Ellie Mae Clampett, w/Critters

An icy day, working...my favorite kind of day. Birding Bill at home, humming along on a book project, and me, festooned with animals in a quiet studio. I've lived with chestnut-fronted macaw Charlie (Ara severa) since 1987, hard as that is to comprehend for those of us who keep dogs. The son of captive-bred birds, he's still wild at heart. He's very loving, but also possessive, and like all psittacines, he has a wicked bite. When we met, it was love at first sight. He even pre-dates Bill (and, in the beginning, he almost predated Bill!)
If I've got a paintbrush in my hand, Charlie expects to be on my shoulder, and he lets me know that it's time for some togetherness. He loves a good scalp massage. Over the years, he's learned that he can critique my work, but not chew it, sort through my equipment, but not destroy it. That's a pretty good lesson for an animal as destructive as a macaw. Of course, if I leave the room, all bets are off. Parrot morality is a different kind of morality. It finds its basis in spite.
Charlie shares me with Boston terrier Chet, and today there's another soul on the drawing table: a female Chinese mantis who I found, painfully hauling herself in slow-motion toward the garage door, after a night in the twenties. I just couldn't leave her there on the sidewalk. I got an email from my sweet brother in North Carolina the same day, saying he'd found one, too. (His wife suggested he leave it outdoors.) Bob and I must have the same gene for insect compassion. That was about two weeks ago. I enjoy the company of mantids, and although I know she'll die before spring, it's nice to give her a few more months and a chance to see snow falling.