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


The Great Wall

A few years ago, my partner and I were lucky enough to be able to take an incredible month-long trip to China. It took about six months of planning and preparation and before that, it had taken several years of “what if”ing to set it all in motion. We wanted to see the Yangtze River before it was entirely dammed. We wanted to see the Potala Palace and Tibet before it’s completely overrun with Chinese. We wanted to ride camels along what had been part of the Silk Road route. And we wanted to walk along the Great Wall. It was, in the truest sense of the phrase, a trip of a lifetime because we were able to do all the things we’d wanted to do and more. We experienced sights and sounds and emotions and awe – things so many people don’t have a chance to ever experience. 

One of the multitude of mysterious and marvelous impressions from that trip has stayed with me in a way that nothing else has—and it’s the powerful reminder that the journey is as important as the destination. Indeed, that the journey is sometimes even more important than the destination. It was cloudy and overcast when we reached the Great Wall. As we climbed higher and farther along the wall into the mountains, we found ourselves walking in the clouds themselves, unable to really see much beyond the grey-green rolling hills just surrounding the wall itself. At first, we were terribly disappointed, raging at the sky and wishing for the sun to break through so we could see the vistas and the land beyond. And as we raged, we started to fairly race to the next tower on the wall, to see if, just maybe, we’d get a better view. And it was then that I stopped us. Just stopped us so we could listen and look around and realize the magnificence of what we were actually doing, of where we were actually walking and standing, of the history, of the moment. We stopped in order to take mental and physical note of the journey itself. It seemed critical then to put aside the “when will we get there” in order to celebrate the “here we are.” And in doing so, we could rejoice in all that had transpired to bring us to that remarkable and special place—to capture the power of all that we’d done and all that the universe had allowed over many years to bring us to where we were right then. No less. No more. And just perfect.

So, we didn’t see the expansive views of mountains and unending wall we thought we’d see; that particular gift, for whatever reason, remained hidden. But the gifts we were given were, I think, far greater in depth and beauty – the gift of the knowledge that we had achieved something magnificent without even recognizing it; the gift of the knowledge that in experiencing exactly what we experienced, our lives were forever changed; the gift of being able to stop and know the now; and the gift of the next “what if” – what if we are able to come back to this place someday and on that day the sun might be shining?

And so it is with our lives and our storytelling. And so it can be with our health and our relationships. Sometimes it’s overwhelmingly vital for our souls and our selves to pay attention to the journey, to appreciate the efforts and the achievements, to allow the clouds to hide secrets not yet meant to be revealed. It seems to me if we’re too intent on only reaching our destination we lose a sense of magic and mystery. For it is by knowing where we are on our journey and letting ourselves be at ease with the unexpected that we will make our way to brilliant and rich destinations –and not necessarily the ones to which we thought we were always headed. How exciting it is to just think...what's beyond the great wall?

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc