In the Eye of the Beholder: Photo Challenge: Ugly


Last Friday, after arriving home, I stepped out of the car into yet another dreary, damp evening. This dying dandelion immediately caught my eye. I’m not sure what strange combination of temperature, moisture and atmosphere was at play, but it blazed like a star above the grass. I put everything down and stopped to take a picture. The next morning when I went back to admire it again, all those purple-tipped stellar spikes were lying meekly against the stem. Maybe my cosmic dandelion had gone back to its alter ego stage. Who knew it was capable of this burst of startling beauty?

DSCN0182 (1)

Early Saturday morning I read Kim Douillard’s weekly challenge, and I knew immediately that Friday night’s dandelion was a starting point. Kim invited readers to find beauty within the seemingly ugly and I was already in that mindset.

DSCN9838.jpgLater this weekend, a walk on the beach yielded more unexpected beauty. We arrived late in the afternoon, and the beach was strewn with tide-staggered lines of ocean debris, scenting the air with their pungent sea smell. A closer look at the seemingly ugly, homogenous piles revealed a treasure of texture and a rainbow of colors.


Unusual shapes and objects created multi-hued natural collages. With a vivid splash of color, the polka-dotted kelp air bladder glowed in the afternoon sun as if lit from within. The delicacy of a single white feather contrasted with coarse strands of kelp, the entirety sprinkled with crystalline grains of salt or sand. Each glimpse revealed more variety and beauty. Once started, I could have poked through piles of seaweed for hours.

Back at home in the garden, the skeletal remains of last year’s hydrangea blossoms have a delicate beauty of their own, especially when a petal cups around a drop of water.



DSCN0312.jpgAfter some time working in the garden, I noticed this unexpected visitor. This moth lingered on our window screen for most of a day. I posted its picture on Facebook, asking “Does anyone know what kind of moth this is?” The first response was succinct and, to me, surprising: “ugly.” As other responses came in, most people intimated it was scary or intimidating or in some way unpleasant. I, on the other hand, was fascinated by the scalloped edges of its wings, its curved body, the delicate tracery of lines in its wings and the subtle beauty of its subdued coloring. This was an unexpected twist on Kim’s challenge–something I found beautiful and others did not.

This whole exercise reminded me of the beautiful-eyed skunks in Naomi Shihab Nye’s “A Valentine for Ernest Mann” and the line “Nothing was ugly/just because the world said so.” Kim’s challenge and Nye’s words encourage us to reinvent the world around us by shifting our lens to see the beauty in what at first glance appears ugly or merely unnoteworthy. As Nye writes:

“Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems.”
And how rewarding it is when we do.

16 thoughts on “In the Eye of the Beholder: Photo Challenge: Ugly

  1. Amy Warntz says:

    Uniqueness and rare beauty at its best is what you have captured here. My eyes were fixated on the screen as I strived to relieve images that were completely new to me. Perhaps the element of surprise it what intrigued me the most! Great pictures and a great post all wrapped up in one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can tell you live in Maine just by your choices. It was fun to figure out what everything was.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved finding beauty in the ugliness! You certainly captured the essence of the search. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Donna Smith says:

    Oooh, I had that moth on my screens a few years back, and now I can’t remember what they were called. I’ll have to see if I can find it again and post it. They were beautiful to me too!
    Beautiful images! Ugly is a state of mind, not a look! I remember asking a first grader who was in a horrid mood why he was so “ugly” today. The look I got! Guess he’d never heard that expression before! We always used ugly to mean you were in a bad mood.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mbhmaine says:

    Donna, if you find out what kind of moth it is, please let me know. By the way, I can just imagine that first grader’s face! Too funny!


  6. kd0602 says:

    You captured the spirit of my post/challenge perfectly! I love your piles of seaweed…and that water drop! Wow! I do love to read your posts…and how much we have in common in spite being so far away from each other! Thanks for sharing your “ugly” beauties.


    Liked by 2 people

  7. […] years ago in a photo challenge from Kim Douillard to “find beauty in the ugly”  (My post is here). This month, I invite you to reinvent the world around you (or one aspect of it) by shifting your […]


  8. cvarsalona says:

    I am so glad that Linda Mitchell directed me to read this well-written, inspiring blog of yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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