Ugly Bug Ball

it was still dark. Somewhere around 5:45 this morning and after throwing some cold water on my face, I knew it was time to let the kitties out from their overnight prison.

Typical cats, they behave as if they have been locked up for years; screaming in anticipation as I struggle with the keys to the office door. And barely sixty seconds later, they are back inside again screaming at me for being a little late this morning.

I exaggerate slightly, but it’s a morning routine that I love and I get some lovely cuddles and scent-rubs as I clean out their food dishes and fill them with some breakfast fare.

Now that Daisy has her five kittens in the studio part of my office, my access to water for cleaning the dishes is really courtesy of an outside hose.

And as I stumbled through the darkness, this morning, I noticed a “shape” on top of one of the tires on my car. I genuinely had no idea what it was until I grabbed the camera and took a couple of quick pics.

Flashing on a night creature must be dreadfully scary to them so I didn’t want to take more than two or three shots. So, forgive the fact that the two shots at the end of this blog are far from perfect. After the first one, I could see he was a bug but I didn’t want to flash directly in his face as it wouldn’t be fair. So, I got what I got, ladies and gentlemen.

When dawn had finally broken, he was long gone. So, I looked closely at the pics that I got and marveled at this amazing little creature. I can see his pupil in one of the pictures looking at me and so it is fair to surmise that he was more than aware of my presence.

Not everybody is going to have a wondrous response to such a creature, I know and some run screaming into the brightness at the first sign of a creature with an exoskeleton. So, if you are one of those people, don’t bother checking out the images at the end of this.

For those who don’t know, he/she is a Cicada and their family is responsible for many of the sounds of summer that we in the southern climes experience as we walk among the trees.

At the first mention of “bug” a very dear friend of mine breaks into song, with refrains of “the ugly bug ball” quickly overtaking our conversation. It was a song from a Disney movie in 1963 and really harped on the notion that a bug might feel as ugly as we see them to be. In fact, Walt Disney didn’t want to include it in the movie until it was explained to him that “bugs don’t know they are ugly”.

And that my friends, is what started my mind today down the corridor of ugliness.

Ugly is a human concept. Of that I have no doubt. We behave as if our definition of beauty is the gold standard by which all else can be measured.

It is a truly conceited notion that allows us to rate each other out of ten and to describe some creatures as being so ugly that we have to recoil.

I reject the concept of ugliness. At least on the level of what we see when we look at something or someone. The old adage of judging a book by its cover comes to mind when we make instant decisions on those around us (human or not).

Furthermore it is a mechanism by which many people assess and judge. It can even be a critical element of determination of hire/don’t hire, love/don’t love, listen to/ignore.

It can even be a determination of let live or kill as we step on a cockroach but cradle a butterfly.

I for one, see beauty in every creature. There may be some that scare me, but that doesn’t make them less beautiful. Just makes me less understanding. There are definitely those that I have difficulty in holding in my hand, but again that is a reflection on my squeamishness and not their beauty.

There is a wonderful moment before Burl Ives begins to sing that song to a little eight-year old kid. The kid says “but he has such an ugly face” to which the Burl Ives character replies “he might be thinking the same about you”.

It is very much a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder.

So, yes, on one level I have real difficulty accepting that any creature is ugly.

Ugliness is a concept that humans created and while it was originally intended as a means to demean or degrade the physicality of those we encounter along life’s path, the real ugliness in humans is far from obvious.

We all know by now that beauty at best is skin deep and therefore quite frivolous. Ugliness on the other hand is truthfully more related to character and therefore of much more significant substance.

I know some truly beautiful people. I have been truly blessed in life with some of the most remarkable souls on the planet. Their beauty shines out in how they treat others, how they treat creatures, and how they treat the planet.

I have learned so much from them that my life has warmed while basking in their light.

Ugly people that I have crossed paths with are filled with hate, disdain for the less fortunate, disregard for those in need, and eternally self-focused.

Some of those that I have encountered have been very pleasing to the eye and to all intents and purposes seen as living “the beautiful life”. Some have even been wildly successful, at least in riches and career.

