Sunday, May 29, 2016


Expanding, peeling back the layers - the white birch
Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring, 2015

Growth: the way we become, the way we change. The distance between our conception and our end point. Growth - we are doing it by the very nature of our being within a system of other beings and influences.

I am not a patient being. I am not patient with myself nor with my fellows on their paths. In the last month, I have thought about this as I believe it is a skill upon which I can work. I have watched the flowers grow on my balcony, somewhat patiently, awaiting the blooms as the goal - the reason I went to the effort of planting them. 

Yesterday, I sat on my deck chair contemplating the portulaca buds in their state just prior to bursting forth into full blossom. The colour was as intense as any precious gem, the shape perfect and compact, like miniature space capsules on the edge of discovery and I realized that they were perfect just then, as stunning as the full blossom and a little further away from the end of their cycle.

I wondered if this were also true of me, as I learned this lesson in, not so much patience rather, being in the moment. There is no better nor worse in the moment. There is simply the moment. There is light and darkness. There is colour and absence of colour. There is joy and sorrow. There is fear and contentment. There cannot be one without the other and this in itself is an equity, a balance. 

If we did not taste that which we dislike, we could not know the joy of the delicious. So I learn to be, more patient - if you wish to call it that, but perhaps I simply grow more willing and open, more fluid in the knowledge that there is a greater balance than that of my mind - my desires and petty complaints. I am part of a greater balance, a greater perfection. 

I am allowed to be, to learn, to grow and to change. I am changing. We are all changing - some quickly, some slowly, some with intent and some simply in the course of nature. I want to be allowed to change and not shoved into some box and labelled. I have never wanted that. Does anyone? 

It is comforting for us to identify, to label, to place and understand things and people, but most of us do not want to have this done to us. We do it out of fear, a need to create order through which we can navigate with a minimal amount of disruption and disaster. The thing is, what we perceive as chaos is simply that which we do not understand and cannot control. It frightens us and drives us into fight or flight mode. 

I am learning that sometimes I can breathe my way through the chaos - leave it be - and move on. I don't need to fix, change, make right nor drive it to order for it simply is part of the all and a necessary part of our journeys. 

Once again, I learn that it is the journey, not the destination. May we all be fully present on our paths, for it is the path on which our lives take place - moment by precious moment. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 29, 2016

The Magnolia - On its way
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One Thing

A Window of Opportunity - Hampstead, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015.

The one thing I know is that life is precious - fleeting and precious. 

It is hard to remember that there are moments of incomparable joy and beauty in the times when we feel as though we are in competition with the biblical Job for worst life ever. We lose our job, our partner is gone, we are ill or all of the above. 

How best to respect the sadness, loss and lack of well-being while maintaining the knowledge that there is beauty and there is hope where life remains?

How best to remember that in the midst of our greatest suffering, the birds still sing without hating them for it in the face of our own loss or sadness? Remember W.H. Auden's poem, Funeral Blues
"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come...."

Auden speaks of how the world must stop and that "...nothing now can ever come to any good."

Our loss can overshadow all the good in the world. Our heartbreak can create a pall that covers our lives in a dark emptiness. Thank heavens we have the capacity to feel our sadness so truly and completely for, if we could not, then how would we know its opposite - the euphoria of the birth of a child, falling in love, finishing a work of art and knowing it is your best or simply staring at the waves roll in from across the sea in a moment of complete contentment. 

Last evening, my girlfriend and I watched some of my old 1960's home movies as my parents crossed the Atlantic for the second time to create a new life for themselves in Canada as immigrants from England. From a great distance from my childhood and a great deal of counselling later, I am able to view these with a less self-centered eye, with the understanding of an adult rather than the need and grief of a child. 

While, certainly, the movie camera only came out for celebrations and epic adventures, it is fascinating to look back on one's life from the perspective of being older now that my parents were in the film we are watching and to have a greater understanding of their experience. I am able to see how many things they did for us, how many adventures they took us on, how damn lucky we were to have the resources to travel and explore, to stay at lakefront cottages and travel through Algonquin Park - not to mention, travelling back and forth to England to visit the family there. 

