Sunday, May 25, 2014

Aloha Spirit and the Joy Spectrum

Hulopo'e Beach, Lana'i Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2012

Anyone who has known me for longer than a week knows that this (above) is my happy place. I am inextricably connected to this bay, this beach, this island. I first came to Lana'i more than 20 years ago because my dear friend, Alberta, was living there, building and setting up a movie theatre, The Lana'i Playhouse:
When I first came to the island, it took me a while to find the way of the place and the people. When you are new to Lana'i and not a guest at the resorts and you are there for a month or so, people might wonder who the blazes you are and how you fit into the Lana'i way of life. Not in a negative way - it's just a bit uncommon. 

Anyway, back to the concept of the aloha spirit and the joy spectrum. Lana'i is my happy place, my spirit base - I go there to be with my Hawaiian ohana, to regroup, to recharge and to be surrounded with the aloha spirit in a place with people for whom I care deeply. The aloha spirit is described as "the joyful sharing of life energy in the present". Really, I cold just wrap this post here because that is where I want to exist on the joy spectrum! ...but as you can see, I'm still here typing away because I couldn't resist and I want to delve into this a bit more because I see way too much unhappiness and human discomfort on the daily. 

I also want to acknowledge that my reference to Hawaii and the Hawaiian language and people  reflects only my experience of the place, the people and the culture and the connection I feel through my time shared. If you would like to know about the heritage and culture of the people of Lana'i, then please visit, Lanai Culture and Heritage Centre for more information. 

Joy. How do we integrate it into our every breath, our life's blood? Why is it not our top priority? I feel most well when I am joyful. Why do we allow those surrounding us to knock us from our joyful place with their 'stuff'?

I am a fairly joyful person at heart, though I find I can also be hurt easily. I am childlike in my joy and likewise in my hurt. I feel great joy waking up on a Saturday, knowing the only things on my agenda are a trip to the bookstore, stopping to talk story with friends and picking up local fresh food from the nearby farm stalls. Life is good!

People write songs about joy. Christians feature it in so many songs about the birth of Jesus: "Joy to the world", "Tidings of comfort and joy"...and we revel in the joy we see in a child's face. So what happens to us grown-ups? I know there are worries in life. I'm not immune to pain nor do I find myself skipping through the daisies when I am trying to problem-solve but, usually, when my heart is light, I'm so much more capable of decision-making and taking care of myself and others. 

Looking at joy on a spectrum in all we do might help us. When we are in difficulty, whether we have fear of loss or if we are angry, if we can just step back to look at how much we have for which to be joyful, then I think we could keep that ire and sorrow from taking us over or from letting us become awash in the ire or sorrow of another. I'm not saying not to acknowledge the anger or sorrow of another with love and care; I am saying that if we climb into the abyss with them, then how are we going to be able to hold up a light to help guide them out?

Within our darkest hours there is light. I have crawled from the depths with the faintest remembrance of a light at the end of the tunnel, even when it could not be seen. I have watched people pass away in my arms and I remember this when I am upset about not getting something I want or when I am frustrated because I am late or if someone has made a thoughtless comment that I believe was intended to hurt me. The Spectrum: I am breathing. My belly is full. I am loved. I have a place to live. I have this day, this moment, in which I have been blessed to share some loving thoughts with you. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I am thinking of us all now, together, in lokahi (unity, harmony), in the spirit of aloha. We are one. 

If you are unhappy or suffering, remember that there are many people who think this way, who are sending you love and joyful thoughts, those who know we are one and we are with you now. If you can find it in yourself, step outside and look for someone on the street who seems sad or alone too and share your beautiful smile with them. That gesture will change the world - the world in which we all live, together. I know this is true. An act of love, kindness, joy will ripple on forever, throughout time and space, for we are all energy and there will always be enough love (energy) for everyone to share. I have been both on the giving and receiving end of one of those timely smiles and I can attest to its power. Change We Must and change can come with a simple act of joy or love. 

With every wish for a full and happy life to each of you. 
-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 25, 2014
Me, on Lana'i - December 2012
with a lei given to me by one of my Hawaiian ohana, Auntie Irene
in the true perfection of the aloha spirit.


Aloha Spirit
Lana'i Culture and Heritage Center 
Change we Must by Nana Veary:
Papa Ola Lokahi

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Homeland

Me - Probably 12 or 13 yrs old 
Camp Richildaca, ON.

The older I get, the more I seem to be "pining for the old country". I was made in England ;-) and born in Canada. My parents came over to Canada on the boat for the second time when Chris, the eldest, was 12, Bruce was 9 and Philip was one. I traveled as a stowaway inside my mother and I am determined that this is why I love the ocean, waves and surfing. 

