Sunday, August 21, 2016

Small Starts

Winter in the Cowichan
Graphite, ink, water colour pencil on paper 
Approx 8"x10" - $100
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2010

sparks
small starts 
and endings with a tear
a life of hearts 
and no replacement parts
we turn from fear 
to cheer
when we realize the clock is ticking
without misgiving
without a lie 
we love
openly 
honestly
we reach 
beyond our past
make it last
this life
is yours
breathe
repeat
sparks 
small starts
life
yours.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 21, 2016.

Live as though each minute counts because it does. 

Everything you do, everything you feel, counts. You affect the whole universe with each thing you feel, think, say and do. Try very hard to remember this and ingrain it into your lifestyle. Treat others as you would be treated knowing you are loved and deserving of well-being - no matter your past; no matter what you have been told; no matter what you have learnt to believe to be true about yourself that leaves you feeling "less-than." 

Each of us has the gift of life and, with each breath, there lies opportunity for joy and wonder. It is that simple. Do not let your past anchor you to pain that was never yours to carry. Let go. Release it. Break free. Thank it for the lessons of compassion it may have taught you and release the bitterness of what it has taken away - for the bitterness hurts only you. 

You are so loved by the Earth herself! She feeds you and offers you her life-giving water. Turn your heart to the great mother and thank her for this gift. Give back to her. Recreate the bond between you and her life force. Sparks; small starts; life; yours. 

We are one. 


Gillian Cornwall, c. August 21, 2016.

The Woods - on the footpath to Tring, Hertfordshire
Gillian Cornwall, c. October, 2015.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

LOVE. What is it?

Fernwood Painted Power Poles
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2014

Ah love, amour, the passion of the heart! Odes are written to it, people die for it, statues and edifices are built to it, but what the blazes is it actually and why is it causing such a kerfuffle?

Is it what happens between the sheets?
Gumby and Pokey - cuddling ...that is all.
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Is it a feeling like you have gone to heaven because someone makes you feel all funny inside?
Mount Baker on a Summer Day
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012


Is it a walk with someone on a Spring day, thinking of all the wonders you have shared and will share, today and ever more?
Spring in Victoria, Finnerty Gardens, UVic, BC


Gillian Cornwall, c. 2011

LOVE.
What is it, anyway?

All I have is this, in whatever state of togetherness or separateness from another human:

Love is energy. It is the energy that is constant, just as in physics. It is an energy that cannot be taken away. It may change along the way. It may shift from one way of being to another but it is eternal regardless of its form.

If we think of love as energy, as the energy of the universe flowing through us and all around us, then perhaps we can let go of fear a little. Perhaps we can breathe more deeply (for holding tightly serves no-one) and let love, energy, flow through us freely. In this way, like a fresh spring, we will always be full. There will always be enough. We will have nothing to lose.

Let us be brave. Let us love freely and kindly without holding. As far as people go, if we truly love someone, we must be brave when they need to go and wish them luck on their paths. Love means we want others to be happy. We want them to follow their dreams and sometimes that means letting go of the physical connection and letting their energy continue to flow through our hearts. It does not mean there is no longer love between the two, it only means that energy has shifted and changed shape. In this, there is no real loss.

Fine for me to say! I know, I'm no expert. Have I hurt when someone has left? Heck, yes! What helped? -realizing that they weren't leaving me; they were just leaving. We cannot take on the actions of others; we can only control our own actions and reactions. Do we love only as a result of someone loving us or is it something we choose to give freely, without expectation, without holding? That is for each of us to decide as we walk our own paths.

May you love in some way in every day. May your love expand your heart rather than cause it pain and depletion. May we all hold hands around the world, for many threads woven together make strong cloth.

-Gillian Cornwall, Edit and re-post August 14, 2016
c. February 15, 2015

Bamboo, Finnerty Gardens, University of Victoria
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

"Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back, even from the most difficult times.... Your ability to thrive, depends, in the end, on your attitude to life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly."
~ Ping Fu, Author of Bend, Not break: A Life in Two Worlds

Sunday, August 07, 2016

What You Want

Foxgloves
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2015

The sun-warmed bee buzz of the Salt Spring Island summer sits softly behind my still-closed eyes as I lay in the quiet sterility of my bed. I treat this place as somewhere exotic and far, absurd when it is but a bus and a ferry away.