My parents battled like wildfire and eventually divorced when I was 13, but before then and after, there were so many celebrations for us. There were birthday parties and homemade cakes, Christmas after Christmas with a sea of presents for us, trips to beautiful gardens and visits with friends and family. 

I truly hope that my parents are able to see and know, from a post life place, that I understand better now, that I am grateful for all they did and that I am endlessly grateful for my life. 

I am getting older. I worry sometimes about how much time I might have left and how I want to spend it. I have the luxury of considering this at all as opposed to the majority of the population of the earth who have an endless, daily focus on survival - food and shelter. I have the luxury of deciding how I wish to live and what I might want to change about myself. My entitlement lies in the luxury of living in Canada as a white woman with resources and loved ones to help me through the difficult times. 

Okay, I know two things, not just one:
  1. Life is precious.
  2. Worrying won't help.
Let us stop and think of life itself - the greatest gift we could ever be given and look no further for heaven than to the beauty of another day, as the bird sings outside my window and my girlfriend tells me my tea is ready and I sit here writing to you. It is enough. It is plenty. I am grateful.

With love to every single one of you. 

I dedicate this piece to my parents for the life they have given me and in the knowledge that they did their best to raise four children and give them a good life. To my mum, you were amazing. I can't believe how much you had to do and the grace with which you did it. Thank you. To my dad, thanks for taking me to all the soccer games and allowing me to be the tomboy I was. Too bad, we couldn't convince mum to let me have the drum set - I'm still sure I would have been a rock star. ;-)

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 22, 2016

Hampstead Heath
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Less Fear = More Time
Gillian Cornwall, c. May, 2016

Space: even the act of writing or speaking the word helps me to breathe a little more deeply. It denotes an air of sufficiency - a sense that there is enough, enough of whatever it is you need for peace. It indicates room to stop and simply be. Space allows us to let go off the "busy as a badge of honour" pretence of importance that has been rampantly awarded in the last decade. The busier we are, the more we validate ourselves and one another. I recall a time when I could ask someone, "How are you?" and receive a different answer than, "Busy." The sad thing is, the busier we claim to be, the less we seem to be accomplishing. I strongly believe that if we stop, breathe, hold our space and let the energy of the universe flow through us, we will be less stressed, less fearful, more joyful and increase our capacity for true accomplishment.

Why are people working 24 hours a day on their mobile devices, doing email and attempting to complete tasks? There isn't really more work than there used to be; it is that we have convinced ourselves it must be done more quickly. We have convinced ourselves that it is expected of us; however, I see few job descriptions that have changed to indicate that the hours of work are 24/7. We are allowing our mobiles devices to rule our lives rather than serve our lives and, in this practice, we have completely lost the art of stopping and taking space.

I am learning to replace the artlessness of being busy with the art of stopping. I am busy with release - moments of release from all but assessing my own wants and needs. Does it sound selfish? Is selfishness wrong if the result is greater capacity for giving? If we do not know what we want or need for ourselves, how can we possibly be ready and able to serve others? Self-fulfilment is essential - we must be able to fill ourselves in order to participate and interact effectively outside of ourselves. 

How clear and honest can we be in a world that so values chicanery and conniving? I watch many people clawing their way to mere perceptions of power that are so far gone from truth and knowledge. I feel as though I have been air-dropped onto the set of an underfunded, unknown opera: there is a great deal of effort being put into attempts at singing and drama and swordplay, but everyone seems to have lost the plot!

I am letting go. I do not need to question the acts of others nor challenge them. I do not need to know, understand nor fix behaviours I perceive as unfair. I need to work, pay bills, keep a safe space for myself, write and create art that I hope will ultimately draw people closer to themselves and to their inter-connectivity with the universal energy force; for it is this force that offers us space and the knowledge that there is enough - when we let go, when we stop holding on with fear of loss. Listen to the waves, the wind, the bird song - their lyrics are the same - "let go and fly free of fear." It really is your life. 

There will always be the subtle balance of maintaining our wants with our needs; however, if we do not stop to create space to breathe and listen, we will always be afraid of losing something. We will always fear insufficiency.

Let us balance our outer space with our inner until we can live fully in the space of greatest intake and output. Let us save ourselves with a balance between thought (inner) and action (outer). Balance is where we will find our greatest capacity for achievement. One may fuel the ship to its greatest capacity, but if one is not keeping an eye open for obstacles, well, we know the result - tragic and unnecessary loss. 