Outside our circles, we can more easily spot ugliness. Narcissistic rich that grow richer off the backs of the working poor. Leaders that sow hate and division in order to play to their racist base. Child molesters, Spouse abusers. Prolific cheaters.

The list is long.

This is where true ugliness resides in life.

And we are absolutely right to recoil from it. Ugliness like that should cause a revulsion within our souls that makes us want to have no part of such a person. There must be a gag-reflex that makes us want to vomit when we encounter hate, cruelty, narcissism, or whichever brand of ugliness we encounter.

When we tolerate or enable such behavior, we too become ugly.

When it comes to hate and racism, there are not “good people on both sides”. There is only good and bad. Beauty and ugliness.

There is no excuse for ugliness. It is a failing and unlike the poor cockroach, it most definitely needs to be stepped on.

Just a thought …


For months now, life has been throwing lemons at us.

Politics of hate, pandemic like none of us have ever seen before, racial disharmony, social dissolution, and a crumbling economy. And those are just the top five in a long list of maladies that came in with 2020.

Whatever we each have been dealing with individually, these are the additional levels of destruction that have made many of us wince at the start of each new day.

Optimism seems difficult to embrace and the horizon seems smothered in dark clouds.

So this morning, when I found myself on a property in Bradenton, trudging in tiredness across endless asphalt, taking picture after picture, the last thing on my mind was finding something of beauty or intrigue.

If truth be told, the weight of the camera was almost overbearing in the early morning Florida heat and there was little reason to think kindly of the instrument that normally brings such joy my way.

And then, from nowhere, my eyes caught a shape that was largely silhouetted against the low rising sun. I had stumbled upon a treasure trove of Bird of Paradise flowers and their sudden appearance transformed the morning into one of awe.

When my Mom and Dad visited Tampa around ten years ago, they embraced this flower and marveled openly on its audacious style and colors. They had only seen them in photographs or on TV as Ireland’s climate wasn’t really conducive to such a loud burst of beauty.

And for a moment my mind found a home in 2010 and I relived the memories brought on by this early morning bird.

I took some shots and have attached my favorite at the end of this blog, along with one that had a stylish collection of shadows, shapes, and reflections from lakeside at the back of the property.

I hope you enjoy them!

Anyway, as I stepped away from the treasure and my eyes returned to focus on the more mundane aspect of the property I was there to photograph, there was a distinct pep in my step and the horizon began to take shape in my heart.

A few minutes later around the back of the building, I caught myself singing, subconsciously I might add. The only reason I even noticed that I was making a noise was because it disturbed a gathering of Ibis and Wood Cranes at the water’s edge and they moved quickly to put distance between them and this strange humming creature.

I apologized to them of course and spoke soothingly to them and they settled down to a level where they tolerated my uninvited disturbance.

Yes, I did take pics of them but it was the wrong type of lens for decent pictures of creatures, so I decided against sharing here. I also came across three rabbits that were chomping on the recently cut grasses near the water’s edge, but for much the same reason, their images don’t appear here.

They too allowed me to engage in quiet conversation with them and they saw no reason to move away from me while I continued my perimeter walk.

It was just after that, I seem to recall, that I realized how my mood had changed distinctly from when I had set out on foot originally.

That first glimpse of paradise saved my heart from a wretched day and my soul took flight as life’s lemons began to taste quite palatable. In many ways it felt like my parents had joined me on the journey and pointed out all the wonderful sights and sounds around me.

I think it’s important to recognize that we ourselves shape how we receive the world around us. If we want to get depressed by all the shit, then we will. And by the same account, if we want to acknowledge the lemons but make something better out of it, then we get out the juicer and some fresh water and sugar.

There is sweet f#*$all we can do about the amount of negative stuff happening all around us. Maybe even TO us. But what we can do, is decide how we deal with it.

Do we lick our wounds and moan about the loss of happiness, or do we actively seek out happiness wherever we find it. Clearly, the latter is the better option.

And I am not naive enough to think that we won’t occasionally buckle under the weight of negativity. We all experience that. But the key word in that sentence was “buckle” not break.

