Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gift of Evergreen

 Evergreen Bough
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

peaceful moments
senses heightened

I walk among these winter woods
of evergreen,
every green.
From western winds, a carpet laid
in pine and spruce and cedar 
with every footfall fresh.

Branches gathered
fingers stuck with pine sap scent
this air freshener
the real McCoy.

Intertwining perfect circles
still damp
with the whisper
of the first snow fallen.

Rose hips of red
Snowberry bunches
of winter white
all bound in birch
a ribbon found.

Nature's gift
a perfect lift
for spirits fading
running ragged
the season nears.

I hang this wreath
upon your door
The symbol, strength
The circle, friends

-Gillian Cornwall, November 22, 2015
Re-posted from the original, December 8, 2013

On Campus
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Moments - stories

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Moments - they are happening all over the world to everyone all the time. The picture above represents one I had recently. It was brief. It was magical. It was fun. Here is the back story: 

I have some wonderful friends here is Victoria, BC who own an antique and second-hand furniture and collectibles shop. They are my friends. I adore them. They are kind, warm, fair people with good hearts and awesome humour. Their shop is called Charmaine's Past and Present. Check it out next time you are on Fort Street in downtown Victoria. I've had many awesome moments there - just hanging out, chatting and, yes, even occasionally buying something despite being a bit of a minimalist when it comes to possessions). Anyway, one day before I left for the UK, I stopped into Charmaine's to visit before I left the country for a month. I noticed a horse brass / bottle opener for The Crown and Cushion near the front desk and noted it to be from Oxfordshire. I mentioned to Glenn and Charmaine that I would be going through Oxfordshire at least once on my adventures and wouldn't it be fun to take this with me and bring it back to the inn from whence it had come across one country, a vast ocean, all the way across our enormous continent, with a skip across the Pacific to land on Vancouver Island! It's the kind of thing I think about ...perhaps not common or normal, but I am rarely accused of being "normal." We agreed that this was a fine idea and they kindly gave it to me and simply asked me to get a picture and let them know how it went. 

I packed it in my bag and took it on a couple of aeroplane trips - back to the mainland and then back over the "pond" to the UK. Unpacking at my cousin's, I showed her the brass and told her this was a priority for me. As it turned out, we didn't have opportunity to go to Chipping Norton on our day to Oxford - one is limited by the clock in some instances - but, as it happened, my new friends, Richard and Carolyn, who I had never met before this trip, had very kindly agreed to pick me up and drive me to the Cotswolds with them on another of my adventures (to not make this post 8 miles long, I'll leave that story for another time). This meant, I realized quite happily after checking my wonderful app, that we would be passing through Chipping Norton on our way to Stow on the Wold - you have to love these place names! 

I felt a bit funny asking Richard and Carolyn to stop in Chipping Norton and even a bit more peculiar trying to explain to these folks that I HAD JUST MET that I wanted to drop off this horse brass, but there is something to be said for asking for what you want / need. Anyway, this is exactly what I did and they very kindly did stop and it was AMAZING. I sauntered into the Crown and Cushion on my own while my kind transporters and new friends went to find a place to park. As it turned out, the woman at the desk (I wish I could remember her name - I think it was Mary...) is the mother of the young man who runs the place and she was absolutely gobsmacked (as they say in the old country) with my story and what I had done. I had to repeat it once for her to absorb what this Canadian hurricane of a human was saying and another time to her son who had come out of his office to meet me.They were so thrilled, so touched and so delighted that someone would take the time to do this simple thing, to make a connection across over 7,565 km, over a simple inexpensive object that has now done more travelling than most people do in their lifetimes. 

A moment. Many hearts. A story. None of us know how the brass got to Victoria in the first place but now it has travelled back to where it came from however many years ago and I have met super cool people along the way and touched a heart or two by what turned out to be a simple act. The brass is likely hanging over that massive fireplace you can see in the background of the picture though they were concerned that someone might nick it and take it on another adventure. 

