Shadow Goes Home

I usually use this space to write about issues facing our East End communities. But, every once in a while I digress from the serious side of life to honor one of those ephemeral moments that make living in Sag Hampton so rewarding. Today I joined about two hundred students, teachers, administrators and parents on Haven’s Beach as Shadow, a Gray Seal who was rescued in April and rehabilitated by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation was released into the wild.

First there was a moment of sweet anticipation, as a representative of the Foundation thanked the children of Sag Harbor Elementary for adopting Shadow, and making his return to the wild possible. Then, Shadow was carried in his transport cage from the foundation’s van down to a spot near the water’s edge. One of the students was called upon to help open the cage door. As the door began to open, Shadow first stuck his nose out and then cautiously emerged from his temporary shelter. Looking a bit confused, he headed for the water, then changed his mind and tried to reverse direction and return to the safety of his cage. Apparently prepared for this eventuality, volunteers from RFMRP (as the foundation is awkwardly known), used large plywood squares to block his way, gently encouraging the seal to move seaward again, which he quickly agreed to do. A few minutes later Shadow was in the water. After swimming a few quick circles in the immediate vicinity of the beach, with just one quick backward glance, he was gone.

I’m not sure if Shadow was entirely happy about this turn of events — after all, he will now have to catch his own meals, after being hand-fed for many months — but we humans at least could bask in the happy feeling of having participated in a small worthwhile act of kindness and community. For us, it really doesn’t get any better than this.

Enjoy the photos.

Carrying Shadow to the water's edge.

Carrying Shadow to the water's edge.

A student helps to open the cage door

A student helps to open the cage door

Shadow pokes his nose out.

Shadow pokes his nose out.

Taking a look around.

Taking a look around.

Heading for the sea.

Heading for the sea.

A bit reluctant, but almost there.

A bit reluctant, but almost there.

On his way.

On his way.

A quick look back, and then he's gone.

A quick look back, and then he's gone.

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One Response to Shadow Goes Home

  1. Bobbie Cohen says:

    This event and your story inspired a poem by one of Sag Harbor Elementary School’s fourth graders–as follows:

    Graceful Shadow

    Graceful shadow
    Slowly crawls
    Out
    Of the box
    That has kept
    Him locked
    Up until he
    Arrives at the glittery beach
    But now he is
    Free
    To roam land or water
    Still he doesn’t
    Want
    To leave
    After a while
    He finds his
    Way to
    The water
    And gracefully
    Swims
    Away

    by George Butts

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