A Fine Balance

  • PeaceHealth Medical Center – Springfield, OR
  • 17’H x 36’W x 36’D
  • Cast Bronze
  • 2008
A Fine Balance by Ellen Tykeson

The mind, body, spirit connection is represented by this troop of stilt walkers and animals occupying a plaza constructed of interlocking circles. Designed by the artist, the plaza centers on a bronze medallion inscribed with directional markers and poems describing each figure.

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FINE BALANCE was inspired by humanity’s search for equilibrium in life, the effort and delicate adjustments we each must make while finding our way. Good health is a part of this balance. The journey back from illness, while difficult and uncertain, can restore this equilibrium through it’s gifts of faith, mystery, relationship, and the surprise of joy.

These stilt walkers stand within a circle, centered on a compass rose indicating three directionals, a trinity of Mind, Body, and Spirit. Inscribed on this medallion are poems for each figure and a pattern of bubbles, fragile as life. Repeating throughout the sculpture, the circle shapes a cross-cultural symbol for unity and continuity.

Representing Body, the young man and boy look earthward. Engaged in a ring game, their physical sport demonstrates teaching, learning, effort, and cooperation. As these skills earned from work and play make possible the fabric of community.

For his role as protector and leader, the man’s costume bears sharp elements and a vest patch marked with a galaxy and the words: PAZ, “peace” in Spanish, and PAX, “friend” in Latin. With careful practice, the boy and his dog participate and so, learn.

The woman lifting her cage of birds and the child following, embody Spirit, their wings whispering the power and beauty of dreams.The girl’s costume wraps her like a chrysalis, while the woman’s dress blooms with flowers of a later season. These garments reflect the metamorphosis of our lives: birth; growth; maturity; parenthood; sickness; healing; and finally, for each of us; death.

Unfastening the basket lid, the woman completes her task. Up from an open cage, her gaze, the birds, and the flight of spirits they represent, ascend. Meanwhile, the child floats free in amazement, as a bit of the allegory mysteriously shifts, blessed with her grandfather’s smile.

Standing independently, the old man illustrates Mind. His suit describes the conflicts of our mental landscape; convention vs. innovation; order vs. rumpled disarray. The daisy sprouts from his hat , marking the human passion for a new idea. His loving gaze affirms: The true value of knowledge through history rests in it’s service to the future. As a steward of time, this old man shows that humor and patience gently trump control. They ride his shoulder along with the cat in the bag. A cat at one with his nature, transfixed by the rustle of those outgoing birds.

Family is the center of FINE BALANCE. We are born into one family, and accumulate another by choice as we travel. The continuity of these relationships, and the strength we gain as we grapple and grow with them, are what makes our hearts what they come to be. The love created in the balance of this give and take completes our lives.

Oh, he was warm and invited you in,
with tree root hands and mysterious skills.
A tease, a teller of tales, and eyes that saw you,
in a quiet challenge that grew as you did,
blessing your future as you flew.

Summertime: Master the work.
Teach the game. Foster the skill.
Laugh, and continue to build.
Love, and become the student.

Tender shoot, you pause, wobble and spin.
Then patience for effort completes the circle
and the game of living wheels on.

La Primavera, do your work of change,
in a beating flight of perennial bloom.
Build on these stones of grace, child of air.

No permission asked,
When a tickle of breeze whispered the idea:
open hands and a miracle of flutter and lift.

In the bag, cat?
Assessing your comfort,
winking your wildness,
bonelessly honoring trust.

Northstar friend and worker at play,
you mind the essential, Dog,
the underrated expert of Now.

Ellen Tykeson  – sculptor
Comments from the dedication – September 13,  2008