If you are ever passing through Chipping Norton and stop at the Crown and Cushion, be sure to stop in and mention the horse brass and this story. Maybe find a way of making a contact like this on your next trip. Don't be afraid. We are all connected by moments, by stories, by our love of the magic this world holds despite the violence and the threats of terror around the globe. Laugh, love and live on in the face of it, for love will win. Love always wins. 

With respect to everyone in war torn, terror-ridden nations around the world and the many moments of your lives, good and bad. Your stories are important. Write them down and share them because your love of your life will win and the pen will always be mightier than the sword. Know that there are myriad people around the globe, working for peace, for freedom, for love. Tell your stories. Send them out to the world by whatever means you can find. Let us connect through our humanity and our love for one another rather than rend ourselves to pieces in our differences. 

In this moment, may we each have a little peace. 

With love,

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 15, 2015

My first view of York Minster - I hope I have captured the awe
I felt as I stood in front of this exceptionally beautiful building
York, UK
Gillian Cornwall, c. October,2015

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Empathetic Engagement

Empathy in times of trouble....
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008

Hi Folks. This is a repost from a while back as it has been on my mind recently and I believe a reiteration is warranted as I ponder struggles close to home and abroad. 

Empathy - I have been thinking about how we act on a day to day basis in our personal lives but in the workplace as well. Leaders and colleagues can appear to have a void of empathy for those with whom they work. This lack of understanding can have some disastrous results, not the least of which is the alienation of the team and their emotional divorce from the organization. This can be the first crumbling brick in the demise of an institution or business.

All leaders can benefit from coaching in the process of empathetic engagement. It takes desire, primarily, to learn how to acknowledge the problems or difficulties of a colleague. It takes development of emotional intelligence. It takes dealing with your own issues first and not packing your emotional stinginess in your lunch kit everyday and hauling it into the office. 

Certainly, it is unwise to get right in the depths of the pit with others when they are down. If you are both in there, then how will one of you guide the other out? Who will hold up the light to show the path? 

It is essential to acknowledge the fact that the person is in the pit and that you are aware that they might be uncomfortable or afraid in there. If you skip this step and go right to, "Hey, at least the pit wasn't bottomless!" or "Don't worry, you'll get out." and walk away, it becomes entirely apparent to the person in the pit that you do not want to know they are in there at all. In fact, you are entirely dismayed or indignant that they have been so thoughtless in sharing their predicament. "Pit person" should have quietly withered away to nothing without disturbing you. Obviously, in this context, this is NOT the way to go about recovery and healing. 

Once you have acknowledged the situation, as an effective leader, you can offer direct assistance if you are able - this too is a form of empathy. If you are out of your league with an issue, it is still essential to acknowledge its existence with the person. Once you have acknowledged, if you are uncertain in how to direct the person, you can tell them you will get back to them (give a time and date) with resources and make sure you follow up! Be real and be true. Your position makes your time no more or no less important than that of your colleagues. The amount of money you are paid to do your job is irrelevant in this scenario. Time taken to work together is an investment beyond measure. Remember that the people with whom you work are your colleagues, fellow humans, all deserving of basic respect. They are not "your employees", rather they are employed by the organization and you have been hired to lead them.

Know your responsibilities as a leader. 

Know the resources of your organization. 

Know the rights and benefits of your team.

If you don't know, find out now before the next scenario arises. 

Do not make assumptions about the person's experience or feelings based on your own history.

Once you have held up that light and helped guide the person from the pit, set a time to follow up and talk about it. This may involve listening and it may involve redirection to other resources. Keep your judgments to yourself and be clear about the time frame and methodologies you have in which to assist. Be empathetic and kind. The people with whom we work are our employer's 'human resource'. Think about these two words carefully. Think about them together and separately and their meaning and implications. Be honest - both with yourself and the person with whom you are engaging. 

It is not your responsibility to "fix" whatever is happening with the person. It is unlikely they need nor want "fixing". As Oprah said on her last show, "...every single person you will ever meet shares the common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?..."

