22 April 2021, Earth Day. Zeus, my staffie, and I made our way to the beach and left our foot- and pawprints in the undisturbed sand along with my prayer of gratitude. I asked the universe to give me a sign that my prayer was heard. Little did I know what was about to unfold. A short distance away, I came across the seemingly lifeless body of a seal on the beach. I knelt down beside it and detected an almost invisible rise and fall of its chest … it was alive! Zeus and I dashed home to call S.M A.R.T (Stranded Marine Animal Rescue Team).
When members of S.M A.R.T arrived, we set up a safe space for the seal. He was identified as a rare male Sub-Antarctic fur seal, protected by law, which had come to moult. Along with the mist, peacefulness enveloped the beach: it was as if life had drawn a veil of privacy around us as we watched over him.
Slowly people gathered and the S.M A.R.T team shared knowledge about this beautiful seal who may have travelled 4 000 km with the visitors. Over the next few days the reason for his visit was revealed as he mirrored humility and grace to all. He drew people like a magnet and children sat cross-legged on the outskirts of his cordoned-off area. At times he would wake from his slumber to stretch into his fullness as he preened himself to encourage his moult. I wanted to know his story, so enlisted the assistance of two extraordinary animal communicators, Jen and Kate, who connected with him, assuring us he wanted nothing more than a safe place to rest and moult.
At first light each day, Zeus and I would check on him and sit alongside him while I sang to him. The peace of those moments was so tangible. One morning I found myself calling him Francis, so that became his name, the name synonymous with St. Francis, patron saint of animals and ecology.
Sunday was a musty day and again I sang to him in that predawn greyness. He stirred, sat up and stretched. I was in awe of his gentleness and felt overwhelming gratitude that I had been allowed to walk this journey of renewing with him. Mid-afternoon Sunday, Francis stretched, yawned, rubbed his old fur and got up onto all fours. We held our breath as he looked over his shoulder at us and made his way to the water’s edge … a moment etched into my memory. One last look over his shoulder and he slid into the water gracefully, becoming one with the ocean, pausing midway to roll on his side and wave a flipper. Zeus bid his friend farewell, barking until he was lost from sight.
The morning beach is still now as Zeus and I leave our prints side by side in the sand. I feel as if I have lost a part of me. However, he was a messenger on our shores, in the form of a seal, to re-awaken the passion for the environment and all her life forms. Not only that, Francis taught me patience, tolerance and that all comes to pass in time. He asks that we be spontaneous, to tread gently and mindfully along this life journey, fulfilling our role as caretakers of the greatest gift to mankind, the environment and all life forms encapsulated therein.