As artists we seek to create our own sense of the chaos. Through our storytelling, poetry, painting, composing, sculpting, designing, we wrangle and wrestle with a swirl of ideas and emotions that seem at once as heavy as lead and as elusive as air. We all of us seek to create our own sense of the chaos that is composed of family, relationships, career, health—and with each decision we make, we strive to bring that which we don’t know and that of which we’re not sure into focus, into perspective, into alignment.

Alignment. The lining up, the adjusting, the balancing of things. The relationship of things. In art and in life, we can but hope to be blessed from time to time with the sort of balance that makes us feel whole, enriched, an integral part of something wondrous—and through such alignment, through a realization of the power and validity of interconnectedness, we can create our greatest artwork, we can become our greatest selves.

As an editor, one of my most important roles is to help a writer or illustrator identify, examine, and fix that part of their work which might be at all unstable and out of alignment, for leaving such an instability in the construction most certainly risks the integrity and security of the whole. A remarkable result of such a process is always the excited (and, indeed, sometimes daunting) realization that everything is interconnected. The focused strengthening of one character or one scene necessarily strengthens the whole.

The past few months I’ve been contending with an internal alignment not just of ideas, emotions, and decisions, but a literal alignment of the vertebrae in my spine. Understanding and respecting the notion that our spines are sturdy columns that protect some of the most delicate elements in our bodies and are cores as essential to our bodies as trunks are to trees, it’s no wonder and no mistake that for our bodies to be fully whole and healthy, it’s necessary that our vertebrae align. And if they don’t—if just one vertebra slips out of place—the consequences can be anything from a nuisance to painful to life-threatening. Since having a remarkably successful lower back fusion to stabilize and strengthen my back last month, we’ve discovered a disc in my neck that is highly unstable, badly out of alignment, causing considerable pain and, most importantly, impinging on the spinal cord and threatening my health. The instability is not the result of the lower back surgery, as it’s clear this disc has been compromised over the course of time; it’s the revelation of the condition that is the result of the lower back surgery. The revelation of an organic, essential interconnectedness that’s critical to the health of the whole. I am lucky to be in a position to address this situation quickly and will do so tomorrow as I undergo surgery once more. What feels most amazing to me, though, is the revelation I had last night—that it seems the journey I had to go through for my lower back was all meant as a means to expose this even greater and urgent condition in my neck, one that was on track to manifest itself at some time in the future, assuredly with far more severe consequences.

I believe the stars align. I believe the clouds do part to reveal secrets when the time is right. I believe chaos can be brought into focus. And by such alignment, we are able to soar to greater heights when we fly and find the solid ground we need to feel rooted. Alignment of the pieces to reinforce the whole. I believe this within the stories we have to tell, with the decisions we have to make in our lives, and within our own bodies, as long as we’re paying attention.

                                                                                           (c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc


  1. Emma,
    I can't tell you how strongly this post resonates for me. I am just over a year into therapy for a whiplash injury sustained in a car accident. It has been a horribly painful, difficult, financially challenging, and emotionally challenging year... and yet, it has allowed me (sometimes forced me) to address other areas of my life that needed and were ready for change. Now things have reached a certain critical mass required to achieve momentum, something I had not anticipated but greatly desired. Indeed, it is incredible how the stars align, and how out of chaos can emerge great things if only we look at it in the right way.

    Best of luck with your surgery. Truly hope it's the start of a brand new and shinier life.

  2. Wordy Birdie, oh, yes. The journey can be nothing short of challenging in ways we're sure we won't be able to survive - but we can and we do. Because we have to. Continued healing to you in all ways.

  3. Good luck with the surgery Emma. I've had two operations on my cervical spine, and both were successful. So yours will be too. Have a good and speedy recovery!

  4. Maryann Macdonald12/13/2010

    Hello Emma,

    So sorry to hear about this! My husband George had cervical surgery about a month ago and is recovering, day by day. I admire your attitude, and hope the operation leaves you whole.

  5. Oh Emma, I'm sorry you have to go through another surgery but how very like you to see the positive in this and look at it as a time of growth, and then, to share that knowledge with the rest of us. You set such good examples. Thank you.

    Sending healing, and aligning thoughts, your way.

  6. Anonymous12/13/2010

    Beautiful post, Emma. You're in my thoughts.

  7. Anonymous12/14/2010

    Emma, your blog is a treasure. Thank you for this and the few I've skimmed. I'm coming back in a few days and visiting with my chai in hand and an empty cup. I'm hope this time will not be painful for you, but the reflection you do so well. I don't take near enough moments to stop, reflect and absorb, and you've bidden and inspired and emboldened me to. Thank you. I owe you a piece of calligraphy (at least). If you have something in mind, I would love to do it for you, please feel free to e-mail me. Best and speedy healing to you and yours. I love your journey.

  8. Lovely post. Again! I'm sending you healing thoughts.

  9. Emma, holding you in the light, sending energy and all things good and bright. If there is anything I can do, tell me.

  10. This is an absolutely lovely post--it resonates in so many ways!

  11. What a gorgeous, thoughtful post, one that resonates with me in myriad ways. Here's to your realignment, and to your speedy recovery.

  12. Just browsing through your posts. I hope your neck and body as a whole are recovering. You have been through quite an ordeal. I admire your positive attitude and intestinal fortitude!

  13. Dear Emma--Sending healing energy to you and your spine in the journey through chaos to alignment.

    Glad to have found you.

    Mary Tebo