Those of you who perused my previous column will probably recall that I fell in love with an apricot colored cat during an impromptu weekend getaway to Highlands, North Carolina. With the recent passing of my own cat Sam last summer and my subsequent consultation with a "pet communicator" who reassured me that Sam's soul would find me again very soon through the body of a new healthy animal, I could not help but wonder.
Perhaps my encounter with this beautiful cat with the pink freckled nose and white paws who maintained a fixed post beside a wooden bench outside Buck's Coffee on Main Street in Highlands charming tourists and locals alike with his charismatic demeanor, just might suggest the soulful reunion I had been hoping for.
Inspired by heartwarming adoption fantasies, I spent my entire weekend in Highlands searching for the owner of this very special cat. Several Main Street shop employees informed me that the cat was a stray who took up residence in the Little Flower Shop across the street from Buck's Coffee, where he was looked after by a part-time employee of the Little Flower Shop; a woman named Michelle. I learned the cat was able to enter and exit the shop on his own accord through a small makeshift opening at the base of the building, where food and warmth awaited him.
I pictured this sweet little creature on blustery nights huddled in a corner on the cold, hard concrete floor of the Little Flower Shop, alone in the darkness, fantasizing about the safety and warmth of a proper home and family and patiently waiting for daylight. Multiple times throughout the course of the weekend I approached the Little Flower Shop hoping to introduce myself to the owner of the cat only to find, like many Highlands shops during a snowy weekend in mid January, the doors closed to business.
On the Monday morning of my departure I made a final attempt, and my heart skipped a beat:
The doors to the Little Flower Shop had finally opened for business, and a middle aged man with a somber demeanor stood behind the front desk. He nonchalantly stated that Michelle was not around, and the cat was most definitely not available for adoption although many folks- both locals and tourists- routinely stopped into the Little Flower Shop to inquire about adopting the cat.
I resigned myself to the fact that the cat was exactly where he needed to be, and it was time to go home. As I headed back towards the car where my friend awaited me, I shifted my gaze back towards the wooden bench outside Buck's Coffee, hoping for one final glimpse of the apricot colored cat..
I slid into the passenger seat beside my friend, marveling at our poor luck that weekend. I never did locate the owner of the cat thereby shattering my adoption fantasy, and many of our favorite restaurants and shops had been closed for business. Even my favorite little handbag shop was closed that weekend. I was hoping to speak with Bob, the owner of the shop, about a minor repair to an item purchased there last winter.
My friend and I decided to say a final goodbye to our friend Harry who owns a clothing store on Main Street. As we stood inside the clothing shop exchanging pleasantries, Harry noted that Bob, the owner of the handbag shop, had just opened for business. Bob's car was parked out front, and the lights inside the shop were turned on. I ran across the street and spoke with Bob about the repair. He asked me to return in several minutes, so I headed back outside to find my friend. We sat inside the car killing time, until my friend suggested that we return to the wooden bench outside Buck's Coffee and bid a final farewell to the apricot colored cat.
When we approached the wooden bench there was no sign of the cat. We decided to rest in the sunshine, stretching our legs and filling our lungs with the crisp mountain air in anticipation of our five hour car ride home. Suddenly the apricot colored cat approached, sauntering towards us with an air of authority. I scooped him into my arms for a final goodbye, burying my face in his soft warm fur before gently placing him back on the street beside me. At that pivotal moment a woman approached, lifting the cat into her arms and resting him across her shoulder.
"Hey Buddy", she murmured, as if greeting a longtime companion. "Are you Michelle?" My friend inquired. "Yes," she replied, "I am Michelle." "I love your cat," I exclaimed, and then in rapid succession, my friend and I revealed the story of our quest to locate her and inquire about the possibility of adopting the cat. "He needs a home," Michelle quickly replied, nearly taking my breath away. She said in recent months, Buddy learned how to cross the busy tourist-filled Main Street, leaving her fearful for his safety amidst all the traffic and commotion. She looked me directly in the eye, and inquired if I would be willing to take Buddy home with me. I was overjoyed but not at all surprised.
Michelle delivered Buddy directly into my arms like a precious gift. Later that evening after we arrived safely in Charleston, my friend and I sat propped against pillows on the floor of his living room, relaxing before a roaring fire and enjoying a late evening cocktail. It was a cold night and we were happy to be home. Much to our delight and surprise, Buddy tentatively approached us and stretched himself luxuriously across both of our laps, where he spent the next several hours sleeping soundly as we lovingly stroked his apricot fur. "I'll bet for Buddy, this sure beats walking the streets," I joked, and my friend concurred.
Buddy's adjustment to indoor living was remarkable. Several days later, I contacted Michelle to inform her of Buddy's newfound domestic bliss. In a candid moment across the miles, as I sat sipping my morning coffee while Buddy rested on the windowsill in my bedroom in the late morning sun, gazing dreamily out over the marsh, I asked Michelle why it was me she had entrusted with Buddy. "Surely there must have been countless offers to adopt him," I remarked. Michelle replied that many folks indeed inquired about adopting Buddy on a regular basis, both locals and tourists, but a voice deep inside of her told her to reject the offers. She explained that somehow none of those folks seemed like the right match for Buddy. Again, I asked Michelle why she picked me, and she replied, "I am not sure, I just knew. It was kind of like a sixth sense; when I looked at you I somehow knew right away that you were the perfect match Buddy; truly an answer to a prayer."
In that moment I was certain that my departed Sam's soul had found his way back home to me. Buddy's name has since been changed to Buck, in honor of his favorite coffee shop in Highlands. He transformed from a mountain cat to a low country cat, easing into his new lifestyle quite naturally.
These days, Buck spends his time safely ensconced in the privacy of his screened porch watching squirrels play in the spanish moss trees and sleeping peacefully in the sunshine, dreaming about his prior life as the Mayor of Main Street in Highlands and extremely grateful to have found his way home.
Risa Mason is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Charleston, S.C. She specializes in guiding people towards inner peace and fulfillment by teaching them how to live, dream and thrive. You may contact her for individual or group coaching, or public speaking engagements at 843-769-0444, http://www.risamason.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org