Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hands Around the World

Toward the Olympic Range
Gillian Cornwall c. 2011

It really works. I probably shouldn't be surprised. I have made connections all over the world through new media, but this past week it has really hit home. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever your sharing tool of choice, it works. It brings hands together around the world. 

I do realize that the paragraph above is not ground-breaking information, but sometimes it's hard to know if the content is received at all or received well. It is easy to produce content (harder to produce good content) but difficult to know how widely and positively it is being received, understood and appreciated. Yes, we have analytics to measure reach and make some fact-based assessment of readership but that doesn't always give us the kind of feedback we desire. 

There is nothing that boosts a writer's spirit more than contact with one's readers, through comment, email or direct message. Even if that contact is a challenge, it's great to know that you are engaging with people - some who you know in real life and some you are meeting in cyber-space for the first time. 

Back on November 10, 2013 - just before Remembrance Day - I published a post entitled, Love and Molecules - Lest We Forget. It is the synopsis of the story of my mother's participation in the Second World War and her love of a pilot by the name of Richard N. Foster.

I won't tell the story again here. I'll let you have a look at that in your own time through the link in the previous paragraph. I had researched quite heavily into my mum's service at RAF Base Biggin Hill and into Richard's service in the British Air Force. It was difficult to find fact-based information and I am ever so grateful to all the people in the UK and France who dedicate all of their time outside of their day jobs to ensure those who served are remembered for their sacrifice. It is those people with whom I initially had contact for this project - sometimes they found me and sometimes I found them - reinforcing the impact of new media and the world as it exists with internet connectivity. 

The next aspect of engagement with this project was the response to that post back in 2013. I was astounded by the number of hits it received and by the heartfelt feedback. I had always hoped that I had the facts right and was doing justice to my mother's and Richard's past. 

Last week, the most phenomenal thing happened with respect to that post. Richard's nephew found it (and other sites to which I had added information) by Google searching "RN Foster" and he contacted me by email! I had no idea there were any living relatives to find. My searches in this regard had not come to fruition. Imagine my surprise, after my initial reaction thinking it was likely all spam and almost ignoring the emails and comments. It took a call from Richard's niece, before I could accept - they are real! They are descendants of one of Richard's siblings! I won't release their names as I haven't their permission but, suffice to say, there are 3 family members in total who contacted me in the past week. As if that weren't enough, Richard's niece lives a 30 minute drive from me and we had lunch together this past week and shared photos and stories! Uncanny! She knew my mother as well ("I called her Auntie Eunice"). She has Richard's smile.

All of this has brought me closer to Richard's and my mother's lives and verified everything I thought to be true about their relationship. Had he lived, everyone expected he and my mother would have married and I either wouldn't be here or I would be here in a different embodiment of myself! I wonder how different their lives would have been. It's mind-boggling to think of the possibilities and to think of how many lives, full of promise, were taken so early as a result of that war. We must never forget. 

Had I not written that piece, with the goal of honouring my mother, Richard, their service, and her lifelong commitment to her love for him - despite his physical absence and despite her marriage to my father which resulted in four children before their divorce - I never would have had this opportunity to continue this story and develop this bond with Richard's family. I feel somewhat inarticulate in describing it here; I am still absorbing the uniqueness of this opportunity. 

Reach out. Use your social media accounts to share your stories. Reach out, because you never know who has their ear to the ground, half way around the world, listening for your heartbeat across the sea, across time. You may never know the impact that acknowledging a tweet or commenting on something shared means to someone. Use these tools for good. Use these tools to reach out around the world in loving thought and action. 

I dedicate this post to Richard's family - who I feel are, in some way, my newly found family. Thank you for your interest and persistence and for helping me to remember why I do this and why I believe in the power of the internet and new media to heal the wounds to our world. 

With love to each of you.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 22, 2015.

Eunice Jay
Richard Foster

Flying Officer, Richard N Foster
Rest in Peace, Guidel Communal Cemetery
Morbihan, France
Picture taken by: Alain Octavie

Sunday, February 15, 2015

LOVE. What is it?

 Spring Bouquet
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

Ah love, amour, the passion of the heart! Odes are written to it, people die for it, statues and edifices are built to it, but what the blazes is it actually and why is it causing such a kerfuffle?

Is it what happens between the sheets?

 Gumby and Pokey - cuddling ...that is all.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Is it a feeling like you have gone to heaven because someone makes you feel all funny inside?

Is it a walk with someone on a Spring day, thinking of all the wonders you have shared and will share, today and ever more?
 Spring in Victoria, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

What is it, anyway?

All I have is this, as we pass Valentine's Day in whatever state of togetherness or separateness from another human:

Love is energy. It is the energy that is constant, just as in physics. It is an energy that cannot be taken away. It may change along the way. It may shift from one way of being to another but it is eternal regardless of its form. 

If we think of love as energy, as the energy of the universe, that flows through us, that is all around us, then perhaps we can let go of fear a little. Perhaps we can breath more deeply, (for holding tightly serves no-one) and let love, energy, flow through us freely. In this way, like a fountain, we will always be full. There will always be enough. We will have nothing to lose. 

