I Tried Being Subtle, But it Just isn’t my Style

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.

Autumn Leaf Red

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…)

pottery jugThe 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…

8 thoughts on “I Tried Being Subtle, But it Just isn’t my Style

  1. I think it’s possible to special order missing Lego pieces online somewhere. My son is VERY into Legos, but since he rarely does any project more than once, I haven’t bothered to replace missing bits!


    1. Hi Bee – Yes, LEGO does have an online order form, and you are right – I can order a new skeleton. But first I have to find out whether the grandchildren misplaced the little guy when they were here last, or whether the skeleton just traveled home with one of them by mistake!


  2. Hi Margie–thanks for stopping by my blog–like you, I am almost older than dirt, have allowed my hair to take its natural shade of–well, not really any shade at all, I guess…is white a shade, and write about whatever tickles my fancy at any given moment.
    I’ll be back to read more of your posts…looks like a blog I will enjoy.
    Thanks again,


  3. Hi Margie,
    I love your Autumn leaf red paint. I also love color in my home, of course color is a very personal thing, and what one will like another won’t, but that is what makes it unique I feel, a bit of ourselves in our homes.
    I agree we do need both in the our world, subtle and robust.


    1. Hi Magsx2- Someday a real estate salesman will tell me that I should paint the red walls a nice neutral something if I want to sell this house. And I will tell the salesman that anyone who can’t live with autumn leaf walls shouldn’t buy the house, because they are really not going to like the massively bright show of the tulips in the spring…


  4. Unfortunately I know about being anything but subtle. I am a reactive personality, intensely involved with everything. When I saw your “Red House” I fell in love with the color, the idea of your blog when talking about your house if fun to read. Live in the house that way it is and enjoy it! You can always paint everything drab tan when you want to sell! (love your garden too!)


    1. Hi Amanda – I don’t think there is any chance I will become subtle. I think that women become more vocal and assertive as they age…


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