Sunday, December 29, 2013

Opening Doors

The View From the Top
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

There it is, everyone. The new year looms on the horizon but, why does it matter? It's just another day, right?

There is a part of me that believes this but there is another part that appreciates the imposed marker in time, an opportunity to consider and review how I live the life with which I have been blessed and to think of ways I can live well. 

I have had times of hardship and I appreciate the veil between a life of ease and a life of difficulty. There are changes that can take place in a breath. So many of us are but a pay cheque away from hardship, the possibility of homelessness or a bad choice away from abuse and debilitating lack of self-esteem. 

It doesn't always take money to make a difference, though cash can be a powerful tool for change; however, it does always take time - the most valuable commodity. As I consider what I will do differently in 2014, I will ensure that I continue to make time to help others, time to listen, time to share and love my fellow creatures. 

There is so much we can do to see each other better, to improve our relationships, to love without holding and without need. I truly believe that if you give of yourself freely, by giving universally, you heal your own soul and the soul of the world, for we are truly one, inseparable in the energy of life. 

I am grateful for this platform, across which I have been able to share my words and thoughts with you over the years. I am grateful for the friendships I have made through social media and the endless opportunities to learn and grow through my on-line and in-person communities. 

As we follow our paths into 2014, I wish each of you a full life and an open heart. May the universal love flow through you and fill you as a fountain. Be fluid; be open; be full. With love to each of you.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. December 29, 2013.

Hulopo'e, Lana'i, HI
G. Cornwall, c. December 2012.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Comfort and Joy

Me and my brother, with a
somewhat stern looking Santa
c. 1965

Christmas time, I lay under the tree staring up through the fresh, outdoor sent of the scotch pine, my eyes blurring with the mystery in the strings of clipped, painted bulbs of blue and orange and green and red. The delicate, sparkling, colourful ornaments of an impossibly thin glass dangled precariously from the ends of the branches and the stretch of golden garland was carefully wound 'round the circumference of the tree from the angel atop to the bottom boughs. The whole process was completed by my brothers and me, as strings of silver, tinsel icicles were artfully tossed on select branches. We tried to keep these out of reach of Sarah, our Siamese cat, lest she ingest them in some sort of untimely, seasonal attempt at her own demise. Occasionally, we found evidence of her tinsel snacking in sparkling litter box 'parcels'. 

Back under the tree, I lay pyjama-clad and lost in the magic of the season. I was small enough that this tree land was a fort unto itself. For a day, perhaps even more, there would be peace and I would be lost in a world where kindness prevailed amid the songs of the season played on our Zenith High Fidelity Stereo System. This was a world of reindeer and Santa Claus, surrounded by mysterious packages wrapped in papers depicting dreamworlds of sleighs and horses, snowmen and silver bells, snowflakes and stockings spilling over with treats. 

May it always be a time to rest, to spend in loving kindness with those for whom we are grateful and may the scent of a fresh forest or a string of sparkling lights always be enough to bring you comfort and joy. 

With gratitude to each of you, for your love, your kindness, and your willingness to get up every day and do your best through good times and bad. You are loved and I am blessed for all the wonder you share - simply through your desire to live with love and kindness as the soil within which you have planted your roots. 

May every one of you share comfort and joy this season and every wish for a happy and healthy new year. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. December 22, 2013.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


 The Beach at Hulopoe
Lana'i HI
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012

Awareness is a process and, self-awareness, in its entirety, impossible to achieve as the human animal is too amorphous in its being (or, rather, its becoming) to pin to a moment of complete self-understanding; nevertheless, I attempt to gain on the state, if only to get a brief glimpse of myself, a flash in the headlights and then the taillights a second later. 

In these fleeting moments, I am aware of the unstoppable nature of self. I acknowledge the chips and cracks, the wear marks and the pieces that still shine - the whole lot held together with duct tape and glue and bits of string. All of these restoratives made of moments of courage and strength and desire to go on.

It's all that I am. There is no magic, no special anything. There is just 'me', standing naked and flawed and prepared to continue - expecting nothing and hoping for the best. The scars on my landscape are bold facts, integrated into the fabric of my being. They teach. They remind. They are the key to change - both the way I think and the way I behave. 

I accept myself as I am now, in this moment, and this acceptance allows me the depth and breadth of peace required to maintain the open channel through which love flows, deep and eternal, with integrity. 
-Gillian Cornwall, Edited: December 15, 2013.

