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."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Art of Life

Matter - c. Gillian Cornwall, 2011

Some of you may notice that I have changed the name of my blog from its original title, "Gillian's Art Blog" to "The Art of Life" and, in recognition of the change, after approximately nine years of posting, I have named this post to match.

As of late, I have been feeling that the title was no longer reflective of what I wish to accomplish here. 

"...and what might that be?" You may well ask. 

My goal is to create a place where I review experiences and events (my own and others) through a lens which sparks thought and opportunity for conversation around topics through which we may find common threads. It is through these threads that we weave the fabric of our lives and relationships. I want this to be a place through which we question ourselves and our histories, a place where we allow one another to reinvent ourselves based on collective and individual experience. I want this to be like a safe house, a place to come and go at will. I hope that you will come by and visit often. I hope this will be a place where you can express your thoughts and worries as you choose and a place where we can grow together through an exchange of ideas and thoughts. 

Where are we if we do not have safe spaces in which to question, learn and grow? Where are we if we cannot experience the emotions we have been given? Let love guide us here. Let us breathe through our fears and expand with light. 

I am grateful to all of you who spend their time and energy in this space. I have been blessed to get to know some of you outside of the realm of this blog and you are a source of such love, light and learning to me. 

When I think about energy, as I do often, and I read the work of today's scientists as they look at factors such as physical cosmology, quantum physics and thermodynamics, I become more and more convinced of the relativity of our imprint and the expansion capacity of our energy. Who we are and how we behave in our lives does matter, both individually and collectively. This is the art of life. If each one of us is a unique colour, together we create the ultimate rainbow, the most exquisitely detailed picture or the blanket of many threads which keeps us together, protected and warm. 

Physicists and cosmologists have recently come to believe that the universe is, in fact, expanding and that expansion is accelerating. Whatever is causing this universal acceleration has been named dark energy but its origins are not yet known. Is it possible that as our comprehension expands, so does the universe itself? I am not a scientist but I am an explorer of ideas, of possibility.  

Tomorrow it will be two years since my brother died. I feel him with me. The likelihood is, I always will. His life was essential to the person I am. He was a teacher, a protector and a friend. His life expanded my own and thus, I believe, his life impacts all of those who are impacted by mine. This is the ripple effect of energy. This is why I have renamed this space "The Art of Life". 

I hope I will see you all here often. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives and thank you for being a part of mine. My gratitude for this opportunity is boundless. I hope we will be able to share our thoughts and ideas here for a long time. With every wish for joy and peace. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 17, 2014

Family Swim - Sunset
Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2006

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stiff Upper Lip Fail

Cornwall Family Photo - Circa 1964
Photographer unknown

Yup -  that's me: front row, second from the right. At 3 years of age I was a stiff upper lip fail and I still am. 

I was made in England and born in Canada of stiff upper lip, war-surviving stock if ever there was any, so how did I end up such an emotional cream puff? I've searched high and low and there is no evidence contrary to my familial genetics, so what factors make me different? I've skimmed the surface of this whole British stiff upper lip thing. Some people say it started in the Victorian era as part of the conservatism of dress and behaviour of the time. Some say it is is symptomatic of the tough English public school system and others say it is a result of those who saw / fought in one or two world wars and the need to remain stoic in the face of great chaos and loss. I have done nowhere near enough research to be an authority on the subject.

Some folks say it has changed in Britain as a result of globalization, technology and the epic public outpouring resulting from Diana, Princess of Wales', tragic death. I know plenty of Brits who are chock-o-block with heartfelt kindness and caring and emotional capacity. I know plenty of Canadians who are ill-equipped at showing and processing emotion, so perhaps I think that I am falling short of a cultural marker that no longer actually exists.

Maybe, just maybe, I am perfectly healthy in my capacity to express myself, physically and emotionally. It's not that I usually expect anyone to DO anything about it. Lord knows, it costs me thousands in counselling recovery from a variety of abuses to gain emotional well-being. My motivation in not wearing emotional armour is purely to ensure that I am being clear and maintaining a healthy energy flow for my being - using the appropriate face for the appropriate situation / emotion. Perhaps it is not up to me to determine how others deal with my emotional / physical truth. 

It's interesting that some folks are just as uncomfortable with a show of what we deem 'positive' emotions - I am just as effusive with those in my day to day life. My joy shows, my happiness leaks out, my excitement pops out like an erupting volcano. Sadness = Tears. Joy = Laughter. Pain = Furrowed brow and physical stature changes. I was born with a full quiver of emotions so I am guessing they are there to be used.

The thing is, if we don't actually use the appropriate words and expressions for what is going on for us - everyone can tell something is up anyway and they wonder what it is and if it is them causing it and all that speculation usually brings about misconceptions, upset and sometimes disaster. 

So, while my ancestors may be rolling in their tightly-bound emotional graves, I have to say, "Sorry guys, but this Brit/Canadian has to be who she is and be real to her emotions." Don't worry, it's not like I'm going to go cry on the shoulder of a stranger every time I run out of coffee but I may cry on their shoulder if we share a grief and I may cheer them on or smile at them on the street because, after all, we are of one energy, one people, one heart beating on one planet and I am inextricably tied to all of you and you matter to me. 

So I'll save my stiff upper lip for when I really need it - perhaps when I need to put something aside in order to help another but I'll come back to those emotions in a timely and safe way to deal with them. 

Strength is good, but I think the greatest strength is in being true to yourself - whoever that might be on a given day. Know that you are perfect on your path of growing, learning and feeling the wonders of life.

-Gillian Cornwall, August 10, 2014


Surrendering to a Broken Heart
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2010

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Fuel the Positive

Fernwood Car
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

Let us, for a moment, imagine that we will take the full force of human insecurity to fuel positive acts toward others instead of placing the energy behind our insecurities into tearing down those around us - as many of us have done at some time in our lives.

Unable to raise ourselves up through positive thought and action, we raze rather than raise the folks with whom we are surrounded. This is neither an effective nor sustainable practice.

Why, if it serves no purpose, do we debase ourselves or others? This is not the same as self-effacement. It is not an act of humility. The motivators behind our behaviours are extensive: cultural, familial, gender-based, perhaps simply because we are accustomed to doing it. It may be the result of a history of abuse, war or trauma. 

Today I offer a challenge: Focus on something good within you, something positive and life-affirming. Find a way to share that light in you with another and give it in a way that raises and lights the path of a friend or a stranger. Do it simply because you can. 

Believe in yourself. Believe in another. Watch the ripples of self-love and love of another flow out endlessly. This is our power to live and share and make a positive impact.

Live well. Live with intention.

-Gillian Cornwall, July 27, 2014.

Gillian Cornwall, July 2014