Why do we complicate that which is simple? Is it to afford excuses for inaction? Do we not really want that which we say we want? Do we want it given to us rather than having to ask for it or work for it?

In my case, I think all of these are true at different times. If I want to go to Salt Spring, I need to either ask someone to go with me and simply share or pay the costs of using their car or I need to just get up on a Saturday morning and go! I would be there within a couple of hours.

Anyway, this post isn't really about going to Salt Spring Island as much as it's about what we do or do not put in the way of our own desires. When we think about what we want, perhaps the best course of action is to sit down and write out all of the reasons and excuses why we cannot get it and all the ways and means through which it can be achieved.

Life is a short course of choices and the ones we make can impact the others as we weave our way through myriad choices. I do not believe in right or wrong choices as much as how we act and react to those which we have made and those we decide to abandon along the way, when they no longer suit our dreams and goals.

All I'm saying is that it is my life, it is your life, and how we choose to live our lives is up to us - regardless of what we believe we have or do not have and what we feel are our barriers to our goals and successes. So walk your path with care and do not abandon your dreams too easily. Chances are some of them are just a bus ride or a ferry away.

With love and peace to each of you on the journey.

-Gillian Cornwall, Re-posted August 7, 2016
c. July 12, 2015

Salt Spring Island Arbutus
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2012

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Reset Button

The Olympic Mountain Range from Rockland - Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c 2010

This is a photo of the Olympic Range from the rooftop patio of the apartment I had on Rockland Avenue in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I would go out on that rooftop patio every morning and greet the day - in awe of the beauty, no matter the season, the weather nor my mood. 

This was my reset button, my way of realizing there was more to know, more to discover, more to live for. In the foreground, you can see the trees of Fairfield and the totem pole in Beacon Hill Park. I left this place when the landlord took out the rooftop patio and raised the rent beyond the living wage. I could not afford to pay half my income to rent.

Lately, my reset button has broken off and I seem stuck. The kind of issues that made me leave that apartment are a few of the things that always seem to trip me up. Most of us have a reset button; some of us call it coping skills. Every once in a while though, when all sh*t goes sideways, that reset button starts to smoke and either burst into flames or breaks off. It is the opposite of "dial up the awesome and break the knob off." - Matt Adrian (Read Matt Adrian only if you can afford to suffer the paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter - seriously, I thought I would die.)


Back to the issue at hand. My reset knob is out of order, ne marche pas, it done broke. I have been hitting it repeatedly for months, coping skill upon coping skill has been drawn from my quiver and shot into the enemy fortress of the epic goat rodeo that has been my life since April. Every arrow is emblazoned with the message, "Never mind; it could be worse." I am thinking of making a new family crest with these words swirling across a scrolled banner below the crowned lion rampant. The war cry or motto, as it stands, is: la vie durante - "During life" If things are going to be sh*t, they may as well be stylishly so.

So what does one do when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are being delivered by fully-loaded, eighteen wheeler lorries to your doorstep? Well, you can keep sorting and shoveling and re-framing and saying positive things or you can let it go and veer around the epic pile of stinking dung or you can shovel through it or you can turn and walk away. In fact, you can do all of these. It doesn't have to be a huge, operatic, dramatic conclusion. You can pick and choose, depending on the day and the pile and your level of energy. You can take each thing as it comes and not waste time wondering if you should change your name to Job and look for your place in the Christian biblical Hall of Fame. 

The fact is, even in the worst times, the times when everything is going pear-shaped and nothing is going your way, YOU HAVE CHOICE. You are not a victim. You can respond however you want. You have your piece of road and that's all you can control from behind the wheel of your own car. Okay, I can't afford a car, but I can still choose which bus I will take and, instead of thinking of myself as a 54 year old loser who doesn't even own a car, I can consider myself an eco-friendly, considerate consumer who is totally lucky to drive her girlfriend's car when wanted or needed. 

Sure, maybe my creative writing receives sufficient digital rejection slips that, if printed, I could wallpaper my entire crappy apartment that I am fortunate enough to have despite having been laid off from my 20 year career in April. 

I still have some work and I am still getting paid. I am not hungry. I still have the autonomy of my own apartment. I have friends and loved ones. I live a twenty minute walk from the ocean. I have the capacity to write poems and stories and this blog which I hope helps someone, at least one person every week though I rarely receive any comments. When I do, it is evident that they have found value here.

