Sunday, October 19, 2014

Set Sail

Taylor Beach, Parry Bay
Metchosin, BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2013

52. It's a heck of a number when I feel 21 some days and 100 on others. I suppose this is why some folks say, "Age is just a number." Well, yeah, it is. It's the number of years I've been knocking around this life trying to figure out what it is I should be doing - whether I should turn left, turn right, go back or stand still. Walking the path. 

Perhaps it's a midlife crisis - but that term makes me laugh. How the blazes would any of us know when we are at midlife? Anyway, lately I've been thinking about the finite nature of my time in this incarnation and trying to determine, once again, how I can make the most of it. I want to write. It's all I want to do really, but unless I go to work everyday, I'll be writing on the street. So I go to work and I do stuff that's probably helpful, but is it how I should be spending the time I have? Is it the choice that will lead me to say, at the end of my days, "Yes, I am satisfied. I lived well."?

I'm talking first world problems for sure. I know it because I've been without a safe home and I have gone hungry in my younger years. I don't particularly want to do those things again. It was hard and left even less time for pursuits such as writing. Survival is a full time job. What to do; what to do? I have a novel that is almost through the first draft but between work life and home life there are insufficient time windows to finish the job.

I need to turn things on their heads and get a different perspective. I feel sick. I sit all day at a desk and move paper and cyber paper and apparently it is helpful. I go to meetings and do volunteer work. These are all good things that help people but something is off. I feel an unusual weight, a drag off my stern, if you will... I need to trim the sails and find a fresh breeze on which to travel - perhaps in a new direction. Meanwhile, I sit, rather still in the water, waiting, watching for a ripple on the surface and I grow hungry as resources dwindle.

This isn't much of an inspirational piece (she said, pointing out the obvious). I'm probably over-sharing, but I am going to post it anyway because I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one who feels this way at times and what I want you to take away is that I'm thinking, searching, watching the horizon. My waiting is active as I look for the opening - for there has always been a way through. There always will be. So if you feel like this too, perhaps we can raise our noses to the air, listen for the whisper on the wind, trust our instincts and open up to the changing tides and times. Be of good cheer and remember that it is all about the "way". It is each step we take, each tack of the sail that takes us forward through our lives. We must do our best to enjoy the journey.

With love to each of you. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 19, 2014.

There's always this...
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Hulopo'e - Lana'i, Hawaii
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c December 2006

I've been wondering, where is my home? Is it the place where the safe roof lies over my head? Is it the place of my spirit? Am I so fortunate as to have those things be the same? Is my home the traditional territory of my people? If so, I may be without place. I do not know the traditional lands of my people. For generations, it was the island now known as the United Kingdom; however, I doubt my people originated there either. I believe I descended of Roman and Spanish peoples and I do not know before this or if it is indeed so. 

I know I descend from a long line of warriors - people who fought, sometimes to take lands and sometimes to free people. I am not proud of the fact that we took lands and traditional ways of being from so many. I am proud of those who fought oppression and hate so I could live a life with greater freedom to love who I want and engage in the spiritual practices of my choice. 

As a result of this lack of knowledge of my traditional lands, I have created home in my soul and attach physical home to where my soul finds peace. Often, that is also my physical place, here in Victoria, British Columbia with people I love but it is also in other places where my spirit understands the flow and harmony of "all", where I am attuned to the ways of other peoples. 

I am fortunate to have travelled often to the traditional lands of the Hawaiian peoples. I am fortunate to have spent time learning some of the culture, traditions and ways of living the aloha spirit. This is a path I can comprehend and when I am there, I feel an attachment to the deep spirit of the place and her people. I continue to study and visit. I know these are not my lands. These are the traditional lands of the Hawaiian peoples and I am grateful to be a student and visitor. 

Where do you find home? I suppose my lack of attachment to one particular place and a lack of comprehension of border makes my soul my home and, I think I feel pretty good about that. On this, Canadian Thanksgiving, I am grateful to all my teachers. 

I am grateful to the Elders at the First People's House, Office of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Victoria who have taught me so much about taking the time to see and to be present in my heart, body and soul. They have taught me so much about their history and ways and the land on which I am grateful to be a visitor/settler. 

I am grateful to my Hawaiian teachers and the Lana'i Culture and Heritage Center for your work and teachings and to all the Hawaiian people who open my spirit to the aloha way. 

Perhaps I am a nomad of the spirit, a conduit among peoples; perhaps I am a path and not a destination. 

With gratitude to all my teachers in this life. I dedicate this post to all of you. You taught me so so much more than a single subject. You taught me how to open my heart and mind to possibility. This is a great gift. Thank you.

"Malama i kekahi i kekahi"
Take care of one, take care of all

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 12, 2014

Giving the chaka 
Lana'i 2006

Signs of Lekwungen Detail
I believe this is a detail of a sculpture by:
Butch Dick - Master Carver

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Inspire and Stir

The Letterbox - Saanich, BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2014

Stimulus: noun
  • a thing or event that evokes a specific functional reaction in an organ or tissue
  • a thing that rouses activity or energy in someone or something; a spur or incentive
  • an interesting and exciting quality

We need it. Without doses of regular stimuli, we will likely create some. Sometimes that gets us into trouble. We need to create. It's at the very core of our beings. We need to think, write, build, draw, sing, move or invent. 

So, what does one do if large parts of the day are spent in environments where capabilities are not recognized nor utilized and efforts to create are thwarted? The answer is simple: One wilts. One drifts. One becomes disengaged with the tasks at hand and looks further afield for inspiration. I believe part of the reason our minds fail us is a lack of positive stimulation.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with bright, amusing and kind friends. We were outside, on farmland replete with the bounty of a season of growth. The people, sights and scents and the energy of the land were palpable, invigorating and inspirational.

Now, I do not live in a fairy land (and that's a pity) where every moment of every day is an inspirational delight; however, why are we obsessed with the errant concept that we should do as we are told and we should do it without thinking or questioning or without inspiration? The greatest places to work worldwide all inspire their employees to think, to engage, to question and to grow. They are encouraged to try, learn, fail and try again. 

Some of you might be thinking, "It's up to you, isn't it? Inspire yourself!" 

Well, that's true too. We are responsible for our days and for seeking environments in which we find growth but, perhaps, part of that responsibility is questioning a lack of opportunity where we currently stand. Ah, in all things: balance. 

Go forth, my kindred spirits and inspire! Be inspired. Try not to give up. At times, it's not easy. On the days when people sneer at your vigour and enthusiasm and question: "What have you got to be so happy about?!", respond with sincerity and a true desire to know,
"What have you got to be so unhappy about?"

Let us give opportunity to one another to be our very best. Share knowledge. Share opportunity. Let us not be afraid of losing what we have. If we hold onto something too tightly, it is most likely to slip through our fingers. Enjoy your gift of life.

The Joy of the Harvest
Photo by: Dailene O'Neill - October, 2014

-Gillian Cornwall, c. October 5, 2014

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.