Friday, July 11, 2014

{Return to Reading}: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

*A note about Return to Reading:

I was an early and avid reader in my youth. Libraries were second homes, books were comforts, and reading a pure pleasure. I looked forward to English classes and even enrolled in a slew of them in college. Once I spent a few years in college, especially in upper-division courses, reading became a chore. My hobby became intense work. Instead of flying through books, I deconstructed, analyzed, criticized, evaluated, and overworked them. Books could not draw me in like they used to, and my reading list was crowded with books I had to read by this specific date so I could write a paper and be done with it.

I miss books. I've tried a few times to relearn that love for reading. I visited the library the other day, minus a book list and that inner English professor voice that scolds me about which great classics I should be reading. I just thumbed through the shelves and selected a few like flowers.

As a homeschool mom, it's important to me to show Aidyn, through our lifestyle, that learning and self-teaching is rewarding. I want him to feel sometimes like a book has me so engrossed I can't be interrupted. I want him to respect that please-do-not-disturb aura around a reader.

On my first day, I read a little Japanese novella called The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide.

"So let us liken fate to a destructive river here as well. The river rages, flooding the plain, consuming trees and buildings before it, washing away the earth and carrying it away to the other side. As it surges, people flee, but ultimately they succumb to the water's momentum. Nothing--no one, escapes" (Hiraide 20).

The Guest Cat is a neat and precisely written story of an unnamed married couple who occupy a guest house in a quaint little neighborhood. They are soon visited by a cat, whom they later call "Chibi," and in her sweet and elegant feline way crawls into their hearts and balances the way they appreciate life.

This book couldn't have come at a better time for me, when my life feels like it's in flux, twisted by events out of my immediate control. Hiraide communicates this simple beauty of allowing fate (whether in the form of a guest cat or having to relocate from his home) to move you. Fighting against fate is useless. Fighting against any current in life beats us down, even if we are victorious in the end. In just "going with it," the narrator finds peace, connection, and meaning.

During one episode of everyday struggle, the narrator focuses on triangular surveying as a means to find a new home within eyesight of a beautiful zelkova tree near the guest house. He "was merely seeking comfort in the thought that something as serenely transparent as an ancient surveying method might be applicable to this place of loss and bewilderment where [he] now found himself" (87). We, too, are in the middle of a search for a new home, and in the stress of dealing with our current property management, reading this book has brought me peace. The Japanese way of focusing on one singular event at a time and always spotlighting nature calms me. It gently reminds me to focus on the simple joys in the midst of this stress.

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