May 20, 2011

And the Angles Sang…

Uh, Rubin?


I think you meant to spell it “angels” as in those wispy translucent heavenly things that sing beautiful from up above.

No, I meant to say “angles.”


Just be patient and you’ll read why.

Sorry, I was just worried that you had (another) typo.

Hey, I saw those air quotes around “another!”

Well, Grandma reads this and you know what a stickler she is for mistakes.

Yes, well, she’ll just have to roll with it tonight because I meant to say “angles” in the title. May I continue?

By all means…

And Rubin speaks…


Life has been wet around here. Really, really wet. And gray. Days and days and days where the only color that permeated the daylight was a steely, wet gray. Even the green trees were muted, the flowers rather dingy, and our hopes for any kind of warmth washed down the gutters day after day after day after day.

And then Gretchen lost her camera battery charger and we were without any way to photograph our daily adventures. I didn’t think I was that attached to the photographs, but the past two weeks without them have made it difficult to summon the words I’ve needed to describe my work. No photographs has made my blog feel gray and flat and worthy of swirling down a gutter.

But there are angles at work in my life, a geometry of serendipity if you will, and this past two weeks without a camera has made me realize how important that geometry is in my life.

Let me back up a bit. If you know me, then you know that I am a pooch of routine. When the routine changes, I don’t adjust very quickly or very willingly. I fuss. I tantrum. I get all nervous in the tummy and consequently I whine. Sometimes I refuse to eat. So one of the ways I’ve tried to adjust to the shiftiness of every day life (for that is what it is, shifty) is to understand the geometry of my existence.

Wallace Stegner wrote a book about the “angle of repose,” which if you are unaware, is the phrase used to describe the steepest angle of descent on a slope when the material on the slope is on the verge of sliding. I’ve used this metaphor in my life often and have created my own geometric angle of comfort — a way to keep myself from sliding into anxiety by placing my body at places in the house where I am equi-distant from all the important things in my life.

Gretchen is one of those. Ann, too. The front door is important as is the back. Of late I’ve had to recalculate because for a long time food wasn’t important to me, but now that I am eating like a real dog (finally) both my food bowl and the cupboard (and fridge as well) where my food is kept is in my equation. If Ann is in the TV room correcting papers and Gretchen is at the computer writing, I am at the apex of our triangle, with my front side facing them and my back side to the food cupboard or one of the doors.

Our house allows me to have a clear line of sight from the front door to the back, so often I’ll lie in the hallway with my nose pointed at the apex of our triangle. When I’m outside, it’s a bit trickier, but I’m pretty adept at keeping my sights out for squirrels, one eyeball on Gretchen’s hand in her pocket (where my training rewards are kept), and my nose lifted in the air (or to the ground) so I can pick up the informative scents around me.

Wednesday night, for instance, we went to the local farmer’s market where half the city was wandering around with their reusable bags buying new potatoes, dark green kale, and homemade cheeses. Crowds make me nervous so I do my best to keep an eye on my moms at the same time keeping myself alert to little children running up to me to pet my curly head or adult feet stepping on my tender toes. When I’m out in the world, the geometric calculations I must make are rapid fire and ever-shifting, but over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Occasionally I slide down the slope and bark nervously at the kid on the skateboard or the man who laughs too loud, but everyone agrees, I’ve gotten better.

It’s all because of the math.

Anyway, you may ask, what does all of this have to do with each other — the weather, the math, the lack of a camera, the odd title of this blog?

It’s kind of hard to explain, but let me give it a try. There are many things in my life that require me to do the math. My little labradoodle brain is always figuring out angles and degrees and necessary positions I need to be in in order to feel balanced and complete. I am, after all, in charge of my reactions (to a point) and so I work very hard every day figuring out the geometry of my contentment. It’s a lot of hard work.

But there are things in my life over which I have very little or absolutely no control — the rain, the speeding teenager on the skateboard, the lost battery charger, etc. etc. When life throws these unexpected, uncontrollable events at me, I feel my angles sliding down the hillside and there’s nothing I can really do to stop the material of my life from sliding down with it. I get distraught. I pace. I shake. I am unable to really settle down and this is, frankly, quite exhausting.

Needless to say, the past two weeks have been a slope of unexpected, uncontrollable uncertainties and I have spent each day and late into the evenings calculating the angle of repose — that delicate place where I might stay balanced on the hillside of my life without slipping in a direction that feels erratic and incalculable. First there was the rain and the gray and the cold, cold days of misery followed by the lost battery charger and the subsequent inability to take photos (though taking photos would have been difficult with all the rain). It was as if those two events — the weather and the lack of photos — threw all my calculations into some kind of alternate universe where no matter how I measured the angles, I was slipping.

And then this week rolled around. Monday it rained and was windy and I found myself grumbling and threatening to pull out my protractor to avoid any slipping down the slope of my life. We searched and searched for a battery charger (from store to store to store) and eventually ordered one online crossing our paws that it was the right one and would, in fact, solve all of our problems.

Then Tuesday unfolded and the sun peeked around a cloud and asked, “Is this where I am needed the most?” And I yelled up to the sky and said, “Yes, yes, yes…please, please stay. You are so needed here!” And by Tuesday afternoon, as I was lying on the back porch soaking up the long lost sun, I felt the angles vibrate a bit, the degrees shift ever-so slightly and I sighed, long and deep, but not completely freely lest I scare the delicate balance of the repose.

Wednesday — more sun and this time a warm sun and it stayed all day long. And we hunted rabbits and we swam in the lake and I found myself panting from the heat, I felt a bounce back in my step, and that anxiety deep in my chest was slowly melting.

And then the angles sang — bright and clear and with such resonance — when the UPS driver pulled up and dropped off a small box. THE BATTERY CHARGER! We ripped open that box (yes, I helped), put the battery in, plugged it into the wall, and the angles raised their voices in such a crescendo I thought for certain the windows in the house would shatter.

“We’re back in business!” Gretchen said and I danced around the house hooting and a-hollering like never before.

Thursday afternoon — we took photos. Hundreds of them. We took photos of silly things and beautiful things and things that were neither beautiful or silly but simply solid and there and missed by our camera. And on Thursday the sun still shone and the temperature was that much warmer and the chorus of angles surrounded us like a tabernacle wherever we went, whatever we did.

On Friday, my geometric brilliance was in full swing and in a split second I could figure out the angle of comfort whether I was in the house with both moms or out at work with one mom and three other dogs. And again, more sunshine and more warmth and I knew I would be alright.

Do you get it now, Gretchen? The title — And the Angles Sang?

Yes, Rubin. I get it and you’re right, I felt it too. But I hate to tell you this…

Uh oh…

It’s not horrible, it’s just that the rain is returning.



Give me a sec, okay? I’m doing some calculations.


It’s going to be okay.

It is? Why?

Well, we have the battery charger, right?


And the rain isn’t going to be as awful and cold and torrential as it has been, right?

No, I don’t think so…

Then I think the angles are going to keep singing…maybe not as loudly, but we’ll still be able to hear them.



Until next week — hold onto your angles!


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