Guest Cat in #Brussels
Being an author and avid reader, I can wander bookstores for hours. Around Christmas, I wandered into #Waterstones in #Brussels, one of two English language bookshops in our adopted city.
A book caught my eye. The cover art and subject spoke to me. #The Guest Cat, by Japanese author and poet, Tikasha Hiraide.
Why? I’m not a cat fancier per se. I’m a dog person, have been all of my life. In fact, my mother was so petrified of cats, the rest of the family felt she might have a stroke if one ventured near her. We never understood the root of her fear. Because of my upbringing, I always viewed cats with misgivings. Who wouldn’t be wary of something that could kill their mother?
Jim, Sadie our Golden Retriever and I moved to Brussels in January 2014. We didn’t know anyone in our new city. Jim went off to work and I stayed home,familiarizing myself with the city. After the excitement of our new city wore off, bouts of depression crept into my days on little cat’s paws. My network of friends was over 4,000 miles and seven time zones away in #Chicago. Many couldn’t understand why someone as ‘fortunate’ as I, living in one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals, could feel anything but joy and delight.
Eventually, I found my way back to writing. But, writing is a solitary, lonely profession.
In addition, #Brussels is not the friendliest of places. Smiles are, more often than not, met with frowns. One has a fifty/fifty chance at best of a “bon jour” being returned with anything resembling civility. Other expats I’ve met voice similar experiences.
It’s common for expats not to have many, if any, Belgian friends. Belgians themselves have told us that their countrymen don’t open up to foreigners. They value home, family and a tight circle of friends. Rarely are expats invited into a Belgian’s home. We’ve been assured though, that once a Belge befriends you, you’ll have a friend for life. We’re waiting.
Despite a group of English language writers who provide a social and professional outlet, loneliness is a frequent visitor. My refuges include my writing and a beautiful, private garden.
Last spring, I often sat in the garden, questioning our move and new life.
The wall between our garden and the next is a frequent catwalk for a host of felines. We came to learn that our neighbor, a delightful woman from Slovenia, fosters cats. Plus, she has six of her own. Another neighbor across a different wall has three cats. We were surrounded.
One cat caught my attention, a little clown of a tiger. Often, he’d pause on the wall nine feet above the ground. He’d stare at Sadie and me. The little guy was fearless despite my shushing, Sadie barking, and the dive-bombing runs of hawk-like birds that nest in two trees of our garden.
From January till July, the tiger cat strutted along the wall, watching. In August, he made his first move, dropping down into our garden for a closer look. Soon, he became bolder, curling up on the garden furniture for a playful cuddle or even a snooze. Would he harm Sadie? Our neighbor, Barbara told me that, Puhi, his name was harmless.
In the Hiraide’s book, Chibi a cat, drops into a couple’s garden. His antics rekindle their stagnant lives.
Puhi, our guest cat, made us laugh. Sometime in the fall, he invited himself inside the house. Mostly to play or act upon his natural curiosity to explore, he spent hours kneading my chest. He spent Christmas Eve with us, finding a comfy spot under the tree before curling up on the sofa with Jim. We’re lucky that his owner, Barbara shares him with us.
Now, weeks into the new year, Puhi is bolder. He knocks or meows at the back door on a daily basis. He doesn’t stir much before noon and never ventures out on rainy days. We find ourselves looking for him in the garden.
Puhi, the adorable tiger cat, our very own guest cat has made a difference in our lives. His antics bring smiles and many hours of diversion.
With Sadie at my feet and Puhi on the desk, writing is a bit less lonely of a profession.