We Are All In This Boat Together

The Work of Harold Balazs

Walking along the Cedar River or viewed from the Senior Center sits a stainless steel sculpture installed in 1990 by Harold Balazs. The name, “We are all in this boat together”.

When you first come across this abstract sculpture it’s hard to know what you’re looking at. If you take the time to observe its shape you will make out the boat. Which end is the stern or the bow remains unseen, as is what is dancing around on and around the boat. Leaving me to wonder if what I’m looking at is a boat at all. Maybe it’s just my earthbound mind placing a name to something not meant to have one.

The sculpture is highly visible and sits on one of two huge concrete slabs on either side of the Cedar River. Slabs once used to support a railroad trestle that were abandoned. Here they sat empty for 20 plus years before the Renton Municipal Arts Commission decided it needed some art. 

Harold’s sculpture certainly raises an eye and is not everyone’s cup of tea. Harold had a history with Renton leading into this project. He had previously completed an enamel metal mural on the exterior wall of Fire Station #11 in 1979. Another abstract scene, and my personal favorite piece within the Cities Collection.

Ohio born in 1928, Harold grew up on a farm during the depression. He learned metal fabrication and design working for his Dad and was encouraged to pursue his interest in art by his Mother. Which he did, majoring in Art at Washington State University. Harold created a life for himself in Mead, just north of Spokane. In his studio, he launched a career for himself using drawings, paintings, fabricated metals, produced enamels, and fashioned sculptures.

A man dedicated to his craft

Harold showed great dedication to what he did. He worked every day until his passing in 2017. I have always been drawn to Harold’s work because it reminds me of my childhood. There is something very free form about his work that makes it iconic of the 1970’s abstract world. He has many large public pieces on display throughout Seattle that represent a large scope of his work. Varying techniques and vibrant enamels have decorated buildings such as 

  • the Washington Mural Building
  • the First Avenue entrance of the Federal Building
  • the UW Tubby Graves building
  • the UW intramural Activities building. 

An Artistic Voice for our State

He is equally celebrated in Eastern Washington where his work can be seen everywhere. A true artist who was never worried about fame or fortune. Someone who created to create. he claims to have never used a resume because he never knew what would come from his next piece and felt resumes showcased who he had been, not who he wished to become.

Balazs had a deep appreciation for architecture, mythology, and history. His goals were always to create a sense of wonder in all he did.

Well, he certainly did for me. With nearly six decades of work to show for himself all across our state, I believe his message still shines through.

We have much to thank Mr. Balazs for, as he served three terms as a Washington State Arts Commissioner, and helped to draft the state’s percentage for the arts legislation. He believed and fought for the arts. Understanding that the journey we are all on is in itself our own abstract piece of art not easily understood by everyone who sees us. 

A Message with Meaning

I was walking along the Cedar River to break up my day as I entered month two of Isolation during the COVID19 pandemic. As always, I took a moment to observe this piece of art and was struck by how valid it is today. Everywhere you turn you hear people saying how we’re in this together. This is as true today as it was 30 years ago when this sculpture was installed. As true as it will be in another 30 years. We need each other. We always need each other, and as we sit in our homes quarantined we see this more clearly than ever.

Art has a unique way of reminding us the simple truths in life. Things that are so universal to us all, as necessary as breath for our life force. Art speaks to us all in such a way that it feels like we’re having a personal experience with it, yet it holds the same truths for others as well. Separate but together. 

After my walk I decided to look into Harold’s Life, I found a quote by him that spoke so true to my recent thought process on his work, 

“I’m not concerned what people call it (his work)as long as it provokes wonder.” He says, “What artists make isn’t important, but they need to decorate the world and cause surprise.”

The shapes he uses seem to bring back symbols from a lost memory and leave me with room to wonder. I love this aspect of art and feel privileged that Renton has two-pieces of his world of wonder for us to enjoy.

Renton Pieces

Untitled by Harold Balazs. The enameled metal mural on the exterior wall at Fire Station #11 was a 1979 One Percent for Art fund. Fire Station #11 is located at 211 Mill Avenue South.

We Are All In This Boat Together by Harold Balazs. This stainless steel sculpture was installed in 1990 along the Cedar River Trail at the Renton Senior Center, 211 Burnett Avenue North. The project was purchased by One Percent for Art fund.

Insight Into Doing Nothing

What doing nothing reveals

Yesterday I did nothing. NOTHING! it was not the fun kind of nothing. The F-it kind where you make the statement to the universe, “I’m not doing anything today and I don’t even care.” The kind of day you laze around with a cocktail and enjoy the sun and a good book. 

