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.