Let us be brave. Let us love freely and kindly without holding. As far as people go, if we truly love someone, we must be brave when they need to go and wish them luck on their paths. Love means we want others to be happy. We want them to follow their dreams and sometimes that means letting go of the physical connection and letting their energy continue to flow through our hearts. It does not mean there is no longer love between the two, it only means that energy has shifted and changed shape. In this, there is no real loss. 

Fine for me to say! I know, I'm no expert. Have I hurt when someone has left? Heck, yes! What helped? -realizing that they weren't leaving me; they were just leaving. We cannot take on the actions of others; we can only control our own actions and reactions. Do we love only as a result of someone loving us or is it something we choose to give freely, without expectation, without holding? That is for each of us to decide as we walk our own paths of love. 

May your love day be everyday. May your love expand your heart rather than cause it pain and depletion. May we all hold hands around the world, for many threads woven together make a strong cloth. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 15, 2015

 "Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back, even from the most difficult times.... Your ability to thrive, depends, in the end, on your attitude to life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly." 
~ Ping Fu, Author of Bend, Not break: A Life in Two Worlds

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Sunday, February 08, 2015


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

In light of Pink Shirt Day coming up on February 25, 2015 here in British Columbia, I thought I would post this again. I suppose it continues to be relevant as long as there are bullies and abusers in our world. 

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

I repeat these statements. I apply them to my being like a salve over the hurts that scar my history.

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.
Re-published on February 8, 2015.

**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 

 Walk A Mile in Her Shoes Event 2013, Victoria 2013
 Walk A Mile in Her Shoes Event, Victoria, 2013
 Walk A Mile in Her Shoes Event, Victoria 2013
Walk A Mile in Her Shoes Event, Victoria 2013

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

We Are One

The Olympic Range from Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

"We are one." We've all heard the expression, but what does it mean? Who are "we" and what is the "one" to which we all belong? 

I think about this frequently because I often feel on the outside of a group - whatever group happens to be "grouping" at a particular moment. As I grew up, I hid myself away as much as possible through the days and nights in the interest of personal safety. I had things taken from me that should never be taken from anyone - ever. So, in the beginning, as it were, in my beginning, I learned to separate myself in the interest of my own well-being. I isolated myself for self-protection. Maybe that is one of the reasons I feel on the outs at times, but I don't think it is the only factor.

Let's talk about "difference" for a minute and how we, as a society, feel about it. I believe that there is a shift to greater acceptance of difference, that the inter-connectivity of the world through technology, new media and social media is bringing us together. A similar occurrence happened in the nineteen-sixties through music. Those who want peace, love, understanding and respect are finding one another and holding hands around the world. Unfortunately, it appears that those who are seeped in fear and violence are finding one another and joining leagues as well. I suppose, as I have said before, we all want to see a reflection of ourselves in others and it is this that gives us a sense of belonging.

So how does diversity, the actual celebration of difference, beyond mere acceptance, come into play if all we are looking for is the reflection of ourselves in others? Do we believe that we have it all figured out and if we find others who think as we do, that the world will be a better place ...for us? I laugh at myself when I think of how many times I feel joy when my opinions are reflected back at me by another.

Perhaps, if we can learn to celebrate difference, to see difference as the key to the excellence of life (not just human, but ALL life), then the planet may thrive after all. 

If we can get past worrying about difference: "less than me / more than me / different than me" and rejoice in the wonder of difference, then we will be able to truly say, "we are one" and understand it and mean it. 

I believe that all things are one - we are all integral in our essential energy to this "one", the one we cannot actually see, describe or pin down, the "one" that is beyond our imagination. I believe I am one with the ocean, the rivers and the streams, the rocks and the trees, the air and the ants and the stars and fire. I believe I am one with you. When you hurt, I hurt. When you cry, I feel it. When you rejoice, I rejoice. Each one of my cells knows this and functions on this very premise, but it is the conscious mind, the capacity to reason, that can fail to be reasonable. It is this thinking capacity that, at times, takes away our ability to remember, on a cellular level that, above all, we are one. 

Having just come out of a two day diversity research forum at my place of work, I am full of thoughts and ideas around diversity and inclusion. Many great minds came together on campus: professors, students, staff and community. I learned from everyone, from the prayers of the elders and the words of my fellow attendees. One might expect a stodgy, pedagogical approach to this type of event in an institution of higher learning; however, all minds spoke, respect was shared and people listened to one another. What saddens me, is that there were not more people present for this free event. Some do not see it as integral to the success of the school and the excellence toward which we strive. People believe that they are too busy, but it is an opportunity such as this that expands one's time, teaches greatest lessons and teaches that we are not alone in our process. These discussions are as important as the files on our desks. On the upside, we had a great in-person attendance and had people participating through social media and live feed, tweeting into the conference from as far away as Australia. Hands around the world! 

Thank you to everyone who comes here to read and think about how we can all do better in the Art of Life, how we can all retain our uniqueness within our oneness and how we can find excellence through love.

The quotation we used for the forum speaks to me, as it has to many over the centuries:
"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 1, 2015.

 The Yellow Rose - Maple Bay, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

The Lavender Field - Maple Bay, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012