I can't seem to help but keep going, despite the ongoing cruel joke that is menopause and the four or more (I am losing track) medical crises I have experienced since being laid off - probably all jump-started by stress. It's not that I am having an easy time with it all. There has rarely been a day since April without tears and pain, but I am still here. Despite all that has been done to wipe me off the surface of the earth as undeserving, out of the job market, to take away my right to equality as someone who thinks gender is hooey and sexual orientation is not something for which I should be punished because it is simply who I am - I am still here. I am staying. Any changes in my direction will be my choice. If I let go and free-fall, it will be my choice. 

Everyday, in all things, I create the path I walk and the direction I take, my choice. Each of us is unique and each of us has the choice to bring something good to the life we share. To each of you who has tried to change me, stamp me valueless, reject my right to equality, and to obliterate me entirely: 
I am still here.

To each of us who has perpetuated hate or unkindness, I wish us less fear and more kindness - for ourselves and others. I wish us all a learning path, a peaceful path, with room for difference and compassion for our fellows. We are all worthy when we walk with love in our hearts. 

I walk on with my head up, "with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child." -  Comes the Dawn; Veronica Shorffstall; 1971

I choose to stay, for tomorrow is another story, another chance.

Gillian Cornwall, c. July 31, 2016

Sunset - Protection Island
Gillian Cornwall, c. July 31, 2015

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Patience

Mystic Vale, University of Victoria, Saanich
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2016

...it's a virtue right? patience? 

Once again I think I fall short of virtue. I can't even type the word without typing 'virture' instead." Morally good behaviour or character" - that's the definition of virtue but let's get back to patience before mine wears thin.

Patient: Oxford dictionary says: able to accept or tolerate delays, problems or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious" 

It's official - I'm not always patient. 

So when do we go from being patient to being hoodwinked by someone? There have been times in my life when I believe I am being patient but, really, I am allowing myself to be victim to the lack of willingness of another person to try or even acknowledge that their incapacity to grow or change is eroding the life of another.

Our patience is put on trial in all aspects of our world - at work, at school, at home. The fact is, our patience is not a stationary border around us, rather a fluid line depending on with whom we are dealing and what we believe to be at stake.

I follow The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz in all areas of my life but as I face new challenges, I find I need to reintegrate these principles. For those of you not familiar with these agreements, they are with oneself, and they go as follows:

1. Be impeccable with your word (think before you speak and remember that words, once spoken, cannot be unsaid)

2. Don't take things personally (most of what people do has nothing to do with you and everything to do with themselves)

3. Don't make assumptions (we all play tapes in our heads and have specific ones that we haul out when someone says or doesn't say (or do) something that hurts us - ASK! It's the only way to determine a person's intent. They won't always tell you but it puts the onus back on them to own their words, feelings and behaviours)

4. Do your best (Some days your best will be amazing and, well, other days it won't be...and that's okay. Welcome to the human race.)

So 'what the blazes does this have to do with patience?' you ask. Well, really, for me, these agreements put the work and decisions back on me. I can be as patient or as impatient as I choose in each circumstance and it will be on me to deal with the consequences of my choices. I would like to learn to err on the side of more patience than may be needed or warranted but, unfortunately, sometimes I lose it before I get to the 'more' place.... 

I am a fast thinker, a problem solver and a solution maker. I find it difficult to work with slow processors and those who don't vocalize their process, rather blurt their conclusions once reached. I'm certain my way irritates the heck out of some people. I am not very true to my 'stiff upper lip' cultural roots in this regard. I think part of the reason is that I was silenced and ridiculed by some keys folks in my childhood and now, I won't have it. Unfortunately, this has meant that I release my entire process to the world and they can find themselves taken down a highway to hell and back with me until I come to a conclusion which is far less dramatic and simple than the process warranted. Why anyone puts up with me, at times, I don't know. I guess I have some redeeming factors. 

So what is it I'm trying to say? The thing is, this life is a journey and there is no perfect ending or solution, so walk your paths and hold your heads up. Pay attention. Listen and watch along the way. Try to be kind and, yes, try to be patient, but be true to yourself as well. Watch. Listen. Act. Learn. Repeat. Enjoy yourself as much as you can along the way. 

