Absolutely Nothing To Smile About : The Tale of Monsieur Lapin by Micki Myers

One of the pleasures of city living is not feeling like you’re living in a city. I live up on a hill; out of one side of my house all I see is sky and treetops; out the other side my back garden, which is open to whatever wildlife ambles along. There is a large park nearby, and from its woodland venture wild turkeys and deer, which forage silently among the trees. Less silent is the woodpecker who lives there, and wakes me each “morning” at about 4am by drilling for grubs. Rat-a-tat-tat instead of cock-a-doodle-do.

We have small grey mice and impish chipmunks and twitchy grey squirrels. We have blue jays and cardinals and grackles and all manner of brightly colored songbirds who eat from the birdfeeder hanging under the lilac. I often look up from my table to lock eyes with a brazen member of the groundhog family which has made its home in a vast network of tunnels under a neighbor’s porch. They are like beavers without the flat tails, and huge — the size of a small dog. They’re cheeky buggers, and like to dare you to make a sudden movement in their direction, at which they will bolt, often tearing through my vegetable patch flattening everything in their path.

I planted borders of onions to keep the rabbits out because they don’t like the smell. So far it’s prevented them from nibbling on the tomatoes and, for now, the young frothy tops of carrots, but I know it is only a matter of time until the word gets out and they will devour, like the beans, peppers, strawberries and sweet peas down to the ground.

But it is the family of bunnies I find most endearing. Every day they appear on my lawn among the clover to dine on tasty shoots, and stretch, and sometimes, just roll about. When they were babies (kittens, to be exact), no bigger than a tennis ball, they would often curl up to nap in a shady divot, their presence only signaled by a petite pair of silky ears. They are remarkably tame — naively tame, in fact — though they hold very still if you come near, watching with big beady eyes.

I have named the patriarch Monsieur Lapin, and find myself talking to him when I go out to water the plants or do a spot of weeding. “I see you, Monsieur Lapin,” I will say as he turns to hop away. “Say hello to Madame Lapin for me, and tell her to mind les enfants.”

My neighbors must think I’m completely batty.

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