Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book #15: The Guest Cat

Whenever Roger and I go on vacation, we have a tradition of finding an independent bookstore and buying at least one gem there. We found this one at Ivy's Bookshop in Victoria, BC. Such a welcoming place!

While we were browsing, multiple customers dropped by to chat with the women who worked there, including an older gentleman, who regaled them with tales of Norway in a thick Norwegian accent. Happy, happy.

Roger has long been drawn to Japanese fiction, so he gets full credit for discovering The Guest Cat. The clerk who rang us up said that they discovered it and decided to stock it after a customer special ordered it, then ordered more copies to give as gifts.

The story, written by a Japanese poet more than a decade ago, then translated into English last year, is a simple one about a couple who live in the guest quarters of a large walled estate with a meticulously kept garden. They unexpectedly connect both with their wealthy, elderly landlords and with a neighbor's cat, more fully than they ever imagined they would.

This was where I started the book. (It may have been a bit windy and chilly, but I had a hood and a pair of gloves.)

French Beach, Vancouver Island

And this was the serendipitous gift of reading this particular book while traveling through such a beautiful part of the world: it gave me the eye of a poet--a poet who knows how to see the smallest details that make up the sense of a thing, like a person or a cat or a place.

I dipped into the book enough for it to cast its spell. So I may not have gotten much read that afternoon at the beach. Or on the ferry rides the next day. Or as we drove through Snoqualmie Pass.

I finished it on the way home as we barreled by 18-wheelers and monotonous sagebrush in southern Idaho. By the end of the story, the couple had to leave the walled estate with the meticulous garden. Both their elderly landlords and the cat were gone.

But their hearts had opened to possibility.

Things don't last. Like afternoons on the beach and ferry rides. But if we open our eyes, we can store the smallest details in our souls, and if we open our hearts, we will go on to find new wonders.

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