For those of you who have felt victim to impatience - mine or another person's - I am sorry. We are all works in progress. I wish each of us joy, peace, love, light and kindness. I wish us the kind of self-actualization that makes us glow, that connects us to the greater universal energy. Once we find a way to walk our paths interconnected, we will realize our eternal impact and, hopefully, live a life of goodness, wealth of spirit and joy in our connection to life's eternal energy - the one constant to which we can offer a nod and a smile. 

-Gillian Cornwall, Re-posted July 24, 2016
Original Post date c. July 13, 2014.

Waikiki Sunset
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2006

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Food

Fresh farm produce in exchange for work
Lana'i, Hawaii, c. 2008

Food. Sustenance. It is the fuel for our bodies, our minds and, yes, I believe, our souls. They call it soul food for a reason, right? So, why does food cause so many people so much trouble?

First, I want to acknowledge the biggest problem around the world with respect to food: hunger. Millions of people around the world, from the richest countries to the poorest, experience hunger. In Canada, there are many poverty stricken families with insufficient income to provide food for their children and themselves. There are places around the world that suffer from this appalling and unnecessary condition. I do believe that there is enough for everyone, but some people are just too greedy and selfish to share what they have while wasting enough in a year to feed a family of four. We all need to consider this and choose how we move forward.

Secondly, I acknowledge that these are just my thoughts - I'm no food expert and I know that millions of people suffer with disordered eating and I have only a cursory understanding of the path the people who suffer with eating walk. I send each of you love on your journeys.

I love food. I love to eat. Often, I have loved to eat too much of foods which taste delicious, but are silent killers. They get in with us on their good looks and charm and then start tearing us down from the inside out. I don't have to tell you what they are. I don't need to set up a mug shot of the villainous french fry and decry its offenses. I am quite certain we are all aware of this. 

Recently, I had a wee health scare, enough to make me really stop and think ...again - because I have been here before. What is my relationship with that which I put into this incredible, hard-working machine I call my body? What is my relationship with my food, my sustenance? 

I want to talk about the concept of treats. Through the passage of time and the industrial revolution, treats have become processed foods: chocolate bars, chips, candy, ice cream, cup cakes and, in my case, boozy treats. All of these are delicious to the taste buds, but can be hard as heck on our machines, our bodies, particularly in excess and particularly for those of us with addictive personalities (usually folks who have suffered and need self-soothing). Read Dr. Gabor Mate! Back in the day, a treat might have been an exotic fruit - a banana or an orange - sweet and delicious, expensive and rare. 

As a result of my scare, I have chosen to cut out most of the stuff that will cause me pain: dairy, coffee, chocolate and all unhealthy fats. It's not been so bad and, yes, I'll still have a drink now and then but nothing excessive. I have found the change to be quite good so far - particularly if I pack my own lunches for work and I am not forced to eat the quick and easy foods presented at my workplace. I am not counting calories, but have already dropped a pound or two and I haven't even upped my exercise yet. I am changing my perspective to look at the natural bounty of the earth as the treats and the rest as junk that will do me harm.

I think a huge part of my relationship with food is indicative of my relationship with my body. I am overweight. I know this to be true. My knees and back hurt more because I am carrying around about 30 to 40 pounds on top of my optimum weight and it is causing me pain and discomfort. I do not enjoy pain; therefore, I am choosing to make a change because I want to have less pain and less pain will make me happier. 

I don't deny that there is also an aspect of my physical appearance that excites me about losing weight. I am not proud of it but I want to wear different clothes than I can wear now and I am not comfortable wearing them with my current body size - not necessarily because of how they look (although I think that is part of it), but because they are uncomfortable for me in this current iteration of myself. 

It's very hard to approach it without feeling like I have failed myself somehow or that my body, injuries, health issues and menopause have betrayed me, but I acknowledge that I have been more in my head for the past five years or so than I have been in my body. My mind is sharp. I have worked through a great deal of my life's mental traumas and finished the first draft of my novel, but I forgot to bring my body along for the journey in the course of it all. I am fortunate to have supportive people in my life who will always accept and love every iteration of my physical, emotional and spiritual self. It's been a long and winding road! 

