Mark P.

“Start with transformation of your heart. Let go of yourself and find the magic of the fairy home. Your mind will follow.”

Most of us have heard, probably many times, that if you invest in the program you will receive many multiples of positive outcomes in return. And that is certainly true. But so often that is in reference to tools, methodologies, and process. Tools in a craftsman’s hands create beautiful results. But today, I want to emphasize the wonder, mystery, and magic of this extraordinary program.

On my first day, true to a Type A personality, I had all of my forms filled out before arriving, so I was taken to my first group located in the green house. I had my pencils sharpened, my knapsack, notebook, and water bottle. I was ready and anxious to learn the key to eliminating my depression. Libba address the group and announced, “Today we are going to find locations to place our fairy houses.”

Now, a bit of context is useful at this point. I work for an organization not noted for its lighthearted spirit. Each April you send us information, and hope we do not return the favor. So when I heard my first foray into learning the secrets of mental health resided in a fairy house, my immediate reaction was, “Say what?”

Fairy House at Skyland Trail
An example of a fairy house created during horticulture therapy at Skyland Trail.

Just 45 minutes later, I was proudly taking pictures of my mountain home (on a stump) for my wife and family to see. In 45 minutes, I had returned to a place I had forgotten. I had returned to being child-like in envisioning what was behind the worldly curtain. It was a first and almost imperceptible step toward a spirit of experiential joy.

While my first week was a bit chaotic and confusing, I unconsciously began to think less about me and began to truly pay attention to those around me. I became less self-absorbed and introduced myself, learned names, learned what was on their minds, their concerns, and their gifts. And despite a long commute, each day I looked forward to seeing my new friends and find out how they were feeling today, what they did last night, what was going on in their lives. I had gone from a life of increasing isolation to participation in an amazing community.

Now, I would personally attribute this change of perspective, this initial transformation of a self-absorbed heart, to the spirit of grace. But regardless of one’s beliefs, Skyland Trail revealed each day its beautiful tapestry to me. Listening to and sharing with other’s life narratives, I experienced amazing compassion, pain, suffering, intellect, creativity, and humor. Each evolving individual’s narratives were powerful and moving. And I was changing into someone I like, someone I was comfortable with, someone who was more balanced and filled with hope. Someone who could be a good husband, father, and grandfather. Call it the power of humanity, the power of spiritual grace, or the magical power of fairy houses, Skyland Trail represents all of this.

So here’s my parting counsel, actually a personal plea, which I want to share with you.

Be open to magic, unanticipated awe. Don’t be reluctant to say, “wow.” Be open to the unexpected joy of fellowship, friendship, camaraderie—actively seek them for they are all around you. Be vulnerable. Be known. Shine the light in the dark corners. For you will never be in a more secure place, and with light comes recovery.

And share your unique gifts with others. Do so, and you will both receive the treasure that is Skyland Trail, and you will enhance it for all that follow.

So often we characterize the challenge of recovery as moving from our head (understanding and belief) to our heart (trust and faith). I must respectfully frame the challenge differently.

Start with transformation of your heart. Let go of yourself and find the magic of the fairy home. Your mind will follow.

Mark P and wife
Mark P. pictured with his wife.