Sunday, October 25, 2015

Myriad Momentous Moments

Apple Orchard for the Ancient Cidery at Glastonbury Abbey
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Recently, with increasing conviction, I feel as though I have won life's lottery in the form of myriad momentous moments. These are of the greatest value and have zero potential for depreciation. 

Certainly, living in the present was rather easy to accomplish while away in the UK and, as I wrote last week, I have chosen not to return to my old routine, rather I have engaged on a clearer path with a propensity for positive thought. I am astounded by the revolutionary, full circle delight of being present and accounted for in each moment of my life without apology for what those moments bring to me and wash away, like a perfect tidal treasure. 

The very definition of the word, momentous, indicates to me that each and every moment is momentous because each and every moment impacts all of time and space by what occurs within it. How we behave with ourselves and one another in each of these moments has a ripple effect throughout time. 

Do you know the expression, 'you can't unring a bell'? Well, that applies to each of our moments, as they careen outwards from us and inwards towards us throughout time, as inextricable from us as our own heartbeats. So, live well in each of your momentous moments and share them with gratitude. Being kind to one another now will help with the creation of a future of kindness. 

Savour your moments of joy, passion, heartache, despair, loss and love, for each one surely means we have the gift of life within us. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 25, 2015

A cottage garden - Stow on the Wold, England
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Revisiting Routine

 Oxford University, Oxford
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015

I have been back home from my trip to the UK for a week. Some friends have asked me, "So are you back to the old routine yet?"

I have happily replied, "No. I've decided not to return to my routine. It wasn't really working for me and I've been able to adjust my thoughts enough to try something different." 

It's true. Things are different for me since my trip. I'm different since my trip. I walked through so many archways and doorways over the course of the last month, perhaps walking into new ways of being has become my new normal. 

I am not feeling the need to people-please as much as I did and I believe I am more confident in myself. I was suffering somewhat from my own thoughts before I left. I was torn, tired, and frustrated. I didn't like it. I wanted it to be different. I don't think I realized it then, but I wanted to be different with myself. I was afraid to take the long flight because of the physical pain it would cause (back injuries). I was afraid of the unknown - what might happen.

Yep. It hurt, but I did what I need to do to ease the pain as best I could on the flight and I was open with my fellow passengers and the flight crew that I needed to stand as often as I felt necessary and they were all very understanding. Before I left and when I arrived, I was clear with my cousin about my physical limitations and what it meant with respect to what I could or couldn't do. She was very kind to me and I haven't felt so pampered in ages. I am eternally grateful for her care and it helped me find my way.

My experiences on this trip - the people with whom I spent time, walking every day, being on the land amidst the history and among the people who make up my culture - this fed my mind, body, heart and soul. I went to a salon (discussion group in a person's home) where we discussed the power of our own thoughts, our control / lack of control over them and the impact our thinking has on our behaviour. It offered me some insights into my own "routines" and how I might like to take a different approach to my thinking. 

I have no new doctrine, no elevator pitch, no cloud-parting heavenly statement nor blanket solutions and I have no need to lay out a master plan; rather, I have a renewed commitment to being, without apology or need to fit. This is interesting in itself when one considers the propensity to apology in both the British and Canadian cultures. 

Perhaps it is true that when things are no longer working for us, a shift of position or a departure from routine can be revitalizing and offer a new path or perspective on an existing path we choose to travel.

Keep walking. Keep exploring - with your head up and your eyes open. Enjoy the journey without apology. There is a change of season around the next bend. 

With love to each of you on your adventures. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 18, 2015

 Walking my path through Wigginton on a 
tempestuous day.
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Experiential Sweet Spot of Adventure

The View from Fox Road, Wigginton, Herts.
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

There exists a sweet spot on any adventure between independence and companionship, between having an experience on one's own and a shared experience. For me, it's not about whether or not you embark alone but how you interact, and with whom, once the adventure has been undertaken. 

