In the Spotlight: a balancing act
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On any given day, Todd Kline can be found wandering through Ballard.
He has permanent sandal tan lines on his feet which he shows off proudly as evidence to his many hours spent outside.
"My feet and my heart never get cold," he said.
Kline has insomnia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and an auto-immune illness. Walking eases his mind.
"I'm the ADHD poster child," Kline joked while wandering over to Habitude, where some of his rock statues stand beside the big chair ("the throne" as he calls it) outside the salon.
He speaks in broken fragments, memories jumbling around in his head.
"This parking lot didn't use to be here...it doesn't matter if you're homeless or rich, I'll walk with anyone...real Ballardites don't use umbrellas"
While wandering, Kline pauses to chat with the other men of the streets, knowing them all by name.
"I like the stories," he said. "I love the laughter and the contrast of the laughter with the harsh reality of being homeless."
More than a decade ago a Seattle P.I. journalist first caught sight of Kline's balancing art around Golden Gardens. At the time, the journalist described him as a "boyish looking 38-year-old". Today at 49, he looks worn.
Homelessness, a coma, fall outs with family. The last ten years have been hard on him.
"I lost everything," Kline said. "Now I'm just trying to get back on my feet."
Raised in Ballard in "the most beautiful place" on Sunset Hill, Kline graduated from Blanchett High School in 1980.
He credits the late Bertha Davis for getting him through school.
A student of Mrs. Davis at Webster Elementary School, Kline said she recognized his ADHD and dyslexia long before those disorders were even given a name.
"She recognized I had trouble focusing in school and worked with me," said Kline. "She taught me how to read. With every book I have ever read, I thanked her. I didn't want to be in class but she made school interesting for me. She was the most beautiful person."
A son of Peabody Award-winning journalist John Kline, Todd Kline followed in his father's footsteps and worked for ABC.
"My dad taught me news, my mom taught me about nature," Kline said, crediting his mother for his love for the outdoors.
Kline was working in L.A. when reporting on all the bad news got to him and he quit. Instead he started following his creative side more by getting acting and landscaping jobs.
Over time he became known as "the rock guy" as his rock statues started popping up along beaches in Malibu.
Seven years ago, Kline returned to Ballard for a visit but due to a series of unfortunate events - which include losing his I.D, his income, and his health - he stayed. He now lives in a small apartment in downtown Ballard and is supported by disability compensation.
"Ballard is my hometown. Always," he said.
Standing in the little patch of grass in front of Habitude, Kline is silent for a minute and gazes at the rocks.
When asked what these rocks represent to him, a homeless man that Kline had conversed with minutes earlier cuts in and answers for him.
"It's his life," he said.
The rocks stand at an awkward, seemingly impossible angle. One rock carrying the weight of another.
He knocks the rocks over with a stick and starts stacking the rocks up again.
"It's what I do. It makes me feel good," Kline said after the rock statues have taken on new shapes. "I don't care if they get knocked down. It's just that moment when it works and stands balanced."
Stacking rocks is an art form which involves balancing various sizes of rocks and stones in arrangements that seem nearly impossible. It requires a lot of patience.
Kline says he loves seeing people enjoy the rocks.
"There's nothing better than seeing someone inspired," he said. "We're all creators; some just create more than others."
Stacking rocks is just one of the various ways Kline expresses his artistic abilities. He also paints and draws pictures.
"Mrs. Davis was the most instrumental person in my imagination," Kline said, adding that Davis always kept some of his art work in her apartment.
Kline said he will soon start showing and selling his paintings next to the Ballard Farmers Market on Sundays. In the meantime, look for Kline's rock stacks throughout Ballard and don't be afraid to knock them over. Kline will come to rebuild them into a new shape.