 The Beach at Hulopoe
Lana'i HI
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012 

Angels on the Water
Lana'i HI
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Gift of Evergreen

peaceful moments
senses heightened

I walk among these winter woods
of evergreen,
every green.
From western winds, a carpet laid
in pine and spruce and cedar 
with every footfall fresh.

Branches gathered
fingers stuck with pine sap scent
this air freshener
the real McCoy.

Intertwining perfect circles
still damp
with the whisper
of the first snow fallen.

Rose hips of red
Snowberry bunches
of winter white
all bound in birch
a ribbon found.

Nature's gift
a perfect lift
for spirits fading
running ragged
the season nears.

I hang this wreath
upon your door
The symbol, strength
The circle, friends

-Gillian Cornwall, December 8, 2013.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Love Poems

The Fortress
Your walls, stone thick
with pretty pikes as soldiers lines
gleaming fierce, wet with rain
'neath this spring sun.
They taunt and point
while pink petals cling
to your metal and stone
blown from pretty plum patches
through this pretty city.

No matter how hard
you try to be hard,
all I see is beauty - 
for I, water, 
I permeate stone,
every drop of me 
in you deep,
in your guarded 
castle keep.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. April, 2009

Open House
I love you.
You may step inside me and wander at will
through the halls of my heart.
Throw open the blinds,
the better to display all that I am. 

See if it is somewhere you would like to hang your hat for a while.

There are no ties to bind you,
no closed doors to lock you in.
I take no captives here.
It hurts too much to hold.
I only wish to look into your eyes
at day's release,
to behold some love, some joy, some peace.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 10, 2002.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Day of the Mink

A piece of super-short fiction - wacky, super-short fiction.

I was walkin' to work, whistlin' away down that windin' north end road, hopin' to git picked up and drove to the harbour in time for work when, around a sharp bend, four baby minks, cute as Star Wars ewoks, come flowin' like a tide from outta the woods and I thought to myself, "Well, this ain't gonna be the first time I'll be givin' some crazy-ass excuse as to why I'm late for work!"

"Well, you see boss, I was walkin' down the road when these baby minks..." 

Yeah. This weren't gonna go well but what could I do? Gotta tell ya, them minks gotta strange smell about 'em, somethin' like a polecat but not as strong and they make a sound like a squeeze toy and I couldn't just leave 'em to git runned over. I figured their mama must be waitin' on 'em in the woods, so I start to wavin' my arms in the air like a dang fool, tryin' to git them babies off the road. I heard a car comin' far off but I just couldn't leave 'em their to git smucked. Just wouldn't be right but dang that car were gettin' close.

Them newspaper folk had a field day with my demise. The headline in the paper read, "Man versus Mink - Fur Real" on how the mama mink done hissed and chased the police down as I lay there dead on that road, them babies off safe in the woods, squeakin' their fool heads off.

Oh well, didn't like my job much anyway....

-Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

'Tis the Season Already?

 Vancouver, Christmas Time
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009.

 Christmas in Duncan
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2010

I'm grateful to the many cultures and religions involved in the creation of this season of festivity, when kindness and a spirit of generosity prevail, a time celebrating both nature and humanity. I've been trying to put my finger on what it is exactly I love about it and not being a member of any designated religion makes that all the more interesting to me. 

I'll admit, right off the bat, that many twinkly lights, both inside and outside, bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart and I'm sure I would enjoy them all the year through if that were the tradition. There is something magical and comforting in seeing a tree sparkling with lights, regardless of the season.

That being said, my fondness for the season stretches beyond twinkle lights. It is the warmth, the spirit, the kindness and friendliness - spending time with people I love. Also, for some years now, I have chosen to slow the pace at this time of year. It is when I choose to take the majority of my vacation time. Lat year I went back to Lana'i, Hawaii for a couple of weeks within a month of vacation time. It was an entirely healing experience - not the least of which was swimming alone in a pod of wild dolphins, two of whom were mamas swimming with their babies directly beneath them, tucked between their flippers. I was here: 

Hulopo'e Beach on Lana'i, HI
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

 Hotel Lana'i, Lana'i, HI
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

 If you knew the price of electricity on Lana'i,
this would be even more mind-boggling.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

 The beautiful, simple entrance of the plantation style hotel,
Hotel Lana'i
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

....I hope you enjoyed your mini-vacation by picture. Back in rainy Victoria, I still love to take time off during December. I feel very fortunate to be able to take a block of time off, having worked for the same organization for 18 years. I know this is a luxury not widely available and I am extremely appreciative of it.

