Sunday, October 16, 2016

Spare Change?

The Golden Heart
G. Cornwall, c. 2015

Change? I have a great deal of it and I would have been pleased to have been spared most of it lately. I am not talking post-pub pocket shrapnel here, folks. I mean change, as in: change of job, change of life, change of, well, it feels like just about everything and, like it says in Dylan Thomas' villanelle, "Do not go gentle into that good night", I have not been gentle through much of this life-quake since it began.

The "change of life" aka menopause, came before my change of employment status. I was not fond of having a period - that part is two thumbs up in my books. I am fond of the autonomy I feel as a whole human - I need no-one to complete me.

I am not fond of growing a beard or the incessant hot flashes and sweats which make me look like a junkie coming off of heroin at the most inopportune times, such as business meetings. I am not fond of the near forty pounds I gained nor the horrific effects of gravity. I am not fond of the physical pain and weakness I am fighting off to the best of my ability. I really dislike the way some people do not talk about women's health issues, such as menopause, because some men maybe offended by us having female bodies that bleed and change and do not serve them. 

Women. We do it all. We work, raise our children and serve our families: parents, grandparents, siblings and children. The expectation remains that we will do it all with a certain gentility, obedience and gratitude for our place in the world. We are not expected to stop, rest, be celebrated or revered as the bringers of life and the hand that holds as our kin go, or do not go, gently into that good night...

In April of this year, I was laid off from my position after twenty years of service. I am fifty-four years old.

I have been working since I was about fourteen years old. I was glad of it as it got me out of a household that was, at times, worn and hostile. I started working full-time at nineteen and, with the exception of a couple of bouts of severe illness - once with agoraphobia and once with ulcers and food poisoning at the same time (I would not wish any of these on my most bitter foes) - I have been working ever since. 

Being laid off is as though someone has torn off my front door. My job, my living, is the only thing that gives me a sense of safety from the world outside, from the next assault, the next aggression, the next shaming based on the simple fact of my existence, my identity. It's all I can focus on. My health has been impacted, as well as my lifestyle and my relationships. 

Growing up lesbian was not good for me. This country (and many around the world) allow the abominable oppression, persecution and abuse to happen legally. There has been no apology from my government. No-one cares enough to do anything about the thousands and thousands of lives that were damaged and destroyed by an absence of inclusion in basic human rights for lesbians and gays. Where is the acknowledgement and where are the supports for those who cleared the path for change at the expense of their own comfort and safety? When might I receive my restitution? 

I am aware of the privilege of my race and my economic standing when compared to the world overall or compared to anyone who has been pushed under because of their difference from the white, patriarchal, colonialist monster.  

I am grateful to all of those who have held me up and stood by me to the best of their ability throughout the periods of hardship in my life. I am grateful for each moment of joy and laughter and inclusion I have experienced. I am grateful for the work I have right now and the people with whom I am working - for the huge opportunity I have to learn and do well. 

I am apologetic to those who have stood by me and listened and struggled alongside me, particularly to those of you who have born witness to my fear as so much of my sense of safety blew away in a gust of wind. I'm sorry you saw the worst of me and I hope you will not carry it. 

I am hopeful that I will have more life in which to do better, to share in ways that pull the threads of our lives together to make strong and beautiful cloth. I do hope that the light of truth will shine in social media, when all is not rosy and perfect, as it serves to let others know that they are not alone. We all have good times and bad and we have some sprinkles of light in the darkness and people blocking our light out of their own fear at times. 

To everyone, try to stay here as long as you can for the world is a heaven for us if we look for one star, a point of light in the darkness we all feel at times. Find solace in a leaf dancing earthward from the safety of its branch and think of yourself so. Let your dance across this earth light the way for your brothers and sisters. This concept of good or bad, it can be a matter of perspective. 

Change? It's all we have. It's the only consistent thing. So spare your change; share your change, however it appears to you. Together we are stronger. 

Thanks for reading. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 16, 2016

G. Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, October 09, 2016


Life is a Ride
Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring 2015

Empathy - I have been thinking about how we behave on a daily basis in our personal and professional lives. I am posting this again because I think it useful for each of us. I re-read it and it offers me many sentient reminders about how I go about my life with others. 

Leaders and colleagues may have a void of empathy for those around them. In a professional environment, this lack of understanding can have disastrous results, not the least of which is the alienation of a team and their emotional divorce from an organization. This can be the first crumbling brick between working groups, friends, institutions, teams or businesses.