Stop. Seek your space. Refuel. Trust yourself. Move forward. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 15, 2016

Seek Your Space
Gillian Cornwall, c May, 2016

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Human Recall

Cats Have it Right - Princess Napping
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

I'm not talking about remembering. I'm talking, you know, faulty product recall and how I wish I could just be recalled to the manufacturer and repaired or have a system reset to remove glitches and damage and simply start over. 

Is that too much to ask?

I'm sure I've picked up some useful knowledge over the past 54 years, but, whatever, I could just hit reset and pick it all up again. The only thing is, when we go back out into the world, we immediately become susceptible to new problems, viruses and glitches of mental, physical and spiritual impact. 

Great, Gillian. Super-helpful article ....not. Not so far, anyway. 

What to do? What to do?

Lately, I think, okay, I'll just surrender to the chaos. I can't control any of it anyway so I might as well let go, but what does that mean exactly? It sure sounds very dramatic. Does it mean that we just react to things in the instant they happen and deal with the fallout - good or bad? Does it mean we think, then act with our best guess? Does it mean we relinquish choice because the choices we have are unappealing and freefall through our lives at the hands of others? I sure as hell hope not. Do we simply nod and grin and get on with our lives appearing to have acquiesced?

None of these sounds particularly empowering, so, is there a solution to making it through life as contentedly as possible?

I think at some time in our lives, it is valuable to set yourself down with a pen and paper (I know, old school, right?!). Draw a vertical line down the centre of the page and make two columns. On the left, write the things you want to do. On the right, list the things that you need to do. 

By example, here is a section of mine fit for human consumption:

Want to Do:
Need to Do:
  •             Write

  •            Work

  •            Write

  •           Keep house

  •            Write

  •            Exercise

  •            Draw

  •            Grocery shop

  •            Travel

  •            Be nicer to people

Okay, now let's pretend, just for fun, that we get to choose (guess what, we kind of do!). I'm not saying we abdicate all of the necessary life sustaining duties, but by looking at what we need and want, clearly on paper in front of us, perhaps we can find ways of accomplishing both. 

For instance, when I lived a bit further away from my place of work, every morning and evening during my transit, I would work on writing my novel. That meant I had a minimum of 30 minutes per day to write. On its own, that doesn't seem like much; however, the great thing was, I'd usually be inspired by this practice sufficiently to engage in more of it during my lunch hour and when I returned home in the evening. Please be careful, enjoyment can become habit forming....

I am limited in the housework I can do because of spinal injuries and bad knees so I have a lovely someone who comes in to clean for me. It is not very expensive. I am not wealthy. Having someone do this for me is a gift to myself because I have realized that I don't deserve to be in pain and the time that I have where I am not doing this work, is more time for me to write on the weekends and in the evenings. 

As for grocery shopping, if I have a great deal to buy, I go with my girlfriend in her car. Often, I will walk to the shops for a few things and walk home again and this provides me with a modicum of cardio and weight-bearing exercise. 

As for being nicer to people, ..... ooooh, menopause - how you betray my body and mind. I'm really pissed off about menopause. I never had any use for all of that gear in the first place and now it is torturing my body and mind as much as I imagine would be the case had I been abducted by aliens and placed under some horrific sequence of experiments. I am not me. It is not my fault. I do not like it. I feel like I am losing my mind. Let's stir that up with my current employment / lack of employment situation, shovel in some PTSD from the most recent and ALL of the previous trauma I have experienced and then, yes, let's go be nicer to people.... I'm working on it, but I am seriously considering a giant, air-conditioned hamster ball within which I can perambulate through life until things ease up (Please God, let that be soon). 

Travel - by bus, on foot, air (if you can afford it or afford the debt), boat, anything. What I am saying is that there are small ways to explore while you save for the bigger ways. On Friday, I took the wee harbour ferry back from an appointment so I had a twenty minute ocean voyage in the middle of running around completing errands. It cost 10$ CDN. That's like 60 cents/pence US or British pounds right now (kidding).

