the many solitudes


Canada, apparently, is a cultural mosaic – unlike the United States which is a melting pot.

(Oh, an aside – fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. It’s going to be a long ride today.)

Or so we were always told in public school… and I never really thought this through until the other day when I decided that I should make my dear friend Robert a special mosaic for Canada Day. He, unlike me, is very patriotic and so is having a Canada Day party to mark the official birthday of our country (in 1867 – I know that much at least).

So, I went searching for the provenance of the term “cultural mosaic”. Here’s what I found, courtesy of the ever-insightful Wikipedia:

The first use of the term mosaic to refer to Canadian society was by John Murray Gibbon, in his 1938 book Canadian Mosaic. Gibbon clearly disapproved of the American melting-pot concept. He saw the melting pot as a process by which immigrants and their descendants were encouraged to cut off ties with their countries and cultures of origin so as to assimilate into the American way of life.

Hmm. This, although interesting to me, did not much help me with planning my mosaic. So, I hit the forest for inspiration, like so many Canadians before me:

…and came up with this:

Unfortunately, the only colour of glass that is lacking in my brobdignanian stash (and if you think my yarn stash is over the top, people, you should see my stash of stained glass!) is… you guessed it, green.

So, I had to make do with another colour:

The glass there is actually pink, by the way. I still really don’t know how to operate this camera.

I started by mapping out the leaf shape on a handy dandy glass frame that I scored from the unofficial dumping station behind my apartment building a couple of years ago:

I then – much like the Fathers of Confederation, I suppose –

(If you’ve visited here before today, you may well recognise Sir John Eh?… he’s the one with his head in the middle of the biggest window. I do get a kick out of how painters through the ages have found very similar ways to point out the important guy in the scene..

…but, as ever, I digress.)

Where was I again? Oh yes. Anyway, much like the Fathers of Confederation, I pieced together a symbol of an emerging country, and ended up with this:

(I will pause officially here to note that I actually tried to consult with Sir John Eh? about this but apparently he had started the Canada Day celebrations a bit earrrrly …

…but as JJ reminds me, Sir John Eh was actually from Glesga Scotland.)

So, I decided it was all guid, and progressed apace. In so doing, let me tell you that I injured myself.

This is partly because, when starting the mosaic, I realised that I had left the top of my trusted tile adhesive and when I went to use it, I was faced with a concrete glue pile. So, having no time to spare, I had to whip out the glue gun, and became careless:

Let it be known that I do suffer for my art. I am a proud Canajan in this regard, but our schizophrenic cultural identity as Canajans (that is, half Brit, half Murcan) leads me to adopt the British part and suffer in (virtual) silence. By the way, Robert, eventual recipient of the mosaic, does not use the internet and so will not be reading this post. So, let’s just keep this our little secret (at least, until he sees me tomorrow and says “Hey girl, what’s up with all those cuts and burns on your hands?!?!?!).

Anyway, despite my mortal wounds, I carried on –

(I include this photo, although it’s rather blurry, because I thought that the headline that was inadvertently captured on the underlying newspaper was spookily Canadian. And, by the way, I would welcome any other Canadians, if you feel otherwise, to post a comment or Email me and tell me so – and why. I won’t bore you with my theories at present).

And, eventually, I ended up with a microcosm of what it must have looked like here when they were building all these vast railways and roadways…

Voila!

Now, it’s time for me to confess something. In working on this “cultural mosaic”, I felt for the first time in years a real love for my country. I have been disillusioned of late, really. Champagne socialist angst, perhaps – although I do realise I live in a wonderful country, bit by bit our standard of living is being eroded, and I have seen big changes in my adult lifetime.

(I’ll note as an aside that to me it is frustrating (although interesting) that Michael Moore, for example, has decided to sell a message about the United States by painting my city and country as a gun-free paradise where everyone leaves their doors and cars unlocked and can just attend at hospital and get whatever treatment they want, without cost. That may have been the case twenty years ago, but it is not today. Sorry, Michiganer (Michiganite? Michigonian? friends. I know that Mike has done a great power of guid – but I’m an unhappy Canajan with his portrayal of the situation here and I’ve written a strong E-mail or two!)

But then, I’ve had to get off my leftie high horse and think about what being a Canadian actually means to me. And so I had to give some thought to why I ended up a Canadian in the first place… because of people like my mother’s father who came here at 14, shipped off from Greece to send money home to his family, and made a good life and prospered. And my mother’s grandparents, who came here similarly and did well.

And then, on the way to work today I saw this freebie magazine which I usually ignore

And then I had to remember how moved I was to be at Pier 21 in Halifax and see a photo of the boat that my father travelled here on for a new life:

So, it was very, very good to have the reminder that people came here for a better life and had it… as a result of which, I get to be a lawyer here with a decent pay and get to whine and rant on my blog about the state of the politics in my country, without censure. And, by the way, I can also afford to live next to a beautiful forest where I can go and stroll and steal a maple leaf to inform my artistic endeavours, such as they are.

And then I had to think about the “cultural mosaic” bit from the writer I quoted at the outset – and it finally makes sense to me. I get to live here, speak and write and read Greek, cook Greek, live with a scottish guy, have him and everyone else respect my heritage and also my lifestyle choices. And still be considered a “Canadian”. This is truly a gift.

So, I must make a deep dark confession – I am, indeed, a proud Canadian. I think that my mosaic for Robert reflects the shifting contours and the uncertainty of this nation. And I’m very happy that Robert is hosting this party, and was so excited about buying Canada Day decorations, which made me think I should make him a special Canada Day present, etc. etc. etc.)

(JJ, himself a new Canadian who loves Canada more than I do, said that the piece reminded him of the Magic Eye contests in the paper… you know the ones, if you cross your eyes you see the true image? The true image of this piece is the maple leaf).

As it happens, to me the mosaic looks abstract – I had originally thought to make the background a blatant contrast colour, then went against this. And I’m happy with this choice (although JJ is not) – I believe it better represents Canada as a place where change and adaptability… and progress…are always possible. I’m calling it “Many Solitudes”.

Happy Canada Day! Off now to cook the stuff I’m bringing to the party and make sure the beer is chilling…

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11 thoughts on “the many solitudes

  1. quazeekat says:

    That is one terrific post! Sometimes through our create outlets we see things we never knew we felt. A mosiac is a perfect symbol of both Canada and the US..many different colors and shapes make a perfect picture in glass. I must say I was very touched by this post. You are amazing Kristina!

  2. Sequana says:

    Yes…..down here in Amuuuurica we like to melt everyone into a great big glob of no cultural history at all. And then try to move that glob into one religion too. We’re sickening.

    That’s a great mosiac.

  3. clarabelle says:

    You’re a genius, girl! The mosaic is wonderful, as are your words.

    Have a great Canada Day! A quarter of me is proud to be waving the flag with you!

  4. kelly says:

    Nicely done and said. Happy Canada Day! I’m listening to the fireworks now…

    PS. If you want to learn how to use that camera in order to show off your fabulous knitting, yarn and mosaics to best advantage (not to mention the occasional soup or rubber duckie), there is a photography class for knit-bloggers at In The Loop later this month…

  5. trev says:

    Hey Kristina, heh heh, you and glue guns just don’t get along – a shame considering you’re obviously a total crafting freak/genius that puts us all to shame! Thanks for rso eloquently eminding me of the importance of Canada Day (and staying away from drugs and alcohol – at least until the work is done). Cheers, Trev

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