Sunday, April 19, 2015

Perspective - Creating the Positive Picnic Basket

Picnic Basket
Charmaine's Past and Present
Fort St, Victoria.
G. Cornwall, 2012.

Life doesn't always feel like a picnic but if you are prepared to have one anyway, looking for the positive in every situation, life does become more simple. 

The unexpected turns of life, the potholes on our path, the barriers of our own creation, can be our demise or our opportunity to shift our thinking and our way of travelling through life - for what are we without these challenges. 

Stillness may bring us peace, opportunity to rest for a time, but in the long run we must shift in order to grow. Even as my bus driver takes a wrong turn causing delay, there must be opportunity. I see it as extra time to write on my way to work and, as one of the elders on campus once said, "You're not late unless everyone has already gone home."

It is not the perceived errors in our life that define us, rather the way in which we mitigate them. How do we face change or loss? Is there loss if nothing is held tightly? Like all things, like thermodynamics, we will move to where there is space for us to be. This is how we grow and learn and gain perspective.

Do not fear the fall. Prepare yourself for it by living a life of gratitude, in peace, accepting that change will come and that all is well. Accept each breathe as a blessing in which to be present, an opportunity to live and to love with an open heart and an open mind.

A poem on perspective:

I elevate
I reach
beyond that which I believe
the land of exploration
the sensation
the bold and brave new world.

I search
for another way of being
something more freeing
with more meaning
where a hand reaches out 
for another hand.

For if we truly work together 
there is enough for everyone.

If I take away desire
-for stuff brings strife-
and focus on the stuff of life
If I let love be my fire
and make true
the path between me and you,
then I elevate,
I reach
beyond that which the world believes.

If I live a life of gratitude,
not servitude,
If I feed the world 
with my soul, my light
then I will know
what it means to live free, to live right.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 7, 2013.
Re-posted here: April 19, 2015.

Big Island - Parker Ranch
c. Gillian Cornwall
Oil Pastel on Paper, 2007.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chat with a tree today.

Western Red Cedar by Gillian Cornwall, c.2005
Oil Pastel on Paper $900.00
22" x 30"

If you have a chance, go to a forest today and breathe deeply. Feel the life, the peace, the perfect gift of nature. Restore your soul with the elements that really matter in this moment - life, love, and peace. I'm re-posting this from last year because it feels like a good time for it. I hope it brightens your day. 

A naive poem follows. It is meant to carry you to a peaceful place, a remembrance of how it works when we stop and listen to all of life and that we are one, inextricably connected.

The Western Red Cedar

I'm a western red cedar 
thuja plicata
green perfect plaits 
well-organized leaves

'tree of life' 
for the next thousand years 
I will reach for the sky

My limbs droop downward 
in peaceful repose
while birds fly and sing 
from my tip to my toes

I spread my feet wide
for fear I may fall
though I suppose the fact is
I'll outlive you all

I live in a forest 
you may never find 
It's a place tucked away
on the outside of time

Far down below me 
'mid the moss and the ferns
One day I shall lay there 
my death bed I'll earn

As trees came before me
may I feed many more
In the depths of the rich 
thick, lush forest floor

Do not forget me 
I bring you your air
for the breathe of the forest 
Is the life we all share

-Gillian Cornwall, c. May 4, 2014
Re-post, April 12, 2015

Cedar by the Lake
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

Sunday, April 05, 2015


A Belief I Can Get Behind
Gillian Cornwall, Photo: c. 2014

Beliefs - we all have them. Our collective human history is filled with them. We base our culture and our systems on them. In some ways, they are the building blocks of our lives. They are held from perspectives - our own, that of another or our own translation of that of another.

