On the beach last week near Santa Cruz, at a place called Bonnie Doon, we found a baby seal that my wife dubbed, appropriately, Bonnie. She or he (but I confess to thinking of Bonnie as a she) looked at us first with what appeared to be significant concern. Her dark eyes were huge and blacker than the sea at night, and at one point she even hissed at my older daughter as we got too close and stared right into her dog-like face.
I called the marine animal rescue center in Santa Cruz, and they told us to keep our distance, that the pups are left on the shore when they're old enough so that the mother can hunt for nourishment to generate milk later in the day.
As the tide got closer, the little thing heard the waves crashing and hoisted itself around, rolling first onto its back and then lifting itself on its odd little elbows, shuffling towards the water.
None of us were sure what to do. Do we stop Bonnie? Do we let Bonnie go? Wild animals are mirrors - projections of our hopes and fears and memories - and at that moment it occurred to me that Bonnie had probably always heard the surf but perhaps never the sounds of children. It might be terrifying for her, but it might also be fantastic, an adventure, something she could tell her mom about later.