One night on the crossing aboard the RMS Empress of Canada, the Atlantic was so rocky that my mother and Chris were the only two guests in the dining room along with a few service staff that were not ill with sea-sickness. My mother was very proud of that. I remember her all puffed up with it when she regaled us with the tale. 

We went back to England frequently as children. My parents traveled back on business with the parent company for whom they provided a Canadian branch in our hometown of Richmond Hill, Ontario and they usually made a family vacation of it. We went back to visit relatives and friends of my parents and to explore their favourite vacation spots. There were places that, even as a child, blew my mind. Among them were the grandeur, history and tradition of both the University of Oxford and Cambridge University, the size and wonder of Stonehenge - standing below one of the great upright monoliths in wonder, St Paul's Cathedral and the Whispering Gallery, the  thatched roofs of the Cotswolds and meeting the parents of my mum's wartime love on their farm there and feeling the love and intensity of loss between them and my mum. Lyme Regis and the Alexandra Hotel, where we met another family with kids and my brother and I fell for the same girl - tragically and, of course, she fell for him... I remember excavating fossils along the Jurassic Coast and getting quite embarrassingly stuck up on the cliffs. How sweet my eldest brother was to take Philip and I out on a mackerel fishing boat with our lines and wooden spools. Poor Chris loathed the look and feel of live fish!

I remember the sites and smells. They are ingrained in the fibre of my being. Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire - being able to finally be old enough to venture out on my own and browse through the shops on the high street. My cousin, Karen, is my closest relation. We are daughters of sisters, women warriors and survivors. I have not seen her for 32 years. I have not been back and, now, every fibre in my being is being pulled back with a magnetic force I have never previously experienced. I need to go. I need to see my people. I need to walk the places of my childhood. I need to take a trip across the pond to the Guidel Communal Cemetery in Brittany near the Gulf of Morbihan where there lies a marker for my mother's wartime love, Richard, shot down in the second world war. 

I remember,vividly,standing on the grounds of Biggin Hill Fighter Station, listening to my mum tell us the story of a German plane being shot down and crashing into the base, the air raid siren going off and because of her exhaustion, she stayed in her barracks bed until the windows imploded with the explosion. She showed us the scar above her eyebrow where the glass from the window had just missed her eye. I will never forget these things. I tell them here and hope my brother has told his children - lest we forget.

I remember the Tower of London, Westminster Cathedral, Buckingham Palace - waving to the queen as she returned from the race track. I remember how mum nearly had me convinced that Kensington Gardens belonged to her family but I just couldn't wrap my head around why they would leave if that were true! I remember cruising down the Thames, thinking of all that has passed over and through that historic river. I remember my mum losing her watch by Big Ben - irony...

I am attached to this country and my body has begun to call me home. I will need to scrimp and save but I know I will return to her soon.I will see the green patchwork of farmer's fields and walk the paths of some of the greatest writers ever known. I will cry for family gone, to whom I never was able to say my goodbyes. I will walk and walk through the streets of London and breathe deeply in the arms of remaining family. I will know that I am from this land. I am of these people and I am one with England through my bloodline and the soil and ocean that surrounds this faraway island. I will see the new friends I have met through the wonder of Twitter and we will sit and talk story over tea. 

I will see you soon, England. I carry you with me always. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 18, 2014.

 My brother, Philip, and me 
A couple of very British-looking kids in Richmond Hill in the early 1960s

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Love and Molecules Revisited

Eunice Audrey Jay(my Mother), Circa 1943

I originally posted this for Remembrance Day in 2012 and again, edited with greater detail, in 2013 but I wanted to re-post it today, for Mother's Day. I apologize to those who have already read this piece. The older I get, the more I think of the lives of my parents and the more I gain insight into why they were the way they were and why they did the things they did. 

One thing I remember so vividly, is my mother walking briskly through the streets of London one night with my brother, Philip, on one side of her and me on the other, an arm around each of us. She was reminiscing about her time during the war, when everything happened in a moment - life, death, love - and she sang us the songs of the day and we joined in for it was rare to see her this happy. It was as though we were given the opportunity to step back in time with her to gain an understanding of the passion she had for life, love and her country in that time and how every hour was savoured as it could very well have been one's last. 

This is one of the lessons I have carried throughout my life, thanks to my mom. I am passionate. It serves me both well and ill - I am all sunny days and raging storms. There is little middle ground in my nature. I have little patience for mediocrity and I am still learning patience and kindness everyday. I learned many things from my mother, some of which I have spent a lifetime unlearning and some are integrated in every fibre of who I am, leaving me glowing with cellular pride.