Everyone can benefit from coaching in the process of empathetic engagement. Primarily, it takes desire to learn how to acknowledge the problems or difficulties of a friend or colleague. It takes development of emotional intelligence. It requires a comprehension of your own emotional issues and learning how to express them in the best ways and at the best times. Packing your emotional stinginess into your lunch kit everyday into a sarcasm sandwich may not be the best option.

Certainly, it is unwise to climb into the crevasse with someone when they are trapped in the dark without a visible means of escape. If you are both in there, how will you be able to help the other out? Who will hold up the light to show the path and point out some options for footholds?

It is essential to first acknowledge that the person is in a crevasse and that you are aware that they may be uncomfortable, hurt and afraid in there. If you skip this step and proceed to, "Hey, at least the crevasse wasn't bottomless!" or "Don't worry, you'll get out." and walk away, it becomes entirely apparent to the person within the crevasse that you wish you had never come across the discomforting scenario of finding them in the first place. It appears that coming across them in this state of distress is an embarrassing inconvenience and that their predicament has been engineered to inconvenience you on what would have been an otherwise enjoyable day. "Crevasse person" should have quietly withered away to nothing without disturbing you. Obviously, this is not the way to assist with recovery and healing.

Once you have acknowledged the situation, as an effective leader, you can offer direct assistance if you are able; this too, is a form of empathy. If you are out of your league with a situation, it is still essential to acknowledge its existence with the person. Once you have made your acknowledgement, if you are uncertain in how to direct the person, you can tell them you will get back to them with resources (give details, such as date, time and format) and make sure you follow-up! Be real and be true. 

If you are in a position of empowerment, entitlement or leadership, your position makes your time no more or no less valuable than that of the person in the predicament. The amount of money you are paid to do your job is irrelevant in this scenario. Time taken to work together on problem-solving is an investment in any relationship, organization or group. Remember that the people with whom you work are your colleagues, fellow humans, all worthy of respect. They are not your employees; rather, they are employed by the organization and you have been hired to lead them.

Know your responsibilities as a leader.

Know the resources of your organization.

Know the rights and benefits of those you have been asked to lead.

If you do not know, find out before the next scenario arises.

Do not make assumptions about the person's experiences or feelings based on your own history.

Once you have held up that light and helped guide the person from the crevasse, set a time to follow-up and talk about the experience. This will involve listening and it may involve redirection to other resources. Keep your judgements to yourself and be clear about the time frame and methodologies you have with which to assist. Be empathetic and kind. The people with whom we work are the employer's "human resource." Think about these two words carefully. Think about them together and separately. Think about their meanings and implications. Be honest - both with yourself and with the person you are engaging. 

It is not your responsibility to "fix" whatever is happening with the person. It is unlikely they need, nor want, "fixing." As Oprah said on her last show, "...every single person you will ever meet shares the common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'..."

Try it. See people. Hear them. Acknowledge what they have said to you and let it flow through you without judgement nor personal need. You needn't carry the trauma of others, but hold up the lantern and let folks know you are willing, as a fellow human, to offer light and guidance as each of us makes our way out of the crevasse we find ourselves in from time to time. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 9, 2016
Re-posted from c. July 19, 2015


The following articles, books and scripts have been helpful to me on my journey towards empathy and along my path towards emotional and social intelligence.

T-Shirt painted for VSAC event
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Simple Ways

 Greenfields, near Stow on the Wold, UK
Gillian Cornwall, September, 2015.

It's as simple as the way a line of trees, or a stone wall, separates two fields along a rolling, verdant landscape where, midway up a rise, the line is accentuated by a perfectly shaped English oak caught in one's sites for a perfect moment as one rolls past on the train, delighting in a field dotted with a hundred head of sheep, white clouds of wool upon verdant pasture. 

The scene is redolent of our centuries old, British wool industry, steeped in tradition (and urine - read on); back to medieval times, when it was big business. The wool business was in place long before the industrial revolution and machinery that toiled with people controlling the machinery, instead of people toiling directly - like the poor Fuller whose job it was to place the wool in a barrel of stale urine and to spend all day trampling on the wool to produce softer cloth. Not fresh pee, mind you, it had to be stale.... who figured that out?... A reminder of harder, but more simple times when need equaled make, find, do or do without. When I say simpler, it is not that I think the life of someone who trampled urine-soaked wool all day was easy, rather that the line between need and resource was less convoluted.

Perhaps this is what it is all about for me: a reminder of a time when our struggles were focused on the basic needs of living.

After a month back in my ancestral home of England last year, I came back to this place, this Canada, this land which was stolen by my European ancestors, this land on which I have lived my life. I have worked here and made it my home. Six months ago I was laid off from what I thought was a secure job of twenty years. 