A timely example: There is a bunny and he has a basket of eggs, sometimes chicken, sometimes chocolate, and he hides them on the Easter weekend for children to go out and discover. From this, I surmise that he can walk or hop on his hind legs. This is cool. My understanding is children get the eggs if they have been good, similar to Christmas presents. Here is some Wikipedian history of the Easter Bunny

It is Easter weekend in the Christian faith. It is Passover in the Jewish faith. Later this month it is Ridvan for those of the Baha'i faith. There is a great deal of belief, faith and wonder in humanity. I like that. I like the variety of our ways of being and I can find peaceful joy in our differences. 

"Peaceful joy in our differences" why are there wars fought over who has it all right? Do we need so desperately to believe our way is the right way, the only way? I feel that my greatest knowing comes through listening and learning and making informed decisions as I walk my path. The way of knowing is not a still pond but a flowing river. My beliefs have changed over the years and I have not felt the need to hold fast to one way. I do not need a head nod from another, an " I agree with you. We believe the same thing." 

Does it feel good to share belief with another? Absolutely. Whether it is spiritual, or about the benefits of the practice of Qigong or the foods I eat, I love it when I find another who likes what I like. It gives one a sense of camaraderie and belonging; however, it is through difference that I learn and grow. I am not a stagnant being. I am amorphous and in motion. I want to challenge my beliefs which are largely based on those of my culture, my people, my history and the stories I have been told. 

I am amazed when people are adamant with me that I have to do Yoga - even after I explain that it does not feel good to me. I have been to a number of classes and it just doesn't suit my body. In fact, it hurts. On the other hand, Qigong strengthens me and provides a great sense of well-being. It works for me. I am delighted for the people who have found what they need through Yoga and I'm glad I had the opportunities to try it, but why would I continue if it is not for me? Is it to make others feel that they are right in their choice? Of course they are; they have found that which works for them, as have I. Neither activity hurts nor diminishes the other; they are just different. Can it not be this way with all difference? Can we not just listen, explore and celebrate one another with an absence of harm? I am probably over-simplifying, but I would love it if we could live and let live. 

I wish you each kindness, respect, peace, love, compassion and joy, no matter your beliefs and choices. Let us all try to care for one another and our planet. 

Happy Spring. I hope you enjoy the pictures below. They are all from springtime in Victoria, BC, Canada.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. April 5, 2015

 Different Ways of Being - Tulips
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008

 Tulip, Spring Rain
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008

 Cherry Blossoms
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2010

Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

Sunday, March 29, 2015

You Are the Gift

Spring in Victoria
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Have you ever worked your hardest at something and been over the moon excited to deliver it, only to receive little or no response or a different response than the one for which you had hoped?

Have you ever felt terribly dejected and hopeless, wanting to throw in the towel, certain you had failed, that you made no difference or impact whatsoever even though you had given it your all?

It's a disappointment, a debilitating feeling that most of us (okay, probably all) have faced or will face at different times in our lives. For those of you out there who are carrying these feelings, whether from recent or long past disappointments, I would like you to consider this:

We may believe we have failed, been ignored, misunderstood, overlooked or pushed aside but, the fact is, most of the time we are projecting the term failure onto the truth, which is: we are unaware of the actual impact we are having as a result of our actions. Sometimes, we miss the facts because we are so focused on the fiction we have written for ourselves around our own value and impact on others. We wrap our gift, whether verbal, physical, emotional or physical, in a hyperbole of our own expectations of the reception of the gift. 

"I have given this;
therefore, I expect that."

This is a pointless exercise as we cannot control the way our gifts are received - we can only give them. The truth is, we don't always know when or how our actions and words impact others. All we can do is be kind and true in our interactions.

If you feel as though you don't make a difference in the lives of others, I can guarantee that you are mistaken. You matter. If you have ever smiled at someone - friend or stranger, held a door open for someone or even thought a positive thought about a fellow being, then you have facilitated an endless ripple effect of positive energy and opportunity throughout time and space! You matter. You are a vessel of possibility and love. You are unique and irreplaceable. 