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 on the bench by "Peachy's tomb" at Harrow on the Hill where Byron wrote the poem "Lines written beneath an Elm in the Churchyard at Harrow" - a reflection of his time, daydreaming up there while studying at Harrow school between 1801 and 1805. This verse by Byron stands in bronze by this grave. 

Richard, known to his family as Dick, and my mother were in love. My mom was in the ATS at Biggin Hill fighter station and he was posted at Predannack 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 tenuous - up for the lottery at every moment as airplanes 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 the truth existed.

Richard was shot down over France on January 31st, 1944. He was killed. His grave is in the Guidel Communal Cemetery in the Bretagne region of France. I have hopes of visiting there next year on behalf of my mother and to express my appreciation to him as an officer who gave his life for freedom from oppression. 

In 1948, my mother married my father. 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 she was sad - she had lost a part of herself 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 am sure she would have travelled to Guidel to see the resting place of her true love while there.

Her wish was to have her ashes taken to Peachy's tomb at St Mary's, Harrow on the Hill, to be spread in the place where she remembered her passion, her love and her truth. This was done in 1983 when I was 21 years old. I hope that my mum and Richard's molecules are dancing together still.

Live, love, be brave.

-Gillian Cornwall - c.May 11,2014.

My mother with a very young Wayne Gretzky
Photographer Unknown - approximately 1980

The Tear by Lord Byron

When Friendship or Love our sympathies move,
When Truth, in a glance, should appear,
The lips may beguile with a dimple or smile,
But the test of affection's a Tear:

Too oft is a smile but the hypocrite's wile,
To mask detestation, or fear;
Give me the soft sigh, whilst the soultelling eye
Is dimm'd, for a time, with a Tear:

Mild Charity's glow, to us mortals below,
Shows the soul from barbarity clear;
Compassion will melt, where this virtue is felt,
And its dew is diffused in a Tear:

The man, doom'd to sail with the blast of the gale,
Through billows Atlantic to steer,
As he bends o'er the wave which may soon be his grave,
The green sparkles bright with a Tear;

The Soldier braves death for a fanciful wreath
In Glory's romantic career;
But he raises the foe when in battle laid low,
And bathes every wound with a Tear.

If, with high-bounding pride he return to his bride!
Renouncing the gore-crimson'd spear;
All his toils are repaid when, embracing the maid,
From her eyelid he kisses the Tear.

Sweet scene of my youth! seat of Friendship and Truth,
Where Love chas'd each fast-fleeting year
Loth to leave thee, I mourn'd, for a last look I turn'd,
But thy spire was scarce seen through a Tear:

Though my vows I can pour, to my Mary no more,
My Mary, to Love once so dear,
In the shade of her bow'r I remember the hour,
She rewarded those vows with a Tear.

By another possest, may she live ever blest!
Her name still my heart must revere:
With a sigh I resign what I once thought was mine,
And forgive her deceit with a Tear.

Ye friends of my heart, ere from you I depart,
This hope to my breast is most near:
If again we shall meet in this rural retreat,
May we meet, as we part, with a Tear.

When my soul wings her flight to the regions of night,
And my corse shall recline on its bier;
As ye pass by the tomb where my ashes consume,
Oh! moisten their dust with a Tear.

May no marble bestow the splendour of woe
Which the children of vanity rear;
No fiction of fame shall blazon my name.
All I ask – all I wish – is a Tear.

October 26 1806

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar by Gillian Cornwall, c.2005
Oil Pastel on Paper $900.00
22" x 30"

A naive poem follows. It is meant to carry you to a peaceful place, a remembrance of how it works when we stop and listen to all of life and that we are one, inextricably connected.

The Western Red Cedar

I'm a western red cedar 
thuja plicata
green perfect plaits 
well-organized leaves

'tree of life' 
for the next thousand years 
I will reach for the sky

My limbs droop downward 
in peaceful repose
while birds fly and sing 
from my tip to my toes

I spread my feet wide
for fear I may fall
though I suppose the fact is
I'll outlive you all

I live in a forest 
you may never find 
It's a place tucked away
on the outside of time

Far down below me 
'mid the moss and the ferns
One day I shall lay there 
my death bed I'll earn

As trees came before me
may I feed many more
In the depths of the rich 
thick, lush forest floor

Do not forget me 
I bring you your air
for the breathe of the forest 
Is the life we all share

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 4, 2014

Cedar by the Lake
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011