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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Let's Talk

There is little in this world that can top a great conversation with a friend, new or old, over a cup of tea, coffee, There is something powerful and comforting in the verbal exchange between two people. It can be likened to a restoration of the mind, a revitalization of our systems and our souls.

Lately, I feel like I'm down a pint, running low on this front. First of all, it seems absurdly difficult just to find time with a friend or acquaintance. Secondly, I wonder if it is becoming a dying art? Is it? Are simple, in-person, one-on-one conversations going the way of the Dodo and the hand-written letter? I sure as blazes hope not!

While I am no less an avid social media hound (I love me some Twitter) than the next person, there is nothing that can match the feeling and energy exchanged between two, free-thinking people in an open, passionate conversation. It is akin to mental love-making and meant to leave both parties inspired and rejuvenated. 

I know that it can be terribly satisfying to hold a conversation with someone who sees your point of view and agrees with you on all fronts. I have enjoyed this experience many times and felt oh so vindicated through the nods and agreement with my own perspective but what of the exchange that challenges and takes you where you have never ventured?

I will never forget the first conversation I had with someone well-versed in quantum physics. This one was over a pint - which helped me open my mind, I'm certain. I remember how great it felt to be taken to such a foreign world, a world beyond my knowledge but not beyond what made sense to me on a cellular level. I remember how, the very next day, I was scanning the shelves of my local book seller, eager to purchase a 'beginner's guide' - naive, perhaps, but I did find something to get me started. I read many web sites on thermodynamics and quantum physics and slowly ploughed through the book I purchased, having to read each page a dozen times before it made any sense to me. 

This one conversation reminded me, for the gazillionth time, that the world and its possibilities, my possibilities, are unfathomable, how with each word, each encounter, we grow and move and learn.

Conversations expand and excite me. They keep me guessing and wandering down the path that is my life. They are undeniably necessary to my existence, my growth and my quality of life. Conversations are irreplaceable.

Coffee and a chat, anyone?

-Gillian Cornwall, c. July 27, 2014

Cornerstone Cafe - Fernwood
Gillian Cornwall, Victoria, BC c 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hello, Trouble

The Wave
Oil Pastel on Paper 
Approx. 8" x 10"
By Gillian E. Cornwall - c. 1988

"Hello, Trouble!" "Here comes trouble!"

I am greeted in this way, on average, 3 times a week at work and elsewhere and it tends to frustrate me. I think those using the term, use it in a cajoling or endearing way and by no means intend for it to be harmful. I think some see me as different from most women of my age and do not know how to interact with me because of it. I suppose I could be honoured that people are imbuing me with such great power - that I have the capacity to create trouble and, potentially, leave chaos in my wake. 

Then, I think of the term, "trouble the water". I was reminded of it last week, during a meeting, when a colleague used the term. I liked it and have had it roiling in my mind since. There is an African American spiritual song, with Christian biblical implications, and it goes as such:

"Wade in the water,
Wade in the water children
Wade in the water
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water
Don't you know that
God's gonna trouble the water"

I believe the phrase arises from this biblical reference: 

John 5:4 - "For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had."

So, perhaps someone who is referred to as "trouble", challenges, allows for cleansing, healing and forward motion. I could go with that.... I certainly know some earth angels who trouble the waters in their quest to share peace and love. 

Unfortunately, the folks using the term "trouble", in reference to me, do not consider the workplace implications of being seen by those in authority as "trouble". Talk about a career stopper. So, have I been trouble over the years? Have I stirred the waters? I suppose so. Why? I have not been appreciative of anti-racial slurs. I didn't like hearing the term "homo" or "I think you are in the wrong washroom" and, from straight women with whom I have worked in the past,  "I know you'd like to be closer to me right now" or, having a woman flash her breasts at me (thinking I would enjoy it!) and make lurid comments speculating on my lifestyle. I haven't enjoyed being treated as "other" by both males and females based on my sexual and gender orientation and I certainly wouldn't enjoy being passed over for employment opportunities because of being thought of as "trouble". Do I know definitively that this has happened? No. How could I know? How would I prove such a thing?

So, if I am trouble, is it because you have named me so rather than because I have set out to be so? Have I set out to stir the waters rather than acquiesce to the silence in order to remain safer? Do I have to run twice as fast as everyone else just to keep up? These questions are all worthy of consideration.

Do I have to worry about posting this? Will it make it worse for me? I know some of you are thinking, "Oh, here she goes again! We are so tired of hearing about it..." I am tired too - way too tired to be trouble. I just want to go home and watch Masterpiece Theatre and have a nice cup of tea. Can I afford to stop pointing at the elephant in the room? We are all equal now - right? No harm, no foul? ....hmm. What do you think?

"Hello kind person." "Hello champion for human rights and equity!" 

Please don't let your fear be my trouble anymore. 

With love, kindness and the continuing quest for peace.

-Gillian Cornwall, July 20, 2014

Heart on a Telephone Pole
-spreading love down the line
Photo: Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014