Originally posted October 11th, 2009 from Bahia, Brazil
Sonia and I recently sold our condominium in Salvador and moved into her house in Ipitanga, about a half hour drive outside the city. Ipitanga is a beach resort located in the town of Lauro de Freitas. The beach is just a Dave Parker throw from the house, which is currently undergoing some renovations while we are sifting through our boxes. For our three cats – Nina, Bella and Rocco Caramello – the move brought much apprehension and uncertainty. But once they arrived, they happily discovered the New World (ie. The backyard) filled with birds, bees, flowers and trees.
This discovery was particularly profound for Rocco, who before moving to Brazil had been sharing an 851 square foot apartment with yours truly in Vancouver, BC, Canada. While Rocco had been more or less happy in our little condo, he was only able to sit outside in a hanging window flower box, which he did with regularity, chewing on and playing in the grass I planted for him, staring at the birds perched on the power lines, marvelling at the falling snow in the winter and sniffing the sweet air of spring
We took a full week to move, which made for a less stressful relocation. We moved the cats one by one . First Bella, then Nina and finally Rocco. The cats were all happy to be reunited again. While apprehensive, they were excited about the new house, exploring every room, checking out every nook and cranny, taking a little time to sit in a window sill. The general consensus seemed to be, “Ok, ok...not bad..”
(Think Fess Parker narrating a Disney animal adventure) Once they had taken the full tour of the house, the back door in the kitchen was opened to reveal the world outdoors. The two gatinhas and one gatão stood in the doorway gazing out in astonishment. Nina went first (That’s one small step for feline..) then Bella and finally after much hesitation, Rocco (...that’s one giant step for Catkind..) Rocco took baby steps, staying close to the house. But as time went by, Rocco grew bolder, and with each sniff of a blade of grass, Rocco ventured further and further out, passing by the hedges, hiking over to the far wall, smelling the flowers, getting acquainted with a palm tree, watching the birds flying around, as they broadcasted little warning songs to each other (CAT ADVISORY...THIS IS NOT A TEST...)
The three adventurers were clearly enjoying themselves. Rocco did not know what to make of his New World, but one sensed that he was beginning to understand what this discovery meant for him: a new-found freedom, no longer restricted to the confines of a flower box, able to roll around in the grass, in the dirt, on the cement steps. He could sleep in the shade of a tree or shrub, do his business outside the litter box and drink from the world’s largest water dish (ie. a swimming pool).
I think there was an actual moment when this revelation came to Rocco. Sonia and I were having our morning coffee on the veranda. A few feet away is a closely-cropped, three foot tall hedge. We were sitting quietly, enjoying our coffee, taking in our move to the seaside, thinking about the future both immediate and distant, when all of a sudden Rocco, on the other side of the hedge, made a standing jump. Better yet, it was a standing leap in an attempt to grab a couple of birds who were flying over him. In making this leap, Rocco cleared the hedge. We were amazed at the air time Rocco achieved, and while I had witnessed him before climbing wood beams and dextrously leaping from beam to beam in my loft apartment, I had never seen him before make such an impressive standing leap.
Although Rocco came back down empty-handed, his leap felt less like an attempt at catching birds and more like a leap in celebration of his animal nature. It was Rocco’s leap of joy.