Victoria Harbour Ferry
Gillian Cornwall, c. May 6, 2016

Anyway, I think it is about determining how we want and need to spend time and whipping that up into a daily menu for ourselves. The key part of it all is INTENT. We must create our own maps for our own paths and be willing to adjust our direction as wanted and needed. It is your life. I say this with recognition that there are people around the world, reading this, who may have a level of hardship that makes it exceedingly difficult to do what they want. For you, I suggest the smallest of ways, which are sometimes the largest. No-one can ever take your imagination, your mind, within which you have the capacity to create a peaceful place, a land and way of being that brings joy and peace. It takes energy, when your eyes see horror regularly, but every moment of joy and peace you can create will spark neuro-processors into feeding your well-being.

So, surprise, surprise. This is your life. As my darling says to me, "Stop 'shoulding' all over yourself." 

It's never going to be perfect (whatever the blazes perfect looks like), but it can be yours for the most part. Don't use your kids, spouse, parents or job as an excuse for not doing what you want and need because if you are happier, most of the time they will be happier and if they are not, well they will just have to adjust. You, being you, doing your things, makes you bigger, brighter, healthier and more real. I am saying this just as much to me as I am to you. 

Choose yourself. Sometimes put the drawing before the laundry and the dishes. There are no special forces units that will burst through your walls and arrest you for it.

Be. Breathe. Live. Love yourself. I love you and I am very smart so you should love you too. 

I'm off to go do something in the sunshine with the people I love. The dishes can wait until this evening when it is not sunny. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 8, 2016

The Olympic Range as seen from Rockland Ave, Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Life of Words

Oil Pastel on Paper - Part of Subjugation Series
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009

I am re-posting this piece from 2014 as I am feeling a bit wrung out this week. I have a need to conserve my depleted energy cells and I have been working on my book and several other works this week so this post is a sentient explanation of my feelings for the act of writing and it has held up well over two years. If you have thought of writing or enjoy writing, I hope this resonates with you in some way. 

Some days it comes more easily than others, this business of writing. There are days when the pages fill as though the lines of the story are forming queues in my mind, awaiting their turn to travel from my brain down my neck, across my shoulder and down my arm and through my hand where they travel down a river of black ink in my eco-friendly pen and out through the minuscule opening onto the pages of my notebook. Imagine them as workers awaiting the subway at rush hour or as foot passengers, anxiously awaiting the opening of the single lane gate to board the BC ferry to the mainland. They are players on the sideline at the football match: ready, trained and poised to do their part to bring the game to an acceptable result. I'm sure you get the drift. 

Conversely, there are times aplenty when the story plays a game of hide and seek: the words, the plot, the reason is out there, or in here, somewhere, evading my search. Perhaps I wasn't clear about the boundaries for the game and the words have run over hill and dale, escaped across a border for which I do not hold a current passport. Just as easily, there is a chance they are around the next corner, down the hall, giggling under a pile of coats in the hall closet, holding back a sneeze born on a whiff of mothballs and dust. 

This week has held both experiences for me, as is often the case; nonetheless, I will write. I write. I have written. This is my path, my need, my feed, my breath. It is not choice. Whether parading the queue out in orderly fashion or letting it spill out in chaos, whether stumbling over hidden roots, far from home in a forest previously uncharted and unknown as darkness gathers, this is what I do. 

If I had no need of cash, it is all I would do. I love it. It is my closest companion and the conduit between me and the world. It is possibility and passion, fear and triumph. It is Peter Pan and Captain Hook, wine and water. It matters to me and I hope you can tell.

I am grateful to you for playing alongside me. Thank you for reading and expressing your thoughts. I hope it brings you something: inspiration, thought or learning. You are integral in this process. Thank you for sharing your time with me here, for walking beside me each week. 

If you have ever wanted to write, I hope you do it. Pick up a pen and scratch the surface. Keep digging - the treasure is there. If you require a nudge or an all-out shove, consider a course offered at a community centre or a school. Pick up one or two of the many books available. I turn to courses and books as often as I can when I need a push back to my desk (which is actually a dining room table). Here are a few of the guides that help me reset my bearings:

 Happy reading and writing. Enjoy the journey.

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-Gillian Cornwall, re-posted May 1,2016
Originally posted, c. April 6, 2014

Russell's Rare Books
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015