Your capacity to see another, to lift them with a smile, to give of yourself freely without expectation of return - this is your greatest gift to the world. Never doubt for a minute that you make a difference. You may not always get the reaction you hoped you would get or the result you expected, but if you put your heart into something, that in itself makes the world better. You may not know the difference you made right there and then, but be patient. Your good works will feed you and guide you and, if you are too focused on waiting and looking in one direction for your expected outcome, you may miss a beautiful gift being delivered from another direction. 

Give the gifts of yourself with a good heart. Do not worry about how they are received as that is beyond your control. Trust in your value as a loving person. Give what you are free to give and let go. 

I dedicate this to all those who suffer from anxiety and worry that they are somehow insufficient, not producing enough, or not succeeding enough, or not giving enough. I see your kind hearts and you are enough. Wishing you love and hoping I offer some light along your paths. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. March 29, 2015

From sky to tree to sea
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Being the Ladder

"Tying a Rope to a Mooring Ring"
by Crystal Przybille
Victoria BC
Photo: Gillian Cornwall

What is the value of being the ladder?

I've been considering my career and my role in the organization with whom I work. Then I have been taking a broader look from a greater height at the way I go about things. Part of it comes from some of the learning I did about how I work on my writing at the WordsThaw event in Victoria yesterday.

I had my first session with an author, reviewing a first draft page of short fiction that I had written. I was a bit terrified that he would throw it on the floor and tell me it was an offense to his senses. He didn't. He was very helpful. It made me wonder though, why do I assume the worst about my self in the work I do, whether writing or day job or anything at which I work? How did I come to feel so "less than" about many of the things I do? As I have said before, I think there is merit in a modicum of self-doubt. I think we should review how and why we go about things and question our reasoning. The thing I don't want to do is compare my value against that of another. When we start holding our work, ourselves, up against others, it does not always serve us well as one must always be "less than" and one "more than". 

In my paid work, I feel as though I have hit a glass ceiling. Recently, when I apply for jobs and do not get them, I ask for feedback - ways I could improve my lot and my chances of "moving up". I am usually met with a "You did great but the successful candidate had 'more experience' or 'a degree'". Okay, that may be all there is to it. There is a lot of competition out there. I do feel that sometimes people don't want to have the difficult conversations about why a candidate was not selected. I would rather know than not, but there is little one can do about the actions of others. 

One thing I have realized is that I have (joyously) spent a lot of time helping others with their careers and life decisions - mentoring and guiding them in ways to facilitate their success. They are all wonderful people who have had or created great opportunities for themselves with respect to their lives and their educations and, sometimes, they are more willing to conform within an organization than I am. Perhaps it is a lifetime of standing up and pointing out elephants in the room, clearing paths for those that have been treated as "less than" and saying "no" to discrimination and dismissal of the value of difference as someone who identifies as LGBT*. I think that has come to be a part of my role - who I am and what I do. It's not on my resume and it may not be in my job description, but it is the heart of the work I do. I'm good at it and I enjoy it. 

So, I am wondering, perhaps my role is to be the ladder rather than the person who climbs it. Not with my writing - I don't even look at my writing that way - it's just that yesterday's symposium set me thinking about how I view myself. When I think about being the ladder or the conduit, I feel quite good about myself. Sometimes this type of role is undervalued in a society where those who make more money are considered more valuable, even though that doesn't really make sense ...just cents. 

As far as my writing goes, it's difficult to think about it in terms of a value statement. It is valuable to me because I love to do it. I love to write this blog. I love to write fiction and CNF and poetry. I am excited by the thought of finishing my novel and starting the next project. I wish I could be paid to stay home and write but I am grateful for my paid position and the things it affords me. I LOVE the volunteer work I do through my paid work because it forwards the causes of equity, diversity and inclusion. I am grateful for those opportunities and the brilliant people who serve on the committees and from whom I learn so much.

I suppose what I would like to let go of is the financial "have and have not" comparison and live happily with my way of being. I am not less than because I have chosen this role for myself - one that is not as financially valued. I am doing well. I enjoy serving my fellow humans. I love helping people reach their potential whether they are friends, students, colleagues, partners or strangers. It is a good life, a life with meaning and a value that is measured beyond the dollar. Being the ladder is good. 

