Last week I was in Estes Park, CO with a group of pastor colleagues for a third annual Pastor Theologian Retreat. It is a week of fellowship, hiking, and conversation around a reading list of books we’ve all had for months ahead. It truly is a week of sabbath, study and nurture.
This year the retreat could not have come at a better time. The week before on the heels of resigning from Capitol Hill Presbyterian congregation where I’ve been pastor for the past twelve years, my brother Tom Walton died suddenly and unexpectedly. So, a week I had intended to spend making personal contact with many church members, turned into a week with family and friends in the town where I grew up, mourning the death and celebrating the life of my brother. It was the day after doing my brother’s funeral and burial that the retreat began.
Four days into the retreat our group hiked the trail to The Lock and Sky Pond. While descending the trail, a colleague and I were on a section between Alberta Falls and the intersection with Glacier Gorge where a rather long, flat, rocky path hugs a craggy cliff above with a gorge far below with magnificent rock cliffs on the other side of the gorge. It is one of my favorite parts of the trail. We noticed a group of people ahead of us looking up into the craggy cliffs. This usually means wildlife has been sighted.
As we approached we also realized a park ranger was in the group identifying their object of attention as a Big Horned Sheep. Friends who frequently hike in Rocky Mountain National Park tell me that it is rare to see Big Horned Sheep near the most traveled trails, especially one as popular as the trail to The Lock and Sky Pond.
At first it was difficult to see the sheep because he blended in with the earth tones of the cliff. He was posed for a few minutes as if to say, I’ll stay here as long as you want. Then began to effortlessly move along the cliff in the direction we were walking. For several hundred yards we walked together, pausing occasionally, the sheep high above looking down, and us gazing up to see if he was still there. He followed along beside us until stopping just before we turned around a bend. I looked back up one more time and watched him watch us until we were out of sight.
Later when I looked at my photos and zoomed in on several of them it seemed as if that Big Horned Sheep was looking straight at me. That’s when I remembered my brother Tom’s zodiac sign was Aries the Ram.
I don’t put much faith in astrology but I do know that we are all connected with each other and creation in more ways than we can ever imagine. All of Creation truly is One, in life and in death.