In the golden late afternoon light we dig in the dirt. Chris does most of the shoveling and Isabella works with her sifter and pails making little contributions to the wheelbarrow. I work in the bed around the maple tree, raking and grading the hauls of dirt. I press it down with my boots, doing a little two-step to the music. The squirrels come to say hello. We’ve been keeping them fat with bird seed and apple peels. I look up and see the cats watching us from the backdoor, bathing in the bright sunlight. Bali, the little one, for once isn’t scratching to get out. The air is cool and smells of earth. That kitty would love to be out playing in it. And I feel a real heartache.
We moved into our house in August. Before that, we had a second floor apartment with a porch, Bali’s favorite spot. She would hunt birds from her perch, roll around in the sun, curl up on the ledge, and a few times, she jumped. Now we have a big backyard, and she darts from the backdoor to the window itching to run after the squirrels and birds. But we also live on a main road and people drive twice the speed limit. The previous homeowners lost a cat to a speeding driver. We tried a leash, but she wriggled free. Cats aren’t made for leashes. I’ve been stuck in the house so much this month with sickness making the rounds, I’m going stir crazy. I think of her never getting outside and think about how unfair it is, unhealthy really. I’m struggling with this one, whether to keep her safe or set her free.