December off in Victoria is a chance to sit down at my writing table and spend entire days devoted to progress on my novel. It's a time to take a restful stroll through a winter wood with my love, inhaling the scent of living cedar and pine. It is a time to practice love and the spirit of giving and to realize this is something we can embody all the year 'round. It means I can put a little more time into my volunteer work as well. These are the reasons I don't mind the early start, why my tree is up in November. I want people to behave, all year long, the way we do during the festive season. Love and caring, these are the gifts of the season I treasure the most.

 Gumby and Pokey, having fun no matter the weather. 
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006.

My wee tree.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

When I think back on the season over the many years that have passed, I do not remember the gifts as much as the feeling of the season. Granted, I do remember the year my father made a functioning, camouflage jeep for me and my brother. It had a steering column and brakes and I believe we could peddle it too. It was great ...until my friend, James, and I crashed it in my driveway....oops. Anyway, I remember when I lay under the Christmas tree just staring up through the branches, enjoying the smell of the fresh pine or spruce, the warm glow of the coloured lights lulling me into a sense of safety and peace. Rest assured, this was a feeling I appreciated when I found it. 

I remember a Christmas on Salt Spring Island when I lived in a cabin on my girlfriend's mother's property. I had a great deal of time and autonomy because of Jay's generosity and kindness. It was a time to move slowly, to work on my arts and reflect upon the past in order to move forward with my life. These times are gems in our lives and the people who show kindness and generosity in order to aide us are angels among us. 

It was during this season that I taught myself how to make my first wreath. There is little more satisfying than creating something from nature with your own two hands. I walked through the woods, reclaiming cedar boughs that had fallen in the previous night's storm. I collected rosehips for a natural blast of red and wove them into the cedar circle. I used clusters of snowberries for their striking white. The only man-made item was the red, green or tartan ribbon I wound around the wreath. How happy this made me when I presented it to Jay for her door!

What I am getting to in all of this is that, yes, it is early to start celebrating the religious holidays associated with the time of year, but perhaps it is never too early to slow down, to breathe, to show kindness to a loved one or a stranger. If these are the tenets of the season, then may it last the whole year through!

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 17, 2013.
This post is dedicated to Jay Birney - thank you for everything. 

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2005

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Love and Molecules - Lest We Forget

Eunice Audrey Jay, circa 1943
My Mother
RIP, Flying Officer (Pilot) Richard Norman Foster
No. 183 Squadron RAF - 149358
Hawker Typhoon 
Shot down 31 January 1944
by flak near Guidel
on attack on Kerlin-Bastarde Aerodrome
circa 1943
My Mother's Love

Mom, circa 1943

Imagine, my mom was driving a Velocette motorcycle around England in 1943. She was 19 then. She had a boyfriend who was a pilot. They used to read poetry to each other at Harrow on the Hill by Byron's tomb. They were in love. My mom was stationed at Biggin Hill fighter station. Her boyfriend, Richard, was stationed at another airfield flying Typhoons. They lived fast and true to their hearts. There was no time to waste by not feeling, blocking and worrying if it was right. Life was so tenuous - up for the lottery every moment as planes fell from the sky, bombs fell from the sky and buildings crumbled around people daily. The world was at war and nothing was forever. There was only the moment in which their truth existed. Richard was shot down over France on January 31, 1944. He was killed. His grave is in Guidel Communal Cemetery in the Bretagne region.

Richard's Grave site,
Bretagne, France
Photo -  Courtesy of Alain Octavie / Pierre Vandervelden **

In 1948, my mother married my father at Harrow Church. They had four kids, moved to Canada from England twice, started their own business, and divorced in 1975. My mother continued to work to support the two children she still had at home. She created a new career for herself and kept my brother and I in school, in good clothes, with enough food to eat and the occasional vacation and special treat. She did well by us although I believe she was always a bit sad - she had lost a part of her self in the process of all this.

At 58 years old, she died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease); robbed of her retirement and her chance to go to Europe and explore the arts of the countries she had spoken of so passionately over the years. I don't know if she knew Richard's grave was in Bretagne - there was no internet in her lifetime. It is one of my goals to visit his grave and honour him - the life he gave for his country and the love he shared with my mother.

Her wish was to have her ashes taken to Byron's tomb to be spread in the place where she remembered her passion, her love and her truth. This was done. I hope that my mom and Rich's molecules are dancing together still.

Live; love; be brave.

