations of the interactions of the sheep. We can benefit from a community perspective, looking out for those around us.

  3. Beautiful post, Anita. I am absolutely fascinated and intrigued by the behaviors of animals, especially undomesticated animals in the wild (although the behaviors of domesticated animals is rather fascinating, too). I once went horseback riding through lava fields in Iceland and it really is truly amazing how they navigate the tedious terrain, sure of foot and certain of direction. My horse even slipped on the snow covered lava a few times, never panicking, never falling, but always regaining her footing quickly and continuing on as confidently as before. We can definitely learn much from animals and their behaviors.


  4. Such cute pictures. I love it when we use nature to trach us lessons. I think this is a way of tending the garden. God’s lessons are all around in nature, and it is fun to see them. Thanks for these. I like the one about staying calm. And taking turns to rest.
    Theresa Boedeker recently posted…Don’t Dread Being An AmateurMy Profile

  5. Oh, I love the photos and the lessons from sheep. I have written of the way God uses sheep to describe us and I must agree. Those lambs leaping towards you must’ve been just a sight to see! Thanks for sharing.
    ~ linda recently posted…To Covet; Not to CovetMy Profile

  6. I loved your lessons from these Dall sheep. And your photos? Wow, you captured emotion and beauty. Your five points make so much sense. As we work through a hard season with a loved one, I appreciated the reminder that we can stay calm because God is big enough to fight off our enemies and to be our protector.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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