Subtle: Delicately complex and understated. Would that be how the rest of the world describes Canada? Mike Myers thinks so. He says this of our country: “A subtle flavour – we’re more like celery as a flavour.” Perhaps he is right, and that is why many are surprised when we display intense patriotism such as we did at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Or stage a riot, for that matter.
That is not to say that everyone in Canada is subtle. I don’t do subtle well. I admire it, but I just can’t do it. I looked at Home magazines where earthy shades of cream and brown mesh seamlessly to create invitingly calm living spaces. I attempted to recreate this in my home and left the paint store with Autumn Leaf Red.
I admire landscapes where the lovely shades of green create soothing places to rest and reflect in. I started off with a nice slate of green. Then I planted many colors of tulips, deep purple hyacinths and intense yellow daisies. Pink bleeding hearts and a sweep of Icelandic Poppies that randomly hop from flower bed to flower bed, resulting in garish orange poppies cozying up to the pink daisies. Subtle? Oh, no. And my house color? Well, we don’t call it The Red House without reason.
Perhaps my inability to embrace subtlety comes from not ever really growing up. Fran Lebowitz once made this observation about children: “Notoriously insensitive to subtle shifts in mood, children will persist in discussing the color of a recently sighted cement mixer long after one’s own interest in the topic has waned.” This inability to grow beyond primary colors might explain my eternal fascination with LEGO blocks. (If my children are reading this, tell the grandchildren I just bought myself the LEGO motor home. And I still can’t find the missing skeleton mini figure from the little canon set…)
The opposite of subtle might be robust, yes? I took a Pottery Workshop from Michael Casson on one of his teaching trips to Canada. He was the master of making pots with presence. I left this workshop with two replicas of his famous Jugs, and they each speak to me in a way that none of my other pots ever have. They are anything but subtle! My notes from that workshop contain his observation: “With a robust handle people will say – that’s a nice jug you have on that handle!”
A handle and a jug – both aren’t complete without the other. Subtle and robust – we need both of those too, don’t we…