David Knopf: When the pressure becomes too much, talk to a tree

05/25/2014 9:24 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

I woke up in a frenzy this morning after dreaming about a deadline, another in a series of dreams where the deadline always wins.

The circumstances and setting may differ, but the stress of being impeded and knowing there’s no way past have become constants.

I’m fine now, though, having gotten up, had coffee, loaded the dishwasher and written a bit of Facebook piffle. Watching Ed Norton teach Ralph Cramden how to dance “The Huckbuck” didn’t hurt, either.

The dream involved writing a newspaper story about a small-town cross-country coach who’d fired up the community by placing inspirational signs near a field used for a different sport, say baseball.

So great was the coach’s dedication he’d actually come back to town to do this after moving to a different school.

Small towns thrive on this kind of fairy-tale heroism, times when you decorate your SUV windows with your son or daughter’s name, uniform number and things like “Go Trojans, Take State!”

I was in the early stages of recounting the coach’s past when an actual clock (one with hands) was superimposed on the upper-right corner of my not-very-wide-screen dream portal.

I had something like 45 minutes left until deadline, which was impossible even before I noticed I was hacking away on a typewriter and needed Wite-Out each time I made a mistake, which was every other key stroke.

I’ve flirted with a few deadlines in reality, but largely I think I’ve been a dependable producer of prose for the plethora of publications that pay me.

The papers have even learned to tolerate my love for mock alliteration and made-up acronyms, in this case RADS — Repetitive Anxiety Dream Syndrome.

Sometimes RADS doesn’t involve writing at all, but the comparable stress of rushing through a train station, airport or hotel as the destination recedes in the distance.

The hotels always have long inclined corridors filled with people lugging suitcases or duffle bags that make getting somewhere nearly impossible.

Imagine a less handsome OJ running through an airport with a bad hip and gimp knees schlepping four sacks of groceries (all starting to rip) and you get the picture of how I’d look.

Freud or one of his ilk would probably have a heyday with my RADS, but I’m not the type to run to a shrink every time a neurotic ailment flares up.

My mother always told me her mother told her that whenever she had a problem she should go talk to a tree. I suppose the idea was to get things off your chest, which is pretty much what I do as a professional blabbermouth.

But instead of talking to a tree, I let other people cut them down and truck them to the mill to make newsprint so I can talk to a computer, unload my burdens and hope that you, dear reader, can relate in some small way.

But I think Bella, my grandmother, had a simpler, greener, more sustainable plan. You walk into the forest, breathe deeply — any forest of mine would have to have a fragrant bed of pine needles — and speak not to one tree, but the entire forest. The idea is to say your piece, after all, not get tied up in knots over which tree to choose.

Grandma Bella’s Talk to a Tree Therapy (TTT) offered the combined benefits of exercise and aroma therapy while also providing a non-medicinal remedy for RADS.

“Starve the deadlines,” she would say, “and you kill the dreams.”

If you suffer from RADS, forget about Freud. Unload on freelance columnist David Knopf at davidknopf48@gmail.com.

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