Below is a stanza from a poem by William Morris, The Message of the March Wind  that Richard wrote out for my mom. No wonder he only used the one romantic stanza for his love, as the poem is largely about socialism which probably wouldn't have been popular among his fellow Brits during the war! I found it glued to the inside cover of a book he had given her about the Cotswold Country in Gloucestershire  - the area where Richard's family lived on a beautiful dairy farm in a stone house with a thatched roof. I visited there with my mother and my brothers when we were young teens. Richard's dad, Bill Foster, taught me how to milk the cows and collect eggs from the chickens. They were lovely, warm people. I suppose they may have looked on us as the grandchildren they never had. Anyway, more on this story another day. Here is the poem: 

To Celebrate a Day in May, 1943

From The Message of the March Wind
William Morris

"Now, sweet, sweet it is through this land to be straying
'Mid the birds and the blossoms and the beasts of the field;
Love mingles with love, and no evil is weighing
On thy heart or mine, where all sorrow is healed."

(?) and Richard Foster (Brothers) and Edward Smith (my uncle)
circa 1943.

Through the Gate at Harrow Church
Photo by Brian Francis Cornwall, my father.
Circa 1948.

**Special thanks to Pierre Vandervelden and Alain Octavie for their assistance with photos and information and the incredible work they do at: 

For more information on FO Richard Norman Foster, visit, the Lost Aircraft site 
Aircrew Remembered:
(Post revised this year) by Gillian Cornwall, November 10, 2013.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


The Olympic Mountain Range
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 5, 2011.

I have a word, one word, for all of the bullies, misogynists, haters and cowards. The word is: NO.

NO. I will not be threatened into submission.

NO. Your condescension is neither appropriate nor acceptable.

NO. I will not be the woman that you believe all women should be. 

NO. I am not afraid. You are afraid or you would not be so threatened by my autonomy. 

NO. Your fear is not mine to carry. It is yours to carry. Take it and find a way to face it that is neither hurtful nor hateful.

It is about responsibility. I am responsible for my well-being and you are responsible for facing your fear.

Know that there is nothing you can take from me nor force me to be. 

I am whole and full with the well of love that flows through me. I hold no fear and no shame. 

I am the gift of the life I was given and my energy is as eternal as the waves to the shore.

I wish you peace.

-Gillian Cornwall, November 3, 2013.

**If you are being bullied or hurt by someone, please know that there are people who care and can help. Here are a few of the organizations I know of that can help you when you need it:

1 800 668-6868

1 250 383-3232

1 250 592-2927

1 866 488-7386 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Silent Hero

Trial Island Lighthouse - Trial Island, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

As those of you who read my work or keep my company know, I'm not exactly the kind who keeps her cards close to her chest. If you want to know something about what is going on for me, I'll generally tell you. At times, if you don't want to know, I'm compelled to tell you anyway...

On the flip-side of this equation, there are those who are less forthcoming, those who tend to walk their paths quietly, regardless of how great or poorly things are going for them. Today, I look to those of you who choose the quiet path.

I have people in my life like this. There is one person in particular who meets her commitments as a priority, who fights the good fight everyday no matter how hard it gets. If she said she would, she does. If she is given a responsibility, she meets it, whether or not it makes her unpopular with others who may not understand the circumstances. 

At times, she has suffered greatly but gets up every morning, stepping into life without complaint. She is tough, kind, caring, strong and willing. She is self-aware and a loving mother, daughter, sister, aunt and partner. 

She is the Silent Hero. Do you know one?

Today, I salute my silent hero and all of the silent heroes who get up everyday and do what they do without asking to be noticed and without asking for gratitude. They do what they do because of who they are and because it needs doing. 

You teach me through your silent splendour and I am grateful.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 27, 2013

The Cobble Beach at Parry Bay - Metchosin BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Writing on Writing

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I appreciate you taking the time. As I look toward the horizon of November 1st and, there, upon the two major writing competition deadlines before me, I think about this piece. 

I want to share it with you as a micro-insight into how I think about the words, the story, and how I shape the writing and stretch myself beyond my comfort to create something of me and beyond me, all at once. Each time I remind myself that I am worthy of the blank page, that we each have stories to tell and the right to craft them. After which, I put it forth with the hope, but not the expectation, that it will provoke a shift in the senses of the reader. 
Hulopo'e Beach - Lana'i HI
c. Gillian Cornwall, December 2012

Smell - evocative of palpable fogs, repugnant and dirty; it's my word for nasty odours. I've given it bad press. Scent is good, pretty, indicative of delightful perfumes. It often starts with a word dropped into a placid pool, the vision rippling out with endless and, at times, terrifying possibilities. What to feature; what to type? I remind myself why I can't care what you will think. I lay myself bare. This is what I have for you; this is who I am. Take my story to your heart or hide it in a shopping bag under the basement stairs. 

