Ugly Lovelies

Some things in nature aren’t beautiful. They just are as they are, like ball moss growing on a branch: a plant that is not a parasite (as people often think) but an epiphyte, getting a living by perching on a convenient limb, minding its own business and making its own food. Its roots only cling, they don’t penetrate, so it doesn’t kill its tree-host by sucking the juices out of it. It doesn’t kill trees by shading the leaves, either, for it mostly grows in the interior of a tree’s branching structure, on branches that are already shaded by overhanging limbs. Its tiny, blue-violet flowers appear in the spring. When it dies and falls to the ground, its nitrogen lives on in the soil.

You’ll see ball moss on trees in the southern tier of states, where the temperatures are relatively warm and the humidity is high. I noticed this clump growing on a live oak few years ago. It was a rainy, chilly morning, and the dogs and I had been for a walk in the woods. I looked up and was suddenly struck by the thought that this plant was one of the most perfect things I had ever seen–perfectly suited to what it does, where it grows, how it lives. Not a beautiful thing, if beauty is showiness, or color, or fragrance, or symmetry. But beautifully adapted to its place, beautifully made, beautifully alive, all to itself, in itself, for itself. Seeing it filled me with a sense of rightness, of balance, of wholeness. Of things being perfect and good, just as they are. I was grateful.

It’s easy to see and feel the beauty in lovely things, easy to admire blue skies or a crimson rose or a soft, fragrant breeze. It’s harder to appreciate ball moss. Harder, but perhaps even more rewarding.

Reading Note: I said to the grasshopper bounding along the road–how excellent you are at what you do!–Mary Oliver



6 comments on “Ugly Lovelies

  1. I love your China Bayles series…..I listen to a lot of them at work and love the audio versions. I love the narrator and I listen to a ton of audio books and sometimes the narrator really makes the book come more alive. I love your recipes. As another reader said, keep the China Bayles books coming….

  2. I have loved your China Bayles series! I’m just starting “Holly Blues” after having read the 17 previous books in this series! Will there be more books in this series after “A Plain Vanilla Murder”?

  3. Just finished the trio of books with Ruby – absolutely loved each!! I’m so happy that they were finally!! in print. It’s easier to read!! Keep them coming. Love all your books over the years. I’ve read all the series!! My friends and I have read the
    Robin Paige books and the Beatrix potter series. You and your husband have given us hours of joy over the years. Thank you Thank you. Hugs Ruth

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