Sunday, September 28, 2014

Autumn on the Island

"Dig your hands into the rich, black soil; toil."
Pumpkin Perfection
c. Gillian Cornwall
This is a perfect late September day. The morning air, cool as a reminder of the harvest days ahead. I throw my mind one hundred and fifty years to the past and envision myself on pastoral lands and villages built of the stones dug from the fields by which they stand. 

Simpler times are what I crave, time spent in a kitchen preparing food for the winter months - a pot of soup set upon the stove, bubbling with the goodness picked steps from the cottage door. I know I idolize farm life, which is silly because I've done it and it is hard work, but that time was spent in direct contact with our needs and survival. Our jobs have become the middle man between our physical needs and ourselves. I now wonder if I'd have the strength to provide for myself - to build a home, to work the land, to have my job be my survival.

I love to go right to the farm for the food upon my table. I fill my lungs with the scent of the land. My eyes open wide to the rich black soil and the red leaves of the blueberry bushes in the distance. I listen with love to the songs of the sheep and the cattle. I dream of the sensation of the cool, earth-damp squash or potato in my hands, fresh from the ground below my feet. 

I am doubly blessed now our community mindset has shifted and many Victoria markets provide farm-fresh local foods grown with love and care for the land from which they arise.

It is autumn and I recognize the gifts of the earth. I fill my glass with deep, rich, BC wine and I lay a dish before you, replete with the wonders of this place, my home.

With recognition to the Lekwungen territory and the people on whose lands I live, play and work. I am grateful to the Elders and those who have gone before us - those who have cared for our mother Earth across time.

-Gillian Cornwall, September 25, 2012. Revised and re-posted September 28, 2014

The Blueberry Fields of West Saanich
c. Gillian Cornwall

Mini-Pumpkins - Saanich, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Gourds, Saanich, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Mount Baker beyond the Saanich Fields, B.C.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

The Squash Wagon. Saanich, B.C.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Saanich Apples
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Japanese Maple Leaves
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

University of Victoria - Path to Campus
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Patient Love

 Heart on a Curb
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

There Once Was a Kid who Asked, "Why?"

Every kid asks, "Why?" Some of us grow into adults who ask, "Why?" I am one of those people. It's who I am. At times, it exhausts and erodes me and the people around me. At times I am granite and at times I am worn to sand. I am an explorer of that which is claimed to be known and that which is beyond. I am not one to accept, simply because it is said. If that were the case, I would never have taken the risk of marching in a Pride parade over 30 years ago or refusing to accept a gender binary. I never would have been the first girl in my hometown to take wood shop and metal shop instead of sewing and cooking and I never would have followed my heart to the coast and learned to surf. I never would have kept writing in the face of my own parent telling me I would never be good enough. 

Today, I read a friend's post and she used the term 'patient love". The two words resonated with me and, being who I am, I had to unpack this phrase to understand "why" it has imprinted on my heart and in my vocabulary:

Patient - According to the Oxford English Dictionary, as an adjective or noun:
...enduring pain, affliction, inconvenience, etc., calmly without discontent or complaint; characterized by or showing such endurance...

as a verb: trans.To make patient; (refl.) to calm or quiet oneself; to be patient

Love - v. trans. To have or feel love towards (a person, a thing personified) (for a quality or attribute); to entertain a great affection, fondness or regard for; to hold dear...

So... calmly, without discontent or complaint, holding someone dear - this is patient love. I like it. I like it very much. This is a great response to those who perpetually ask, "Why?" Perhaps it is not a common response when one continues to question and remain inquisitive past childhood but it is a good response. May there be more patient love in the world and may there always be people who ask, "Why?" 

May there always be those who stop to question, to question injustice, hate, hurt and that which is widely known or accepted. May we have patient love for those in our lives through sickness and in health. May we not assume we know each other or what we are feeling or how justified our pain or fear or love may be. May we learn and grow with patient love. 

May we allow ourselves and one another the space to reinvent ourselves daily and may we all be blessed to share our lives with those who make us stop to consider, patient love.

I dedicate this post to a woman with whom I feel a considerable bond, at a soul-cellular level, a person who has the capacity to place just what I need before me, sometimes before I even know that I need it. This post is for my dear friend, Sheila Jeffries. Sheila is an exceptionally talented artist and writer and one who embodies the term, "patient love". Have a look at her website and read her books: Sheila has a new book coming out, Solomon's Kitten, through Simon and Schuster. Be sure to have a look. 

