Showing Up

May mountain laurel / Rosemary McMahan

May 15, 2021

“Life is difficult.”  That three-word truth is the sentence that opens The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck’s well-known book integrating spiritual and psychological insights.  It doesn’t sound like a welcoming beginning, though it certainly sets the stage for an exploration into spiritual and psychological growth.  Admit it.  Life is difficult.  Once we have admitted it, then we can learn how to navigate it.

Writing is difficult.  At times, I wonder why I bother.  Other times, I tend to become frustrated and want to give up when I encounter a subject that eludes my art medium:  words.  Take, for instance, mountain laurel.  Where I live, in the southeastern United States, the shrub is in full glory.  It tends to grow in the most difficult places—on arid, rocky shorelines or tangled up in dense forests.  Every single part of it is toxic.  And yet, and yet, its blossoms enchant me, and I want to share that enchantment . . . but words don’t suffice . . . and I’m a writer and poet and so what do I do?  It’s difficult.

Prayer is difficult.  I believe in a Creator, The Creator, who is much greater than I am.  I believe in Divine Love and that that Love is greater than all of us and loves more compassionately and generously than we can.  And yet, and yet, at times I don’t want to sit still, embrace silence, allow myself to be looked at and held in Love.  Sometimes the love feels more like absence.  It’s difficult.

Relationships are difficult.  Name one that isn’t.  Being a daughter, I have mother issues.  (I’d like to find a daughter who doesn’t.)  Being a wife, I have some spouse issues.  Being a sibling, I have some “family of origin” issues.  Being a friend, I have some friend issues.  Yet I love all of these people, and trying to juggle all the pieces sometimes is difficult.  Life is difficult.

So what is the answer?  Avoidance?  Escape?  Giving up?  No, the answer is to show up anyway.  When the writing, or crafting, get tough, we show up and do it anyway.  When prayer is tough, we show up to sit there in the silence and simply be.  Again and again.  When the relationship gets tough, we show up to give the other the gift of presence.  We show up, again and again.

Showing up is a spiritual discipline that can be traced to one of the vows the earliest of monks took:  the vow of stability.  To vow stability meant that the monk would stay where he was, in his particular monastery, and when life got difficult with his work, his craft, his spiritual journey, his brothers in community, he would not take off to look for an easier, simpler path.  He would stay put, and show up, and learn how to get past the difficulties.

Our world doesn’t offer much support for showing up to situations that are difficult or uncomfortable, but it is through these situations that we learn to grow, to trust, to create, to love, and to reach beyond ourselves.  Life is difficult.  That is true.  It is equally true that each difficulty has the opportunity to be a blessing. When we show up, we not only gift ourselves, but we gift others, as well.

So, I faced the mountain laurel because though it is difficult and toxic, it is also magical and wondrous.  My words are limited, my painting half-done, but I showed up.  I hope you will, too.  Blessings ~ Rosemary

Mountain Laurel

If you wish to forget yourself
seek out the mountain laurel
in mid-May when its pillowing buds
give way to the coaxing of the light.

Seek out the mountain laurel
on sandy, rocky slopes or Appalachian woods
in the wild places and lose yourself
in pale white blossoms tinged pink.

Listen while the blossoms like clusters
of small ringing bells on May Day
raise their bright tipped stamen
to catapult pollen upon each passing insect.

Notice how each bright tipped stamen
looks like delicate stitching
placed there by the hand of God or Gaia
on thick sturdy limbs gnarled like ancient fingers.

Kalmia latifolia, Freckles, Little Linda,
and Pink Charm will paint swathes of seduction
on sandy, rocky slopes or Appalachian woods
where you might imagine fairies would live.

If you wish to forget yourself
surrender to the coaxing of the light
and go seek out mountain laurel
in mid-May and bow your head in wonder.

© Rosemary McMahan

Author: remcmahan

Poet, writer, minister, wanderer, traveler on the way, Light-seeker ~ hoping others will join me on the journey of discovering who we are and were meant to be. You can reach me at or at my blog,

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