There is a movie called House of Cards (1993), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Kathleen Turner. It is a story about a family, a father who died unexpectedly, a troubled young girl, and a big dream and vision. Tommy Lee Jones plays a psychiatrist trying to help the girl who has developed autistic-like symptoms and behaviors after the death of her father. The mother, worried, perplexed, and trying to help, has different, less conventional ideas to help her daughter, compared to those of the psychiatrist.
The movie is one of the best that I have seen in portraying a caring, ethical and competent mental health professional (Tommy Lee Jones as psychiatrist) doing his best to help a very troubled patient—a young girl and her family—cope with this ordeal. The movie also does an excellent job in bringing the symbolic into the healing and therapeutic process. The girl’s behavior and her fixation on building a “house of cards,” anchor the story.
There is scene in the movie that has stayed with me for many years. At one point in the play therapy room in the psychiatrist’s work area, the doctor goes to look for his patient, the young girl, and he appears stunned and worried, because she has disappeared. A few moments later, he resumes his search, goes back into the play room, and sees his young patient who is completely camouflaged, painted like a tree, standing perfectly still in front of a window which is between the girl and the trunk of a very large tree. Only the discerning eye would have noticed—she becomes the tree.
Trees, the forest, both are full of mysteries, like the mysteries that made the little girl in the movie paint herself to resemble a tree. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The nature of reality, and the mystery, is not always so easy to discern.
But we do often think more clearly in the forest. The forest’s trees, leaves, and branches, serve as a filter for our thoughts. The lush, green vegetation helps to filter out our distractions, and helps to bring clarity to our problems. The forest provides tools to help us live our lives a little better. The forest invites us to enter its protection and to heal.
In stories and mythology, the forest has served as protector and provider. It can hide us when we need to be hidden. Paradoxically, the forest can also help to serve as a catalyst in bringing us to a place that we can become more engaged with the world and with the people in our lives. The forest serves as savior and home to the spirit. The forest is mystery.
standing in the forest
reaching up to the sky
I am the forest
© 2013, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.