-Gillian Cornwall, September 21, 2014.

Love on a Bench
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c, 2014.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Experiential Living - Rifflandia2014

A line-up of the line-up
Gillian Cornwall c. September 2014

Sight. Hearing. Taste. Smell. Touch.

There seem to be few common activities left in this world that allow us to meet people face-to-face to share a common sensory experience and, frankly, I had forgotten that musical events - concerts and festivals, are one of the possibilities. Definitely, local markets are right up there too.

Since Friday afternoon, I have been spending most of my waking hours at Rifflandia, a Victoria, multi-venue festival of live music, ideas and arts, spanning the genres from dub step to folk to stand-up comedy. I have seen people playing everything from the saw to electronic equipment - the equipment/instrument names are not within my vocabulary. I have met people young and old who are there for the love of music and waded through a quagmire of those who are there to be seen and - good on them, I say, if they have accomplished their objectives for their personal experience. I have crossed paths with great kindness and generosity and only one or two acts of selfish entitlement.

I started out this weekend's adventure as an entirely astonished, delighted and grateful winner of two VIP passes to Rifflandia which begins on a Thursday evening and finishes on a Sunday evening. Huge thanks and appreciation to Shaw TV South Vancouver Island for this astonishing and generous prize! 

From a quick scan of the beautifully designed festival book, there are around 150 acts from which to choose. Initially, I was frozen by choice - until some extremely well-versed festival attendees and friends guided me with their various experiential methodologies:
  1. Just walk in and out of places and be present for what you hear
  2. Listen, in advance, to what you think you may want to see and hear based on genre by watching YouTube videos and SoundCloud bites in advance. 
  3. You have to see (fill in blank)!

I used an assortment of the above and my experience has been incredible so far (I still need to get back out there for my final day). I am truly pleased that I had already booked Monday as a day off before winning this prize as I may need the day to recover.

Within the first evening (5 hours), I had seen six acts. Saturday started at noon with Choir  Choir Choir and Choir (honestly) and finished with Sam Weber with nine other acts in between. I will give a full list with links at the end of this post but I want to focus on the inter-connectivity of the experience for now. As I was saying, it seems to me that we don't often see people out together talking, laughing, eating and looking into each other's eyes or completely engaged in something live and filled with possibility. Most of the time, I see people plugged into devices; insulated within their technology using only eyes and ears with an inward focus.

I have been so impressed with everyone out at this event. They are considerate, kind, engaged and communicative. Faith restored! Sure, there are those that drink too much and act out in ways that are not well-considered but, on the whole, most people I saw were there to absorb and share experience, to be moved by musical Sheherazades - keeping us engaged with stories though the nights and days until we fall in love with them for who they are, the lives they have lived and the stories they tell through the passion and soul of their songs.

This festival has reminded me to live more, experience more and to share more with those around me - to not be afraid to speak to that person on the street or even to share a smile or a story. It's okay; we are one and from the collective energy we have arisen and to it we return. Do not fear, rather engage - watch, listen, dance with someone, taste and smell the wonderful foods at events such as Rifflandia. Everyone is there to share something with you and sharing one's passion, one's heart, well, that's love. Enjoy.

Here is a list of the acts I have seen so far and who I intend to see today, some of the food and drink available and the wonderful folks who gave me the prize of VIP passes. Thank you to each and every one of you. If I haven't mentioned someone - please let me know and I will add you in.


Artists (shows I attended):

Airborne Toxic Event
Choir Choir Choir and the Choir
Dear Rouge
Death Cab for Cutie
Dum Dum Girls
Girl Talk
Half Moon Run
Horse Feathers
Ivan and Aloysha
Keys N Krates
Lightning Dust
Lola Parks
Mozart's Sister (my favourite act of the entire festival)
New Pornographers
Sam Weber
Serena Ryder
Son Real
Vic High R&B Band
Wild Romantics

Food and Drink (that I have enjoyed):

Habit Coffee
Phillip's Brewery
Prima Strada Pizzeria
Tinhorn Creek Winery
Wanna Waffle

My Winning Ticket Provider (With special thanks to Meghan, Kim and Karen):

Shaw TV South Vancouver Island

Photos from the festival...more later
I have to get back to the park!

A very special thank you to the volunteer who took time in the middle of her busy evening on Friday to find a folding chair for me in the VIP tent when I explained about my back injury. Your kindness made my night as much or more than seeing Serena Ryder! 
Rifflandia volunteers are amazing!