For a long time I have been focusing on the way I live my life and how I can make it easier and better but that breed of ease has changed these past six months. It has been replaced with thoughts of bridging the gap between need and attainment with fewer conductors and referees in the way and more certain footing while working to keep my ship afloat. I must focus again on the toil and the desired result: keeping a door between me and the bedlam of society.

Above all, I wish for time and simplicity: the right to stop and enjoy the beauty of the earth - to nurture it so it is not destroyed through greed and a perceived shorter path to simplicity for those who wield the most money and the most perceived power - razing all that stands in their way as they stuff the fruits of the world down their insatiable, selfish gobs.

I have been without a safe home in my distant past. It was embarrassing and hard and I kept it hidden from my friends for quite some time. I am too past my prime to deal with that nonsense again.

I cope with the fear of being homeless through memories of my homeland: the simple line between two fields, two fields that have remained the same since anyone can remember - something preserved, that I hope won't change with a gust of the wind or the swipe of a power-hungry, selfish, fear-filled, political ogre ... Because that bad experience would "Trump" most of the others... Couldn't help myself there - sorry. 

I miss those fields and the villages, where people still know one another and maybe even care for one another. I know I am creating an unrealistic picture in my mind, but it is what I need to do right now. I need to believe that somewhere on this earth, we are doing better at stopping to care for one another and light the way for one another when darkness prevails. 

Mostly, I miss my cousin and I am eternally grateful to her for the loving care she gave me while with her. She restored my health and my faith in the loving care we can share with one another. I have never in my life been so safe or well taken care of as I was with her for that month. It healed me and restored me. I hope she gives me opportunity to give that gift to her one day! 

The thing is, if we all care for one another - it could be okay. If I, if all of us, could just let go of our fear in the guise of safety, if we rediscover and trust our instincts, we may learn to do as well as the wild creatures of the Earth who have retained their instinct, their connection to the universe, without question or thought. They simply know - because they allow themselves to do so. They are directly involved in the equation of their needs as it relates to their fulfillment - individually and as groups. The only thing that has tampered with their well-being is humanity.

We humans have lost the plot and unless we start to pay attention from our hearts, from our very cellular network that connects us to all, well, quite frankly, we are hopping into the toilet and reaching for the flush. Does a flush trump a Trump?

Have a great week. I send you love and peaceful wishes for simplicity. Thanks for taking the time and patience to read this through the flu haze in which it was written....

Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2, 2016

Dedicated to my cousin, in gratitude and admiration.
I love you, Kaz!

Sheep - Wigginton, Herts, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Sunday, September 25, 2016

True Love

Mates - Esquimalt Lagoon
Gillian Cornwall, c. May 2016

Poems and plays have been written, odes have been sung, films have been made and, as a species, it appears to allude us or, at the very least, confuse us:

True Love

What the hell is it and why do we sometimes feel like everyone but us is reaping the benefits of its rainbows and lollipops? 

The thing is, I'm starting to cotton on to the idea that true love starts within each of us. It lies in a soft, warm bed of self care and self belief. It comes when we set down the baggage we have often taken on from another - simply because they needed us to or they told us to or because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. We become lifelong pack mules for others because we believe them more worthy of a lighter path than we ourselves deserve. Why? 

Practice - that is what I am guessing. Sometimes when we do something for long enough, it becomes our norm. We no longer have a comprehension of lightness of spirit, of space within, of joy and comfort within ourselves because we have lost the ability to set down the baggage of others and move forward without it. 


Damn it

We want someone to notice the sacrifice we have made for them.


What if we just set it all down? 
What if we didn't worry about whether anyone cared that we have sacrificed?
What if we let go of our sense of loss?

We all want to be seen, heard and understood. How about we see ourselves, acknowledge that we have carried enough, or even set out to find the person willing to remind us we needn't carry it - the folks who heal and help us rest? 

Why do we need permission? We don't need permission. There is a new great lie in the world that busy and tired are badges of honour we receive for giving away too much, for wearing ourselves into the ground without stopping. 

This is an errant concept. It serves no-one. 

Put your stuff down. Stretch. Breathe. Look in the mirror and love the warrior you see in front of you. When you stop and engage in self-care, you will begin to heal. Love the amazing being that you have become on your journey. You are more than a pack animal of your own history. You are more than a survivor. You are the epitome of life in every step of your journey. You, and you alone, have the autonomy and capacity to reinvent yourself with love, strength and compassion from all you have seen, all you have borne and all those you have helped along the way.

