"If you can't make it good, make it big. And if you can't make it big, make it red." -- Rob Roy Kelly, Graphic Designer, 1925-2004  

During most of my childhood, I was all about navy blue--from my bed linens to my school uniform (including the knee socks!). And most of my adult life, particularly living in NYC and working in a corporate environment, I have been all about black--from my power suits to my notebooks and electronics . No question, navy blue and black are great classic colors; they're strong, solid, and dependable. They're well-rooted colors. And me? I'm pretty much the same (or so I've been told)--strong, solid, dependable and rooted. So, sure, it makes sense that I would be all about navy blue and black. And, besides, these are very slimming colors as well.

There's definitely something comforting about being solid and rooted. Something familiar. And for me, that sense of rootedness has translated into my keen sense of order, routine, and organization. The kitchen cabinets and the linen closet are beautifully arranged (though NOT alphabetically!) by item; there's always a clear surface on my desk; I love my wonderful 1930s steel filing cabinet and can find anything I'm looking for at any time; I am an excellent editor, able to keep track of threads and themes and character development; I am an excellent publisher able to juggle people and books and budgets; I am a steady, loyal friend. All good. All fine.

Well...maybe not so fine anymore. Maybe even a little...boring? OK, so maybe not boring, but maybe just...not enough?

Life is constantly in progress and it makes sense for there to be change and mess and disorder every now and then. But if you're not paying attention to those messages of change, if you're not open to what's trying to come in, then you risk letting life pass you by for the sake of the familiar and the comfortable. I didn't realize this five or so years ago. But events over the past few years have conspired to pull me out of the earth of dependability, to leave my roots dangling, and to throw me up into the chaos. And for me, the chaos is red. And what a beautiful, daring, rich color red is.

In the dictionary, the first definitions of red (if there really can be a definition of a color) is "any of various colors resembling the color of blood; the primary color at one extreme end of the visible spectrum." (Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Edition, 1987) These definitions thrill me: what could be more representational of the life force than blood? And how excitingly daring is it for the ultra-dependable person to suddenly be in an extreme position? Yes, to match all that is going on in my life is right now, I am seeking--and finding--more red.

My redness is manifesting itself in many ways--I now have red sweaters and red scarves (which really do offset the navy blue and black very nicely); red file folders; red ski poles and ski goggles; red business cards; and, most importantly, a red laptop (with her red neoprene sleeve and red mouse) which I have dubbed Red Writer.

When I was all navy blue and black I was so good at convincing myself I didn't have the time nor the ability to try new things or meet new people--and why should I bother, since everything I was doing was reliable and organized, I was at the top of my game at work and in my relationships, and things were going along just fine? Navy blue and black are the 78-feet-below-the-water tower foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge. Navy blue and black are the age-old oaks in Central Park that withstand storms of nature and storms of people. Navy blue and black are my parents saying "Be careful. Don't do that or you'll hurt yourself. Be safe." Navy blue and black are working at the same company for nineteen years, managing expectations, and feeling secure about my job. Navy blue and black have made it natural for me to disappear into the shadows, the substructure, the earth, a sense of being the good girl, being the unseen editor, being the rock. But red? Red is loud. Red is noticed. Red is flirtation. Red is "I am here." Red is the wind that sways the tops of skyscrapers and expansion bridges. Red is the storm that tears down the trees to make way for new growth. Red is the skiing that put me in jeopardy and scared me to the point of panic, but that provided enough of a rush for me to want to do again and defy the voices crying "Careful!" Red is the anger and the determination and the tingling "what's next?" that results from being laid off. Red is messy. Red is disorganized. Red is writing poetry and blog posts in order to gain the confidence to write even bigger. Red is good. Red is fine. Make it red.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC



Upon meeting him for the first time, an artist whom I have come to greatly admire and respect said to me that his constellation had gotten brighter because my star was now in his galaxy. I have never forgotten the impact his gracious remark had on me. How remarkable and utterly beautiful to think of our friends and family -- and strangers, too; all of the people we meet along the way -- as stars, moving fluidly about and around us to create our own personal constellations. Star maps by which we can guide ourselves through our life's journey. Some stars shine brighter than others. Some stars are large, some small. Some stars that started so brightly fade out, making way for new ones. Some are near, some far.

