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