Certainly, there can be times during independent travel when you may wish you were with your best mate and could say, "Wow, can you believe this...?!" Being the kind of person I am, I tend to do that to anyone within earshot if I am on a solo adventure because, chances are, they are experiencing a similar reaction. Hopefully, I don't look like this gargoyle from the Tower of London to whomever it is I am exclaiming:

An ancient face guards the Tower of London
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015

On this most recent adventure to the UK, I had the luxury of time and comfort with friends and family with a wonderful base in my cousin's cottage in Hertfordshire combined with adventures all over on my own or visiting friends. It was all quite perfect for me as I had the autonomy to do and see what was high on my list of priorities and to spend as much time as I liked in this cathedral or that part of London. There is a great deal of advantage in not having to compromise one's limited time. That being said, my friends and family were both very kind in allowing me my flights of fancy when exploring with them - such gracious hosts I had! 

I was driven to Stow on the Wold by kind people I had never before met to spend the day with my dear friends Brough and Sue who were visiting England from Vancouver Island at the same time as I! Thank you Richard and Carolyn.

Childhood Swings at the Family Home - Greenfields, Gloucestershire
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015

My cousin took me to meet her dearest friends and on trips to Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, Oxford, Harrow on the Hill in the London Borough of Harrow and Hampstead and Highgate in the London Borough of Camden. We also spent time in Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead, Brighton, London and Tring. I am sure I am missing some pieces because I still have jet lag and can't think properly but here are some images to fill the gap...

Waddesdon Manor - Previously a Rothschild Property 
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 Me at the church gate for St Mary's Harrow on the Hill
My mum and brother and I had stood here before, many years ago
Photo by Karen Jay, c. September 2015

 Face carved into the bridge over River Cherwell, Magdelen College, University of Oxford
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 Friends of Karen walk us through Hampstead to a lovely tea shop
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 A view of the 2nd floor flat where my aunt and uncle once lived in Hampstead. It's 2nd floor on the right hand side of the shot.
They could have purchased it after the war for around 800 pounds. That was a great deal of money then and they moved away to Hertfordshire. Current value is in the millions of pounds.
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 Karen and me at Burgh House and Hampstead Museum for tea
Photo by Marc Wright, c. September 2015

 View of St Paul's and the Shard from Hampstead Heath
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 This is the pond in Hampstead where my Uncle Edward pushed Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists, into the water during a demonstration/riot. I come by my activism honestly I guess...
Gillian Cornwall, c September 2015

 On the footpath through Wigginton to Wigginton Bottom.
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

 The ever-changing skies from the upstairs view 
in Karen's 250 year old cottage. Amazing.
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015

 The Tring Footpath down Oddy Hill from Wigginton
through Tring Woods
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

My last day with Karen on Brighton Pier, Brighton
GIllian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Beyond all of this, I also went to Somerton and Glastonbury in Somerset to visit my dear friend and earth angel, Sheila. We had been friends through Twitter for 3 years and were finally able to meet in person. This was such a wondrous part of my adventure and I'm ever grateful for having this time together. 

 The view to the old manor house in Somerton - from Sheila's garden
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Incredible carved wood ceiling with dragons below
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 The Somerton Butter Cross (rebuilt in 1673) and Market Hall
The stones in the centre of the Butter Cross stay cool all the time 
and keep the butter from melting.
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 Through the arches of the Glastonbury Abbey (opened 712 AD)
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Sheila and her friend who works at the Abbey
and knew all of its history!
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

I also spent some time on my own on train travel adventures to Edinburgh and York where it was the place AND the people who I met along the way that made me feel so full of joy and wonder!

 The view from Edinburgh Castle
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015
 The Cannonball Restaurant, Royal Mile, Edinburgh
I was made to feel so welcome in this incredible restaurant 
specializing in local, sustainable foods.
A special thank you to Gabby and all the staff!
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 Another view from Edinburgh Castle over the City of Edinburgh to the Firth of Forth (body of water leading to the North Sea)
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 The beautiful eastern coastline from the train
Between Edinburgh, Scotland and Berwick-Upon-Tweed in Northumberland, England
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

The two front windows of my incredible suite at the Royal York Hotel in York, Yorkshire, England
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 The Stunning Chapter House Ceiling of York Minster, York
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

One of the stoneworkers working on repairs to the East End and Great East Window
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

While I could go on and on about each place, I'll finish up for today on my last solo adventure - 3 days in London - where I was so grateful to new friends, Marc and Suzannah for use of Marc's 17th floor Canary Wharf flat to use as a base from which to explore! 3 days of amazing, walks through London and mastering the DLR, tube, river boats and buses to see as much as possible and I realize that I would need months, no, years to see as much as I would like of this incredible city. Nonetheless, here is a wee taste. Again, it was the people and the places that made it all incredibly special.

Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

London Eye in the background - London old and new
Gillian Cornwall, c, September 2015

 Battle of Britain Monument on the River Thames, London
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

 The Waterloo Barracks of the Tower of London, Housing the Crown Jewels,
Jewels currently valued at around 3.68 Billion CAD
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Her Majesty's soldiers guarding the Crown Jewels
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

 A footy-playing gnome outside a home at the Tower of London
The Yeoman Warders and other staff that live on site are locked in at 10 pm each night
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

 Tower Bridge from the Tower of London
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

 A view to a tower view - Many of the walls are 12 feet thick
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

 My View from my 17th floor flat in Canary Wharf, South Wharf, Isle of Dogs 
Feeling entirely decadent
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

 The dome of St Paul's Cathedral, London
Sir Christopher Wren's crowning achievement
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015

Rebuilt in 1667!
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

 Tourists and locals alike, chillin' with Ghandi
Gillian Cornwall, c October, 2015

I had to go to Poplar because of my love for the television series, "Call the Midwife"
Gillian Cornwall, c. October 2015

There is so much more I could share; so many incredible sights that I have seen and stories I have been told but, suffice it to say, it was an incredible journey of personal growth and a step in to the long history of my people on these British Isles. It was a chance to connect with family and friends old and new and to realize that England is my home too. I feel at home there in some respects. In other ways, it is all too apparent that I was born in Canada and received a Canadian education and upbringing. There are beauty and love and history in both places and I remain a citizen of both. 

I hope you enjoyed this walk through my month away and I would love to hear if you would like to see more pictures from the trip in another post. Do let me know if you would ..or wouldn't!

Go forth and enjoy your adventures, whether solo or in the company of others. Embrace the days and don't worry about how much time you have left in a place. Be present. Take it in. Talk to people. Ask questions. Share your stories. It is a beautiful world out there. In gratitude, let's share it with one another as best we can. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 11, 2015

Somerton, Somerset
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015

Sunday, October 04, 2015

of here, from there

Canadian Embassy - Trafalgar Square
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015

I came back to England after 32 years away. I came to see my family, to follow the path of my mother before, during and post-war, and to find my own place on this land - the land of my people for generations. I have been told that on my maternal grandma's side, the Jay's were French and that we are related to the author and playwright, Daphne du Maurier.

On my father's side, we hail from England for a number of generations. Before that, it is said we are Spanish.

Basically, I am of European descent. I am of this place but from Canada. My parents moved to Canada for the second time, to stay, when my mum was 3 months pregnant with me. I was raised in Canada in the days of the original six hockey teams. It was a time in which kids played outside all weekend as soon as the chores were done. We rode bikes through neighbourhoods and into the countryside. we knew not to talk to strangers but it didn't stop us from doing anything or going anywhere. I grew up with summer camp, cottages and canoeing. I went to middle class schools with a mediocre education that was supplemented by my parents love for the classics. We knew of the great European artists and writers because of our parents, not because of our national culture and education. My cousin is brilliant in her knowledge of European artists and writers - I am abysmal by comparison in that I have either forgotten or I never knew. I do know my Canadian artists and writers somewhat...

What I am getting at is that I remain divided between my past and my present and between where I am of and where I am from. Maybe I am the best of both worlds with a great deal more to learn and share from my dual heritage. I must remember to tread lightly on both lands and listen more than speak - with my heart as open as my eyes and ears.

"To see the world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wildflower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand 
and eternity in an hour." 

-William Blake, "To see a world..."
(on Blake's stone in St Paul's Cathedral)

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 4, 2015

On the Thames heading toward Tower Bridge
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015