No. 

It was more of a droning out. scrolling mindlessly, can’t get my brain to function, I feel fat and worthless kind of a nothing. It was awful. And the more I focused on how worthless I was, the more worthless I felt. My mind would turn back to mush, and an occasional thought of going for a walk just to move my body was immediately squashed by the sound of heavy rain falling outside.

These are the quarantine days of dread. The days where going back to the service job you hated so much that you often cried in the car on the way to work sounds like a treat. Not so much the thought of serving meat to hungry carnivores, but the thought of complaining collectively with others. Yes. I miss that. The comradery of collective complaining sounds like a warm bed that my lazy ass wants to snuggle into. This is the kind of nothing day I was having.

The truth of the morning light hit me hard today. 

For one, you are allowed to have a bad day. This is a part of growth. I know this, yet I spent that time my mind and body needed berating myself instead of letting the healing happen. I knew it wasn’t going to last forever, and it didn’t. And for two, it shined a light on something I had been unwilling to see. 

My deep destructive thought pattern of wanting to complain instead of wanting to change.

There I said it. Damn it. 

So now that it’s been said, does that mean I have to change? 

Choosing to Change

What about you? 

Have these weeks of isolation helped shine a light on things in your own life you don’t want to see because then you have to change? Or not change, and know you are just a victim of your circumstances? 

Dang it! Growth is hard. 

Admitting you need to change or grow is tough. I find it so much easier to blame others for my problems.

Let’s break this down together.

  1. Yay for lazy do nothing days that help shine a light on areas in our lives we’ve been avoiding. I mean it. Acceptance is the first step right? We all have these days, so let’s learn to embrace what we can from them.
  2. Thank you inner guides for presenting me with insight. I now have a choice, or at least an awareness of how my mind works that I haven’t been wanting to see. The truth is we all know we have these patterns and mindsets that get in the way of our own growth. And occasionally we get to stare them in their ugly face and decide if we continue to be the same person, or make the uphill changes towards growth.
  3. Taking time to have complete gratitude for this time in Quarantine. I truly am grateful. My life and my thoughts about my life, my community, my country, and my world are being tested. I hope yours are too. Things are changing and shifting and you are being presented with all kinds of new opportunities. It’s all a matter of where you’re focusing your thoughts. Mine have been from high to low. Ultimately I feel the blessings of my life, yet at the same time my weird silly mind patterns are fighting for past ideals that I don’t even like. 

You too? Odd, but I believe…..

  1. It’s guiding you towards your true path. Up until this year we have lived in a world that has told us that we are to be busy 100% of the time. Now that we can’t be busy in the same way, many of us are feeling lazy. But this is simply not true. I think we all know it intuitively. We are not meant to be so busy, but now that we aren’t we have time to travel inward. YIKES! That’s scary right? getting intune with our own inner wisdom is not something they taught us in school. How are we to handle it?
  2. Letting it be. Okay, admittedly, I am not here yet. I am really trying though. We all have this battle of wanting to achieve more and do all the things, and at the same time feeling stuck in a holding pattern. I have moments of rage, and moments of really liking it. I’m not at work, and have received no form of unemployment, but I do have time to write. I’ve crocheted a jacket! What? like when have I ever had time to sit down and do that? I love feeling connected more creatively to myself. I get to spend my days either scared, or inspired. Okay okay. I do both.

So what does this all mean? 

I have no idea. If you are anything like me then you don’t expect to understand the world around you. Try as I might, but as it turns out, time and time again, the universe is on a whole different playing field than myself. My experience has taught me that all I can really do is be the best me I can be. How can I do this? It’s a tough one, but it means I continue to work on myself. Seeing when I’ve made a mistake, forgiving myself and others when possible and moving along. Seeing these patterns when life shows them to me, and deciding how to proceed.

Right now I’m in the ”lets analyze this” phase of my insight. Trying to figure out what it means for my future moves. Letting it have space to be seen so it hopefully won’t follow me into my next job, or relationship. It means I have some hard self work to do.

I choose to better myself. 

Even though it’s hard and vulnerable, I choose to better myself. I know that it will be better for me in the long run. This way I know that when the dread of those worthless feeling days of my future come along, I’ll be better equip to handle them. I’ll be armed with a little more self acceptance to let it have space. My ego will puff up, as it does, in defence of wanting to stay in that warm cozy bed, and I will understand, and with love, pull myself out of bed.