A change of season
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

When you stop to heal, you will create space and strength within yourself. You will remember that self care and love for the gift of your life is the essence of true love. In healing your worn and weary soul, in loving yourself truly, you will create the foundation from which the capacity to give love without need for reciprocation grows. With the ability to feel perpetually full without fear of loss and certain of your place among all of life, you will experience the true love that cannot be battered with the changing tides and clamoring of those around us. You will master the art of setting and balancing your own course with self awareness and awareness of others. From excellent self care arises the ability to care well for others. 

Find your strength within and know that this is your true love. 

Lay down your burden.
Most of it was never yours to carry.
This is your life.
Raise your arms and open them to the universe.
We are with you.
We are inextricably one.
In every cell of your being lies the truth,
the very essence of life and love.
You have everything you require. 

You are well.
You are complete.
You are true love.

Autumn Skies - Heaven on Earth
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

You are true love, you truly are. You will not find love in another; you will find a reflection of yourself in their eyes, in the smile they have for you because you are you - whole, complete, perfect in each step of your journey. 

True love? Go look in the mirror. Look deeply into your own eyes, into your soul light. It's right there. It's you. 

Gillian Cornwall, c. September 25, 2016

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

 Photo of me by Doug Grant
Rifflandia, c. 2014

Saturday, September 17, 2016

In Stillness and In Motion

Gillian Cornwall, c. July 2015

Breathing, balancing on the edge of a new day, before sleep takes my hand to guide me into the dreamscape. I am the hawk, in perfect repose within the arc of two currents. My wings are spread and I hold my own while the wind blows. With a fractional tilt, I glide into a new air stream. 

Sky Diver, Oak Bay Tea Party
Gillian Cornwall, c, July 2015

From that moment of stillness, before the start of the journey, I see above me, below me, through me and around me. Whether held on the current or gliding through time, I have recognized my freedom to move through my life, just as my pen glides across the page - the motion, the words, as unique and fresh as the molten lava flowing from Hawaii - creating more world, more life, with each exhalation to the whole. 

The Big Island of Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c November 2006

We are blessed in our lives with the gift of life itself - a promise, a chance to do well, to pay attention, to give and to receive. May the gift of being always be enough. May we be grateful for our lives, in stillness and in motion, through tears and laughter, through joy and pain. May we love freely and without holding.

With gratitude and love to each of you for taking the time to read my words and share your stories.
-Gillian Cornwall, September 18, 2016
c. September 13, 2015

Greenfields, Stow on the Wold, England
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Summit Park Garry Oaks
Pencil, Graphite and Ink on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c 2010
Not Available

Down time: Puzzles, tea, a sketchbook, a novel, a hammock, the cottage, a tropical vacation, a walk by the sea, a nap, a walk in the forest, a movie... the list goes on, doesn't it? There are a million things I love to do (or not do) to recharge my engines. I don't know about you but there just doesn't seem to be enough of it either.

I remember when I was a kid - there seemed to be tons of it. I supposed that comes with a privileged, middle-class childhood. I can't remember the last time I just lay under a tree and stared at clouds floating across a big blue sky through branches swaying in a gentle breeze. When I was a youngster, Heather McGhee and I used to ride our bikes to the Mill Pond on a Saturday and eat our bagged lunches on the grass under the tent-like boughs of the giant willow tree. It was peaceful and fun. We had exercise, food, talk and rest. Life was quite perfect.

I don't know when we lose that space, that time, to just be. I am often admonished for the time I spend staring into one of my many devices: laptop, desktop, iPod, smart phone, e-reader, Etch-a-Sketch ...just seeing if you were paying attention. I actually do have an Etch-a-Sketch - two, actually and I love them. I would definitely put Etch-a-Sketch in the down time list.

Big Island of Hawaii
Oil Pastel and Mineral Oil on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006

As you can see, I've included some of my own drawings in this post. The thing is, I used to draw in my down time too. I studied with a number of artists and I used to draw pretty much every day - during lunches, after work and on the weekend. Now that I am writing avidly (on the second draft of my first novel) and sending short works and poetry off to magazines, I don't have as much time to draw, so that has gone a bit by the wayside for now.

Victoria Warehouses
Oil Pastel on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006

Now it seems, to really get down time, I have to take time off work in large chunks, get any necessary chores out of the way that absolutely have to be done and THEN I can take some down time after I've worked on the writing that has lain dormant because I've been too tired or too this and that... Blah, blah, blah. And trust me, I know, this is all first world problem nonsense but what I really want to get at is, I think it is crucial to make time to chill out - whatever that means to you. If we want to be well then we need to get exercise, eat well, laugh as much as possible, love with an open heart and HAVE FUN!

