Balanced Asymmetry and Order in Chaos in Nature, Work, and Art

Note: an edited and better composed version of this is posted over at Medium.

I’ve been in a crafty mood lately. It’s probably safe to say I’m always in a crafty mood.  I think I’ve finally figured out why.

I like balanced asymmetry and order in chaos. Noticing when these states occur and capturing them in art or photography, or creating things bring order to chaos in a satisfying way.

I Like Seeing Results

That’s the thing about crafting – results. I love seeing order brought from chaos, order within chaos, and balanced asymmetry.

It started recently with the rocked in culvert. Well, it started long ago, probably when I was born. But the most recent bout of craftiness urges started with this culvert.


Before and After the Culvert Wall

I like to see the results of my work. Work that never comes to fruition, or never ends with a sense of balance is frustrating. Housekeeping is that sort of work. The house is rarely clean and orderly long enough to see the end result for more than a few minutes.  And as soon as I glance another direction, I see the same job waiting again!

I would be a very bad production worker because of this unless I got to put on the finishing pieces. I have worked these sorts of jobs before, so I know that I don’t like it and when it comes right down to it, the lack of “finished result” satisfaction is why.

In those positions when I worked on specific projects (like the 245 Startup at Honeywell in 2002), I did get a sense of completion when we brought the unit online, even if I was only a small part of that project. My work contributed to a finished product that I was able to witness. I liked that.

Balanced Asymmetry

I like symmetry, but I like balanced asymmetry more. Symmetry by itself does nothing to spark my sense of wonder. Asymmetrical things without a balance to them just look chaotic and are unsatisfying.

Everything I really enjoying seeing in nature, like sunsets, moonrises, forest paths, etc. are all asymmetrical studies.  The clouds that frame the moon look best when they’re asymmetrical. Sunbeams filtering down between limbs of a tree on an early morning are not equally distributed across the entire scene. If fact, the very non-uniformity in where and how they appear is what makes them so breathtaking.

a study in balanced asymmetry

Building a rock wall using native stone is an exercise in learning to balance in an asymmetrical way.

The whole is balanced. This is not one of my rock walls, by the way. This is an old one that’s been here on this earth for possibly longer than me.

This rock wall is a perfect example of balanced asymmetry and organized chaos.
This rock wall is a perfect example of balanced asymmetry and organized chaos.

The parts are not.

The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.
The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.

Order to Chaos

There are some who say it is not possible to have chaos and order at the same time.

I say you can. Sometimes.

A pile of rocks is a static sort of chaotic thing.

A pile of asymmetrical rocks even more so.

But when the chaotic tumble of asymmetrical rocks are stacked, sometimes an organized balance can be achieved. That is an example of bringing order to chaos.

Orderly Chaos

Orderly chaos is a different thing. Orderly chaos is a lot like asymmetrical balance. I also think whether something is chaotic or orderly depends on the viewer’s perspective.

To the person who just bumped into the hornet’s nest, the swarm of hornets attacking feels pretty chaotic.

But that swarm is actually very orderly, a whole chaotic mess of stinging insects all bent on achieving the same goal: to kill or run off an intruder.

I see order and chaos side-by-side and even occupying the same spaces all the time. A glance at the news is full of speculation fodder for this topic.

What seems like a chaotic world right now probably has a lot of order to it if we can back off far enough to view it from a distant perspective, both literally and figuratively.

Balanced asymmetry and orderly chaos in Crafty things

My latest creation is a dreamcatcher.

balanced asymmetry in my dreamweaver
This example of balanced asymmetry is for sale at Wild Ozark’s online shop 🙂

It’s pretty asymmetrical too, but is also balanced. The weaving is probably still chaotic in appearance to some, but there’s order in there now, in spite of the chaos that ensued before I was done with it.

It’s definitely asymmetrical. But the whole thing is balanced in spite of that.

Balanced Asymmetry.

Same deal with a website I’m creating. To someone viewing only the parts of this creation, it might seem terribly chaotic. It seems that way to me, too, sometimes.

But eventually all the parts start working together and it becomes yet another example of balanced asymmetry. And of order in chaos.

Things that are both Symmetrical and Asymmetrical at the Same Time

A lot of things probably fall into this category, but the one I see most often and notice happens with plants. Ginseng is a good example.

This goldenseal plant is balanced even though it is very asymmetrical.


goldenseal with red berry - Signed & Numbered prints are available now!
Signed & Numbered prints are available now!

On the vertical plane, it’s asymmetrical. However, if  sliced horizontally, it is symmetrical.

Your Thoughts?

Have you noticed yourself attracted to more symmetrical things and only clear-cut order, or are you like me and fascinated with the balance between asymmetrical and ordered chaos?

First Hunt by Ima ErthwitchPredator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.

Nature Farming

Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.

About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.

2 thoughts on “Balanced Asymmetry and Order in Chaos in Nature, Work, and Art

  1. I think I like both, Madison, at different times or maybe at the same time but in different things. I understand the frustration of housework and similar things that need to be done over and over and over and… Always enjoy coming here to see what you’re up to and what you’re thinking about.


    1. Thanks for visiting, Janet. Today’s never-ending task was the mowing of grass and weeds that just won’t stop growing at the proper height, lol. That’s right up there with housework in my task list for things I wish did themselves.

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