Try it. See people. Hear them. Acknowledge what they have said to you and let it flow through you without judgment or personal need. You needn't carry it but hold up that lantern and let folks know you are willing, as a fellow human being, to offer light and guidance as each of us makes our way down our own individual paths. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 8, 2015


The following articles, books and scripts have been of great help to me on my journey to being more empathetic along my path for emotional and social intelligence:

Learning empathy from leaders throughout my life!
Photographer unknown
Circa. 1974

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Power of Care

Riding the British Railway and Minding My Gaps
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015


The quiet, persistent strength of my English cousin
Personal power without apology
and so it should be.
Greater than the works of Blake 
or any art that man can make.

She breathes on through storms
bigger than The Tempest born
with peaceful, treasured moments
after hurricanes and all the harms
oft this world has deemed the norm.

The Power of Care is an immeasurable thing and not one I would choose to drift by without mention. Before I left for the UK, I was a depleted soul - eroded by the tides of time and the "thousand natural (and unnatural) shocks that flesh is heir to".... I wrote to my cousin saying that I needed to come home, to be with my blood, to restore myself in a safe and peaceful place. She provided all of that for me and more. Some time had passed since I was able to simply be, to let go, to not have to take care of anything and to have the space created where someone took care of me.

The healing that can take place when someone is caring for your basic needs: clean clothes, food, transportation :-) - it's astounding. It really gives you time to be, to recover. I think a big part is being able to let go and feel safe in doing so. My cousin restored this art work that is my life, my being, and for that I am eternally grateful. 

I don't think we HAVE to go away to allow ourselves this space for healing and restoration, though it is an asset and a privilege of which I am completely aware. For me, breaking with routine in time, place and people was essential to the shifting of thought and the remapping of a way forward. Additionally, it was mildly terrifying because flying half way around the world to be with someone I hadn't seen for three decades, others I had never met - and to completely break with routine - well, it takes a bit of letting go. 

...and it was good. 

I want to say too, that there were many others on this journey who aided in my healing - some of you may not even realize it. From Gabby and the team at the Contini Cannonball Restaurant in Edinburgh who made me feel so incredibly special on the evening of my dinner there, to the teams at The Roxburghe Hotel in Edinburgh and The Royal York Hotel in York who made my stays beyond comfortable and into the realm of epic, lifetime memories, to my friends in the Cotswolds who included me in their family reunion in order to give me the chance to learn about Richard, my mum's wartime fiance, to my dear friend, talented artist and best selling author, Sheila Jeffries who has an unfathomable healing capacity through her extraordinary ability to love and share her heart and mind. Thanks to Battels Arts Cafe for buying us our tea after hearing the story my cousin and I shared. Thanks to Marc for the use of his amazing condo in Canary Wharf. Thanks to the river boat captain on the Thames who shared the history of the river from his heart with such humour and passion. Thanks to Trish and Susannah for inviting me into their hearts and homes. Thanks to all the kind and friendly, hard-working folks on the Transport for London system who helped me find my way around and the fellow at the Canadian Embassy who took time, just to have a chat. Huge thanks to April and Trich who invited me to their homes in Ireland even though I didn't make it to see you this time. I am so deeply moved by your generosity. To everyone whose path I crossed on my own healing path, I am grateful and certain that you have healed me through your kindness. 

When people ask me "What was the favourite part of your trip?," I've tried to pick a place, but all the places were amazing and incomparable. The truth of it is, it was the people and the interactions that stood out as much or more than the places. Even within the great cathedrals of St Paul and York Minster, my awe stands with those who put their life's work into the art and building of the places. It is inevitably the people that bring the places to life, from The Shambles in York to the River Thames, to the Tower of London, to Brighton Pier

Hearts. Caring. Giving what we have to freely give of ourselves to one another in order to increase the light of the world - that's the stuff of healing. That is where I am doing my best to live now. It feels like a pretty good place to be and I hope to see you here. 

With gratitude and love to all of you who hold up a light for me when my path grows dim and gratitude for all of you who have the courage to share your difficulties and truth with me. With every action and interaction we form our own future - let us do our best to do it with kindness and compassion.

With love to my cousin for her strength, candour and healing ways. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. November 1, 2015

The Armour of the Heart
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

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