The House
Watercolour Pencil on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2004

Even though I was laid off this year with my position being made redundant, I am still getting work there and it is a beautiful location. At lunch, I try to make time to walk to peaceful campus getaways like Mystic Vale - which absolutely restores the soul - particularly from the distress of uncertain employment! I have learned we boldly walk forward with gratitude and a good heart despite the changing times. I have another day, another opportunity to love and be a part of good lives in a beautiful place. I am not without fear in this - I am not perfect - but positive thoughts help lead to positive results. I remain committed to service for those who need it, benefit from it and have the grace and open hearts to receive it.

The Mallard
Watercolour Pencil on Paper
5 x 7
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2004

What do you do for down time? I'm open to new ideas, suggestions and hilarious anecdotes. I'm excited to know that I'm not alone in my need to chill out. I believe that it is in our moments of freedom, our moments of lightness, that greatness happens. Breathe deeply and give space to your potential. Open your mind and heart to all that is here for us if we just stop for a minute, breathe into our bellies and connect to "all". Yesterday I went for a nice dinner with someone I love and drove down by the cruise ships and welcomed all the new visitors to Victoria! They were quite surprised and delighted to have complete strangers welcoming them to the city! 

Baby Parker
Pencil on Paper
Gillian Cornwall
Commissioned - Not available

I think that if we can integrate down time back into our work, we will achieve much greater standards of excellence. Greatness takes time, space and belief in ourselves and each other. All too often, I look around me and I see people racing to check off the boxes. "Let's get it done!" And all too often, if we stopped, thought and made space for thinking outside of the box, we would get it done a lot better, faster and with greater enjoyment.

Arwen Portrait
Pencil on Paper
4 x 6
Gillian Cornwall, c.1999
Not for sale

There is time. There is space. We just need to allow ourselves to take it. Most of us do not NEED more stuff or more money to get more stuff. We need to stop, slow down and be present in our lives. Down time. That's what we need.

The Grizzly Bear
Oil Pastel on Paper
Gillian Cornwall, c. 1996

This is your imposed down time between a grizzly bear and a farm cat. *Breathe here* :-)

Boots the Cat
Oil Pastel on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c.1994

If anyone is interested, please share your thoughts on this subject by leaving a comment below or on Facebook. I know most people just want to have a look and duck out unnoticed and that is fine too. I hope you are off to do something fun and relaxing - maybe do some of your own drawings?

The West Coast Rainforest - Long Beach
Ink on Paper
Not Available for sale
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009

While I may seem fairly light-hearted about this, I want to acknowledge that there are millions of people around the world who struggle in every hour of every day just to survive and if those of us who have so much shared just a bit with someone else, we could ease their path a great deal and perhaps allow them to stop and breathe one day without having to worry all the time. There is always more we can do for others and this can be a down time thing too. Read to someone who can't read for themselves anymore. Bring someone a treat. Make a donation if you can. Share your beautiful gifts with another person - for we are one and we are greater together than apart.

The Wave
Oil Pastel and Mineral Oil on Paper
8 x 10
Gillian Cornwall, c. 1988

Thanks for stopping by and having a read. I hope you enjoyed it. I love sharing with each of you and send you love and blessings for a peaceful and joyous day. Know that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, someone out here is thinking of you and wishing you the very best of life. Never give up. Walk your path with your head held high and feel the simple joy of the sun on your face when it does shine.

-Gillian Cornwall, re-posted September 11, 2016
c. November 2, 2014

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Autumn Life

Wild Kitten, Autumn in Saanich
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2014

"The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed,
The deed develops into habit,
And the habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its way with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings."
K. Sri Dhammananda
-How to Live Without Fear and Worry

There is no light so great as the light of the universe that shines through me. With this light, I have all that I need. That which is not held cannot be taken. I will continue to walk my path of truth regardless of the decisions of others. I cannot be made to act against my heart. The light of life shines through me eternal. There is peace in this. No matter what is said or done around me, I act in my best truth and light. Aloha. The breath of god flows through me. I am one with all. Peace and light are my path.

As we rocket ourselves into autumn for another year of "busy-ness," let us not forget these words. Our connections to one another - our time and truth - are of the utmost importance to our survival - more than our schedules, regiments and our desire to fill our days with "busy." Hug your children. Play with them. Listen to your elders. Speak your truth kindly. Stop and talk to a stranger who looks lost or lonely. Add one simple "e" to who you are by being humane, rather than just human. 

Gillian Cornwall, September 4
Original text edited from, May 24, 2012

Pattypan Squash, Dan's Farm Market, Saanich
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2014