-Gillian Cornwall, c. September 14, 2014

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Here's to the Mother

Sea Lions - Barkley Sound, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 4, 2014

Air, water, earth know, those things we need to, you know, live. This past Thursday and Friday, I had the honour and distinct pleasure of spending a small, but life-changing, amount of time at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

I originally travelled out west from Ontario 23 years ago because I wanted to, no, I needed to, be by the ocean. I dreamed ocean, I drew giant, rolling waves and I wanted to surf - more than I wanted to pursue my career, more than I wanted to be with my partner, more than, well, anything - so in June of 1990, I packed up a couple of suitcases, with a promise of coming back for the rest, and headed to Salt Spring Island where I had friends to support my transition (thank you Alberta and Gloria). I actually feel ill now when I am away from the ocean - some weird land-locked syndrome I suppose. I thrive on the food here. I would happily live on a diet similar to that of a coastal bear - salmon, blueberries.... I thrive on the air and the seawater at my feet.

Spiritually and physically, I look to the water as my mother - as mother to us all - the key to our existence. We cannot survive without her and we all know it, right? so why do we keep doing it? Why do we keep walking down a destructive path, sullying her with our poor sustainability practices and thoughtlessness. We are killing ourselves when we destroy the oceans. Are we that dissatisfied with our lives? Would we not struggle if someone tried to choke the life from us? Perhaps we need to stop talking about saving the world and start talking about saving ourselves. Let us own our selfish human nature and be clear. If we kill the oceans, and this is exactly what is happening around the world, then we kill ourselves. If we kill ourselves, we have no need for fossil fuels, nuclear testing, blah, blah blah.

Most of you reading this can go right now and turn on the taps and let it run into your palms - drink and wash in the life-giving water. Do it. Be amazed at the ease with which you have that substance which sustains all life. If you live near a lake, a river or sea - go to it and give thanks. Apologize for the harm you have done and promise to take more care, for water is the mother of us all and we must care for our mother. 

Please be 'care full' and not 'care less'. We are in the paradise we look to so longingly in prayer. Give thanks and act with the love paradise deserves. Be grateful and willing to consider this life giving resource. 

Visit: Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre at: if you are interested in finding out about the incredible research UVic and other western institutions (UBC, SFU, UofC, UofA) are doing to understand and maintain our mother ocean. I am so proud to have such an impeccable facility available to high school students and university undergraduate and graduate students right here on Vancouver Island. The seawater at this facility is some of the purest in the world. I like to think we have the 'champagne' of seawater available at Bamfield - unpolluted by the effects of industry. This means that creatures thrive better while being studied and are returned to their exact environment, alive and robust. 

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 4, 2014

Get inspired: 

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre:

Mission Blue - Sylvia Earle Alliance:

Surfrider Foundation:

Deer Group Islands (I think...)
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 4, 2014

 Seals, Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c September 4, 2014

 Sea Star, Touch Tank, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c September 4, 2014

 Sea Lions, Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c September 4, 2014

 Paddlers, Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 4, 2014
 The view from Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, 
Bamfield, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 4, 2014

 Temperate Rainforest, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
Bamfield, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 5, 2014

 Temperate Rainforest, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
Bamfield, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 5, 2014

 Ferns, Temperate Rainforest,
Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
Bamfield, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 5, 2014

The sun shining through the forest canopy
Temperate Rainforest
Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre
Bamfield, Vancouver Island, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 5, 2014

Thanks for reading and I hope you will make everyday a day to think about that which gives us life and that for which we must remain, grateful.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. September 7, 2014.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

Time, you dirty old man,
I feel you too close.
Your rank breath
sours my youthful beliefs
as you whisper in my ear
the things I had forgotten,
things I said I'd do by now.

Fear grips me,
turns my belly green
and my heart beats
too fast 
well into the night,
lying awake and praying for more 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 31, 2014

I've reached that point where long-term memory returns and short term goes to pot. I remember kidnapping a turtle from the green-watered Mill Pond in Richmond Hill and peddling it home in the basket of my blue CCM bike in an empty Player's cigarette pack. I remember filling my dad's Canadian Tire wheelbarrow from the green Canadian Tire hose - everything was from the Canadian Tire store: bikes, wheelbarrows, hoses... Canadian Tire was the only choice. We loved Canadian Tire - it held so much promise to a kid: camping gear, baseball gloves and wading pools. Every store, every time, smells exactly the same - still! It's as though they have rubber scent air freshener but, thinking about it, I guess it probably is ...yep, Canadian tires....

