Mira has grown. These pictures were taken about five months after we found her.
In the spring we started letting her outside, into the garden. At first she was chaperoned the entire time ... a wide-eyed fuzzball hopping around ahead of us and trilling excitedly. If she went sniffing around the sides of the house, we corralled her back to the garden. Eventually she learned that the backyard was her little safety zone.
Now, we leave the door open while we're home so she can wander in and out. She loves the garden, and her freedom, and when we want to leave the house we often have to chase her all over the place to get her back inside. It can be exasperating, but she's so happy in the garden that I couldn't bear to keep her shut inside all the time.
She squats down under the eaves of the celery stalks and pounces on bugs. She sniffs around the base of the fence and catches the scent of other critters in our neighborhood. She claws her way up the plum tree, trills at the beetles in the compost, and climbs into our half-barrels of potato plants and pokes her nose into the leaves. Her latest sport is chasing after tennis balls I roll along the ground.
Once, when the back door was open, I walked in from the living room and saw a different cat in the kitchen. I had to look twice because the cat was almost exactly like Mira. A little bulkier, a little less white on the paws, probably male ... same age ... I could only conclude that it was one of Mira's siblings. The cat looked back at me in confusion, as if to say, "What are you doing here?", then turned around and strolled out of the house. I followed him out. He trotted right by Mira, who was standing on the steps looking shocked, and jumped from the ground to the lid of the hot-tub up onto the fence. He gave one slow backward look at me and then disappeared. He and Mira were way too calm around each other to have been anything but family.
A week or so later, we found that cat in our bedroom, perched at the top of the armoire where Mira likes to hide. Perhaps he was looking for her. He cried in alarm from his high perch, because La had just shut the door to the room, inadvertantly trapping him inside with us. When I opened the door again he leapt down and dashed out of the house.
I also have another tale to tell, and this one makes me a little sad. Some time ago I came outside and saw Mira sniffing excitedly along the bottom of the backyard fence. Through the vertical gaps, I could make out a much larger cat doing the same routine on the other side, following after Mira. I wedged a plastic chair against the fence and stood on it, and when I looked over, this is who I saw:
It was Mira's mother.
She couldn't have been anyone else. I don't know if she remembers how she lost track of a kitten many months ago, or if she just knows one of her children is nearby and wants to make contact. I got down off my chair and grabbed Mira, who was sniffing at a sourgrass flower, and held her up over the ledge of the fence so she and her mother could actually see each other. Upon sight of Mira, the other cat sat down, tucked her front paws inward, tucked her tail around her side, and made a very unique little yapping meow that sounded to my ears like the cat equivalent of, "Come here, child."
Mira saw the other cat, struggled in my grasp, and leapt down out of my arms to the garden on my side of the fence. She ran all the way back into the house. Not only did she fail to recognize her mother, but she was running in fear from a large foreign cat. It looks like it's just too late for them to have any kind of relationship.
On the other hand, Mira is becoming increasingly independent with her outside trips. Several times now I've seen her walking along the top of the fence, like her brother did. She is well within range of meeting her mom again. ... Perhaps she already has.
Some day we'll move away from here, hopefully to a place with even more garden or some forest along the edge, and Mira will have some real territory to patrol. But until then there's plenty to do in our little backyard.