Lemonade is a wonderfully refreshing drink. It isn’t something you want to be drinking every day, but when you do drink it, it can revitalize your body and refresh your soul.

… brought to you, by the folks at Minute Maid.


Selfish. Uncaring. Easily amused.

These are just some of the words that occurred to me as a few hours ago the afternoon descended to a base level of humanity that is frankly, embarrassing.

Even though it was still bright daylight, some of the less-patient folk found that they couldn’t wait any more and so random explosions began to fill the late afternoon air as flame hit fuse.

The Chinese have a lot to answer for and while some of the red sheep instantly think of “kung flu” as the dotard-in-chief called it, I am actually referring to fireworks.

As the first explosions began to go off, Marty came slinking into the living room with tail to the ground and as low a crouch he could get into, while still making forward progress.

By the time eight o’clock had happened, he was huddled frightened in a little ball, under a sofa.

So, I went outside with the camera and visited the locations where I had placed the food (as I do every day) for wild creatures to enjoy and these pics (at the end of this blog) are what I got.

Most of the food was uneaten. Trees were empty of the normal singing birds and squirrels, and even the bread pieces which I had scattered across the back yard were only attracting attention from the ants.

Now, to put this into context, normal evenings by six or seven, all the dishes are emptied. Raccoons, Possums, and Squirrels will have filled their little bellies on an assortment of healthy foods and sweet and savory treats.

Cardinals and Blue Jays, who normally appear as I throw the bread across the yard, will have polished off all they see and what they don’t see is carried off into the trees and eaten on high by happy squirrels.

But twice a year, the yokels discover fire and proceed to terrorize creatures all over the country. In the name of what?

Independence from britain or the arrival of a new year.

Really??? These ridiculous events are worth terrorizing countless numbers of little creatures, who have no fucking idea what is going on and flee for their lives from the torture that goes on for 5 or 6 hours.

They don’t know why it is happening. They don’t know when it will end.

But do the morons care? Not a bit.

They selfishly and without concern light fuse after fuse and gape in awe as if they have never seen a fucking firework before.

I mean surely by now every person on the planet has already witnessed every possible combination of colors and shape that the buy-one-get-one-free brigade in tents have to sell.

As in almost all other holidays, commercialization has long since taken over what the holiday was actually about, but presents under a tree or chocolate eggs with pastel colored wrappers, don’t normally cause widespread panic in the wild world.

Our reckless abandon of everything decent in how we deal with the non-human creatures on this planet is simply stunning.

They don’t have voices for their injury. They can’t hold protest marches. They can’t elect animal-friendly governments.

No, they require that humans have some sense of decency and responsibility for the creatures that share the planet with us. And unfortunately for creatures, human decency has long since left the building.

I am not railing against community or nationally organized events that are generally conducted in safe centralized areas, where consideration to wildlife and the environment has been carefully considered.

But I am against the reckless and overpowering back-yard explosions that only cease once the children’s allowance has been blown. As long as it doesn’t interfere with their beer money, more fuses keep getting lit.

Terrorizing wildlife twice a year is by no means the worse things that humans do to animals every year. Atrocities abound daily and typically reside under the radar. Only when something mind-numbingly awful is done, does it even make the news pages.

Interestingly enough, there are 10,000 emergency department injuries to humans every year from July 4 fireworks. That doesn’t even make the news either.

With their own association and lobby group protecting an annual sales number of almost $1.5 Billion, is there any wonder that animal interests, or human injuries (often to young children) don’t even figure in the equation?

And with 98% of all fireworks sold in the US being made in China, is it any wonder that tariffs mysteriously missed the fireworks coming in after $1.5 million in fireworks were donated to the dotard’s fireworks extravaganza last year?

Yes, it’s a big business. And like all big businesses in America, they manage to shape the rules in their favor.

And while you could argue that the human casualties (the 10,000 ER victims) are somewhat self-inflicted casualties, the millions of creature-victims are purely innocent collateral damage.

So pardon me, big industry. And pardon me boozy yokels. But for god’s sake haven’t we done enough damage to wildlife already?

Can we not just show a little compassion to the poor little souls that unfortunately have to share their planet with us?