Armed with words and pen, I sail forth. I harbour a mad and secret desire to claim the Golden Fleece while the dragon sleeps. I empty my mind of the work-a-day trash and dig deep, chasing the tail of the tale, knowing it is waiting on the other side of sense, in the silt, across time and tide, past the singing sirens and the myth, the lie, the no.
-Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2013

 Me - flying on the winds
in The Garden of the Gods
Lana'i, HI

Here is a link to an interview I had with CBC Books - Canada Writes, as a result of winning their wonderful Twisting Titles Twitter Challenge.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Saanich Peninsula
c. Gillian Cornwall, October, 2012.
Grateful that I kept going because it did get better - so hang in there! It does get better.

Recognition of the parts of myself that I want to work on to better myself and my experience of the life I have been given is essential to my growth.

Able to reach out, to ask, to learn and grow.

Thankful for my friends, for they teach me and light the path for me and cheer me on when it is dark and difficult.

Instinct, trust it. Trust yourself. As far as we have come from our beginnings, we still have our instinct. Stop and open up to the gift of the senses we are each given.

Thankful for my life, everyday. Thankful for the hard days and the easy ones, for each is a gift and an immeasurable blessing.

Unassailable love - a gift you give to someone, regardless of what they do with it. Love freely and openly and be open to the amorphous shape of love for it changes and grows just as we do. Let love flow through you as universal energy and you will be full and free of fear.

Dance, for we owe our greatest debt to joy! While we have breath within us, while we have life, there is hope. Where there is hope, there is reason enough for joy.

Earth - our home. She is our mother and our keeper. Respect her and be kind to her. Give back to her equally that which you take from her for she sustains us in her bounty. 

Wishing each of you endless reasons to be grateful and endless reasons to be kind to one another. I am grateful to each of you for the life and love we share.

-Gillian Cornwall, October 13, 2013.

Oldfield Farm - Saanich, BC
c. Gillian Cornwall October 2012.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

From the Mud

Oil Pastel on Paper
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011.

This week I am offering up a very short work of fiction. It is one of the pieces I prepared recently in light of a local competition which allowed only 250 words and six of them dictated to the writers as compulsory. I hope you enjoy it.

From the Mud

You pressed your finger to a live barnacle, watching it clench under the pressure. You mastered childhood delights as you mastered painting, an explorer of life and light. I loved you though you terrified me. It is true that a wondrous mind armed with an ocean of knowledge suffers ebb tides of confusion, depression and madness. There were times when your demons, released from the harbour of your salty seas, lay exposed, grappling and gasping, drowning in oxygen on your dishevelled shores. 

Shortly after your paintings were featured at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the stimuli and attention overloaded your sensory processors. Your psyche misaligned and your thoughts became a jumble. The loss and the gain, like inhaling and exhaling broken glass, left you derelict and remote.

When last I saw you, in the institution, you were painting again, great canvasses, four feet by six. To the eye of the unacquainted, these paintings appeared mud black and flat but, as I sat with you, guided by your eyes staring into the work, the clarity of the image arose through the texture of the paint. I saw the layers of life held within, an excavation of your ocean floor, exposed, for all to see should they care to look. It is only chaos when we don't understand.

-Gillian Cornwall, October 6, 2013.

 Vancouver, December 2010.
c. Gillian Cornwall

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Live the Magic

When does time take over our thoughts? When do we stop collecting rocks, 

and playing with toys?

 When does making a scarecrow suddenly become something for farmers or children only?

 When do you stop climbing trees just because they are there 
or going to the petting zoo to see the baby animals?

When do rides become too expensive and too dangerous? When does fear take over?
 When does it happen that there is no time to go to the beach or explore the creatures of the earth?

 When do we stop making snow angels

 and dressing up for Halloween?

 When do we stop lying under the Christmas tree to stare up at the lights in wonder?

 When did we put away the board games

 and stop climbing to the highest peak?

When did we become afraid to embrace and honour mother ocean in all of her beauty,
 with all of the joy in our hearts?

When do we become afraid to take some calculated risks and live the magic?

Roll down some hills; squeal with joy. 
Pick an earthworm up off the sidewalk
and put it back in the grass.
Jump in some puddles. Get dirty. Get your hair wet.

We are never to old to be joyful and open to experience.
Have fun.

-All text and images by: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013.