Shark Infested Dawnings…

Erin Schaden
6 min readMay 20, 2024

I was sitting in the wee hours of dawn on Valentia Island, Ireland. I was barely awake, I think it was 4:30 am. Which when I am home is the time I am up and getting my day started, not so great when on vacation…but I made it work.

The light in Ireland is quite different from where I live. Being so far north, it doesn’t get dark until about 10 pm and then it is light again at about 5 am. This messed with my sleeping also. I am a creature who is ruled by the light and the dark. It tells me what to do, how much energy to give certain things and ultimately is responsible for my wakefulness and sleeping.

To say that is all fucked up right now would be an understatement…

So I was sitting there in the vanishing darkness, welcoming daybreak. Drinking coffee and writing, per my usual habit. Turns out that no matter where I am, this is how my day begins. Which is kind of nice actually.

The place I staying was right on the beach. I had a perfect view of the ocean, the shores of the Dingle peninsula. As I sat there, I began to see more details that were recovered from the blackness of night. Day breaking shed its light over everything and things that were hidden became viewable.

It was kind of like being in a dark theater, before the movie starts. You know things will be revealed to you, but you just aren’t really sure what those things will be just yet.

So I sat, writing, drinking coffee and waiting for dawn to reveal her secrets to me.

As usual, I got lost in writing and I didn’t notice how quickly dawn breaks into day. So when I looked up after a short while, day was already in full swing.

I finished my writing and attendant postings, and was grateful to have time to just sit still and watch the ocean. Birds began dive bombing the water. Not pelicans but seagulls acting like pelicans. As I watched the strange show I realized that there must be a school of fish, which was likely to draw in others. I saw a seal poke its head up out of the water, close to the beach. Interested in whatever might be happening on the beach.

I watched for awhile when I spotted a dorsal fin. I immediately thought, “Dolphins!” But then noticed that the beings in front of me, swimming, were not behaving like any dolphins I have ever seen. It didn’t take me long to realize it was a shark.

I have never seen a shark in the water, at surface swimming except on TV. I have never witnessed this in person. The thing that threw me off a bit is that there were two dorsal fins swimming about and they were super close to one and other, more dolphin behavior than shark. It took me longer than I would like to admit…but I finally realized that the second fin was on the shark’s tail. It was not two sharks but one very long shark.

I thought perhaps basking shark. But once I looked up an image, I realized this was not what I was seeing. I think, after a little research, it was a sand tiger shark. And what appeared to be two was actually one. So I watched this shark in complete amazement. I must have taken 100 photos, none of them that great because the shark was too far off shore. But I still took 100 photos trying to get a close up.

I was amazed. It felt like a spiritual experience for me. I know, maybe everyone else would be like, “great, you saw sharks…big deal.” But for me, it was something I have waited to see my whole life.

I looked up what it might mean to blessed with a shark sighting and found that it is about primal power, determination, and adaptability. The shark represents power, authority and self confidence. It is said that a shark’s energy can help us shed self-doubt and lead us to embrace our uniqueness and shine brightly in our own right.

Which was pretty powerful for me. Given that I was on this Irish trek all by myself. Exercising my natural determination, adaptability and a certain level of self confidence. To be honest, I wasn’t worried about the trip or my abilities at all. The only thing that caused me a little doubt was about driving on the other side of the road. That caused me a little fear and anxiety. But once I was in it, I just did it and, sure, I made a few errors along the way but for the most part, I just handled it.

I am still sorting out what I learned about myself and life on this trip. It was definitely a pilgrimage for me. It was a reclamation of some things that I felt like I lost, or perhaps never really had. It was about me, living my life instead of being so much an integral part in the lives of others.

As I sat there, drinking coffee and being still and silent, I saw more sharks come. I think I saw five in all. Feeding and swimming around, eating their breakfast. And I felt so incredibly blessed to be seeing something that I wanted to see my whole life.

I am not sure about you, but I have these checklists of wild life that I want to experience: Grizzly bear (check), whales (check), mountain lion (check), and a whole bunch of others that I am going to have to go to Australia or Africa to see in real life. And sharks were on of the ones that I have looked for my whole life but never got to see until that morning.

It felt spiritual. It felt special. It felt like I was being given a nod from the universe to keep going. To keep doing the work. To keep believing that the things that I want in life are, in fact, possible.

And I felt a kind of kindred spirit with the sharks…they tend to be loners and live their lives in pursuit of meeting their needs. They do it solitary and given how my life has unfolded, I felt a great kingship with these animals for that reason.

I left the whole experience feeling blessed. But I can’t be sure as to why I felt this way. I mean the sharks were there for all to see, but there really wasn’t any all. I was alone on a small beach in Ireland. The last thing in the world I expected to see was a shark. But there they were.

I sat mesmerized for a long time. Working out stuff in my head and my heart. Allowing the experience to wash over me and heal whatever broken parts of me could be healed by such an experience.

Sharks have always been a fear producing thing for me. A warning, a safety hazard, most especially since I live on a California shore where the Great White Sharks roam, breed and feed. But this time, even though I had no real idea of what kind of sharks they were, I was not afraid. I would have gotten into the water. It was freezing cold so that was the main barrier, not the presence of sharks.

And once more in my life, something that was fear producing, became something that was peace providing. I felt honored to be chosen to witness this and I was content and happy to be able to allow my natural enthusiasm to become fully engaged.

It was a moment. I was there. I felt it. And it confirmed for me, once more, in one more way, that life is unexpected and sometimes if you are present enough, you get to experience life in a new way, with new vistas and feelings and ideas. And sometimes that happens on a beach in Glenleam, Ireland while you are there having a solitary journey into your own soul.

And sometimes you feel brought back to yourself, one of those selves you thought you discarded a long time ago. And you become reacquainted with an older version of you that you haven’t experienced in awhile. A you that is filled with shock and awe and wonder. A you that has lie fallow for a very long time, and in the moment of reunion, you are able to welcome back into your soul a part of you that you could only become reacquainted with staring at shark filled waters in an Irish Sea.

Sometimes, you get exactly what you need, even if five seconds before, you didn’t know you needed it. Again. Still.



Erin Schaden

Who am I? I am all that I write, all that I learn, share and grow. Read and find out? Check out for more.