I apologize for the self-serving nature of this post, but I do hope that it helps someone out there, for we are all in this together - this life thing. As well, I want to acknowledge and express my gratitude to all of the amazing people who have been my ladder along the way, all of those who hold up the lantern to light my path when I fall off course or when I get lost in the darkness. By no means do I walk this road alone! You know who you are and I am blessed by your love throughout my life. 

If you have insights or questions, please leave a comment and, as always, thank you for reading.

-Gillian Cornwall, c March 22, 2015

 Digging our way through
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

More or Less
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Trusting Me

Me. Garden of the Gods - Lana'i, Hawaii

There are times when I think, "Really, you are still learning this?" I suppose, like everything in life, we go through times when we flourish and times when we recede. 

This past week, I had a truly wonderful flourishing experience and it was all about trusting myself and using what I have learned from others along the way, integrated with my own personal experience. 

I was giving a presentation and decided to apply the ways I have learned from our Indigenous Elders on campus. The elders teach us by telling their truth, their history and applying it to the situation and people to whom they are speaking to create a climate of understanding, sharing, trust and learning. They teach us through story - a way as old as time.

I was speaking about showcasing our people at work, who they are and their backgrounds and how our excellence comes from engaging the hearts and minds of our people. Shining a light for one another on our paths to achievement rather than just lighting up the finish line.

Anyway, what I want to talk about is the risks we take in life and being true to ourselves. This isn't exactly earth shattering, cutting edge thinking but it astounds me that, at 53, I'm still learning to trust myself. Not that I ever want to be over-confident; perhaps a modicum of self-doubt is healthy.

It is a risk, getting up in front of a group of people that includes your leaders and mentors and speaking your personal truth, your story, as it relates to the subject at hand. It is a fine intersection point between being anecdotal and hoping that the experience you bring and share offers a common ground for everyone present - a place from which each individual can be heard and appreciated. 

It feels good to know I hit the mark on this occasion, that I had an impact and created an opening for thought and discussion of the issues at hand. It feels good to know that I am learning, growing and that I'm a little more at home in my skin than I was last week. That's the whole point, isn't it? We learn; we grow; we succeed; we fail. We persist. We stand tall in our own skin and say, "I am here. I belong. I have something to share with you." 

We can only give what we have to give - freely and with a good heart. How it is received is beyond our control; still, we must give and be true to ourselves. Try it out - slowly and gently if you need, but be "you". Be strong, simple, perfectly good, "you".

Enjoy yourself along the way.

-Gillian Cornwall, March 15, 2015

Me. Strong, simple, perfectly good, "me".

Sunday, March 08, 2015


Sunset Sky Over Victoria, BC 
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012.

Women - we are all here because of women. 

Women are essential and equal to all in mind, body and spirit - different perhaps, but equal. 

Women love, care, share and protect fiercely and softly. 

Women have expanded the world knowledge of science, art, philosophy, medicine, literature, sport, engineering, communications - every field under the sun.

If all this is true, then why do we need an International Women's Day?

We need International Women's Day because, around the world, women are being treated as 'less than'. 

Please, everyone, regardless of where you place yourself on the gender spectrum or where you are in the world, let's work together to make the world an equitable and inclusive place for all. We can #MakeItHappen!

Please visit the UN International Women's Day website or to gain greater understanding and find ways you are able to help.

"If anyone makes you feel less than you are, for the colour of your skin, for where you come from, for the gender of the person you love, for the religion you have faith in, stand up, speak up, roar. No silence till we are equal." ~ Thisuri Wanniarachchi

-Gillian Cornwall, c. March 8, 2015

 My brother and I "surfing" - Cape Cod, 1960s
When I just "did", before I was told I "could not"
From 8mm home movie footage

Under the sky, with the sky, we are one.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012