In exploring the origins and history of constellations, I happened upon this statement: The outcome depends on the configuration of influences at the time. This sentence can, in a context of astronomy, reference scientific influences when it comes to how the stars aligned and "shaped" themselves into the constellations. But I like to think that beyond science, there is most definitely a sense of what I call fate at work in configuring and influencing who and what we are. Over the past few years I have been paying a lot more attention to things that happen "by accident" and I believe deeply that who we are and what we become as we continue through this life is dependent upon the chance or purposed meetings we have with people. People happen into and move out of our lives for so many different reasons -- causing us joy one moment and grief the next, causing us inexplicable happiness and unspeakable rage, fulfilling a wish and dashing a hope. How we respond and react to those comings and goings, how we grow and change by virtue of those comings and goings -- this is how we nurture ourselves.

Normally we wouldn't think to ask ourselves, "Why am I meant to have this experience with this person?" But if we did take a moment to ask this question, I am convinced the answer is secured in the fact that we must constantly intensify our personal star maps to illuminate ourselves and our lives, to keep us from stumbling in the dark. As stars are born, combust, reflect light, or die out, so too do the people with whom and among who we interact -- they inspire a birth of new ideas, they allow us to experience deep emotion and feeling, they reflect us back to ourselves, they leave us changed, touched, and somehow equipped to move ahead on our path.

While on an island this weekend, I looked up at the night sky bejewelled with stars and I thought about my friends and my family -- and, too, about the people who have passed through my life at one time or another, and the people yet to come. Peoples of every ancient culture saw worlds in the stars, created the constellations to make sense of chaos, to light their dark. And how extraordinary and somehow perfectly balanced it is that we, then, can see worlds in people, find ourselves drawn to people who help us make sense of chaos, and stay close to the people who light our dark.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC


Coming Home

Over the past few years, I have been making a journey home. I don't mean coming home after a day at the office, or coming home after being away on vacation or a business trip. I mean going home as in finding my way through my past and through life in order to find out where--and who--I am right now, coming home to myself.

Much of the journey is emotional and spiritual, but there is some irony in the fact that five years ago I moved into the Upper West Side Manhattan apartment in which I grew up. So, my journey home has been literal, too. My parents passed away after long wretched illnesses and in order to save the apartment, I moved in to make it my primary residence. Now, there's definitely very good reason people say you can't go home again. Ghosts. Memories. The faint echo of harsh voices. The hushed heaviness of grief. The whispers of promise. The vapors of growing up. The swirling dusts of memory twined with present, triggered by the dent in the sideboard from banging into it on roller skates and hearing mom, "Don't do that! How many times do I have to tell you?!"; the acrid cigarette and coffee and Old Spice dad-smell imbedded in that chair, the quicksilver out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye deja-vu over and over again. Have I been here before? Yes, I have.

I've become convinced that facing ghosts is absolutely critical to my well-being, to my growing up as an adult. In facing them, braving them. In braving them, vanquishing them. Putting them in their rightful place--a place not nearly as powerful or important as who I am now, the little-girl-turned-adult-woman who is making herself a home. Indeed, I have made myself at home. The primitive Americana sideboard graces the dining room; the musty upholstered furniture has all gone to Goodwill; the windows are open and the most amazing leaves and little bugs come visiting from Central Park; my family is here filling the rooms with laughter and ideas and plans; and the little storage room behind the kitchen that mom always intended to clean out so she could have an office ("someday...") has become my office.

"Home" has many definitions. One is "at ease." It is all we can hope for that we grow up, letting our childhoods inform who and what we will be as adults, in order to be at ease with ourselves. Coming home.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC


Today's the day!

Today's the day I start to blog. To write. To write AGAIN...to renew and refresh my own writing skills after having spent the better part of the last twenty-five years helping other writers to write. Now, I look inward to help myself to write...and see what happens.