Anyway, there is another example of time passing. I have gained an irreparable capacity for rambling. I would now make every kid's favourite high school teacher: easy to derail. Back to the turtle story, which is another rambling offshoot of the original subject of time and me finding yet another way not to think about it and its life-shattering speed. So, I filled the wheelbarrow from the backyard hose and threw in some large rocks from the garden and built a ramp so the turtle who, by now had the ignoble name, Eric, could get from the water to his island. I added greenery and went inside to the Encyclopedia Brittanica bookshelf, compulsory in every middle class, North American home in the 1960's, and pulled down the appropriate T volume. I quickly, though not as quickly as Google would have proferred, discovered that he was a painted turtle most common across Canada and the United States, though this made him no less exotic to me. 

Eventually, though I do not recall how much time passed, my parents decided to split and my mother and my youngest brother were headed to apartment life on the fringes of the city of Toronto. Eric couldn't come. The Siamese cat, Sara, was under debate. I had no idea how I would live without either of them. They were the only beings in which I had any amount of real trust.

I won't tell you about Sara. I probably already have and have forgotten (Time, you're a cheating bully and my best friend...). Eric went to Sean's house. He took care of Eric for a long time. I don't remember how long or what ultimately became of him. I regret taking him from his happy pond life and I hope he has forgiven me from the great beyond for the selfishness of my childhood need for non-human companionship. I hope Eric came back as a turtle again and lived out the life he was born to live at that beautiful pond, where the willows grew nearby, doing the hula to a gentle summer breeze. I hope Eric spent many a happy hour, sitting on a log somewhere, with the summer sun on his back and I hope I have many years left of new adventures and happy memories and stories to share. 

May time be gentle with each of you and may we not be afraid of it speeding forward but rather live in each moment with a deep, peaceful breath, grateful for the time together, each moment an opportunity to love, learn, laugh and share. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 31, 2014.
-Dedicated to my sweet, wonderful brother, Chris, who would have turned 65 today.
I miss you dear brother and carry you with me always.

"Come sit with me by the lake where we can
remember together."
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. March, 2013

My brother, Chris from the 1960s

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Be Brilliant, Bold and Mitigate Expectations

Photo of copied design, ink on paper
Words by Nana Veary

My brother once told me, "Expect nothing and hope for the best." Many seasons have passed since he imparted this sage advice and, to this day, hope and expectation can blur on my page like once vivid watercolours, running from brilliant individual rivulets into a murky pool.

Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love. Fear. Love.

There they go again, marching across the page, weaving together the precept of every piece I've ever written. Tiresome, isn't it? ...but also true. With every step, every breath, every crossroad, we must decide which path to tread. 

This brings me to the title of this week's piece. Let's look at the parts:

Brilliant: bright, clever, impressive, excellent - from the French brillant: shining

Bold: willing to take risks, confident, courageous

Mitigate: make something (bad) less severe or lessen the gravity of something painful; from Latin mitigat- softened, alleviated

So, it looks like I'm saying: shine and be courageous but make sure you do it as your truth rather than from a desire to receive a response or change from something or someone because if you expect results, you can be disappointed or hurt. Yes, that is what I meant. Good. Sorry to take you down that road with me but I wanted to make sure I was going where I need to go with this. 

Hopev. want something to happen or be the case 

Interestingly, as a verb, hope relates more to want than expectation; whereas, as a noun, expectation is dominant in the use of the word

Expect: v. regard something as likely to happen

My brother's wise words convey that it is okay to want something but not to rely on it. I agree with this too.

Recognize that the greater your brilliance, boldness and joie de vivre, the more likely it is that you will be met with an equal and opposite energy of naysayers and folks who need to shadow themselves from your light. I want to remind you that reaction is not a measurement of the value of your action. If your intent is for the positive, if your action comes from a place of love rather than fear, then you may listen and consider but it is not for you to own or carry the reaction of another. 

So if you shine, shine. Be bold. Explore. Your light may be the very thing that someone needs to light their path or it may take you to a place that opens your heart and soul to reaches you have never imagined. Do not let your brilliance and boldness be extinguished by other people's fears. Your light is a foundation of greatness, of living a full and passionate life. Do not walk your path as though it is a red carpet, looking for applause or judgement. Walk your path for the journey, for the delight and learning of life. I'll see you along the way. 

-Gillian Cornwall, August 24, 2014.

One of the happiest times of my life
at Kaiolohia, Lana'i, Hawaii, 2006.
"Go to the place your soul calls home
and be there for the pure joy of life."