I have gone from being an incredible athlete - able to surf, swim over two kilometres, run 5 kilometres and lift epic amounts of weight to someone who now sounds like my dad used to when he was getting out of his chair and I feel like it is way too soon for me to get there. I can do better and I can do it for me. I can do it because I want to be independent and strong and able and well. I want to be grateful to this physical temple that has carried me through all that my life has brought over 54 years even though, sometimes, I have treated it like "the temple of doom!"

Awareness. For me, that is where I have started again and, with great effort on my part, without judgement of how I got here. I am doing my best and every day that looks different. I am who I am. I have done well at surviving and, at times I have thrived, despite "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune..."

I often speak in my blog about kindness and acceptance. Let us not forget that this can, and perhaps must, start with ourselves. Let us treat ourselves to our own well-being. Let the treat be wellness. Let the self-soothing behaviours be done with love. In fact, perhaps we can make the self-soothing behaviours be self-love. You are worthy. You are perfect on your path. 

I don't need a brownie to comfort me. I need to know that I am worthy, that I am loved - firstly by me and then by others. I need to remember that I am whole without another person to tell me I am. I am strong. My wellness counts on it and this body of mine deserves my best efforts as a thank you for all it has done and continues to do for me. Really, It is our bodies that are our unconditional lovers of our essence. They do their best for us always. They stand by us with their every last piece of energy. They carry our souls through this life selflessly and, at times, at the expense of their own infrastructure. 

I hope this makes sense. It is starting to, for me, and I am grateful to my body for keeping going and staying with me through all the times I have ignored and mistreated her. It's time for me to take care of my body as it has taken care of me for so long. Our bodies are our mothers to our souls. Let us treat them well for they have given us life and carried us through our greatest pleasures and difficulties. 

Today, say thank you to your body with some healthy fuel. Say thank you to mother earth for providing that fuel and give back to her. Be grateful for what you have and work together, in love, for the collective wellness of the universal energy of which we are all a part. 

For all of those with insufficient means, I will do what I can to help as I hope everyone who reads this will. We must think of one another and serve one another. There is enough if we all share. If one is suffering, we all suffer. Let's work together to end the suffering.

The World Food Programme is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded. There are many other ways to share what you have with others, including food banks, for immediate aid, and local meal programmes that always need support. Here is a list of some of the options in Victoria, BC:
http://victoriahomelessness.ca/community-resources/meals-food-banks/

For great reads on wellness and healthy eating, check out April Danann's Blog

Gillian Cornwall, c. July 17, 2016

Banana Trees, Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2008

Sunday, July 10, 2016

PRIDE


Pride - as opposed to shame or social stigma. We took the word and marched with it. 

Pride. It's not about tolerance. No-one wants to be tolerated. It's like putting up with something irritating or bad. 

I don't want to be tolerated. I want to be celebrated. Every soul on this earth, all living things can be celebrated - even for one thing, even for potential. From the smallest of creatures to those of the grandest stature, we can find commonalities and differences. Sure - we all just want to live, but let's make that simply the starting point rather than the final goal. 

My culture, my people, have invaded just about every nation in the world in an effort to make other people "like us" because we believed we had it all going on and it would just be much easier if everyone behaved like us.If everyone had to look different then at least we could behave similarly - follow the same religious principles, same political structure and the same lust for land and what we perceived to be "riches." How could one tiny island of people contain so much ego - or was it fear? I'm not proud of that. All that being said, we British have done some pretty cool stuff over time as well and when I go back to that land of my ancestors I feel a different connection to the land of my people. I'm not sure it's national pride, but it is definitely a sense of connection to my roots.

It's not that I'm particularly "proud" of being a lesbian either. In fact, decades of abuse, beatings, marginalization and oppression have made me kind of self-phobic / homophobic. I am eroded and worn by the experience of trying to be myself and love whom I choose. It has been a lifetime fight and I am worn thin, but for all you right-wing, fundamentalist haters out there, don't think this means you have won. It only means you are bullies. I know who I am. I am proud of surviving and, at times, thriving, of moving the cause forward for those younger folks who have followed me with what I hope to be an easier path. I am proud of the brave souls who ploughed a path before me when it was still illegal to be gay in Canada.

I do worry that all the changed laws have only created a veiled acceptance and the same repugnance for those who identify as LGBT* is only held under a blanket of law. I worry that the hate is more insidious. People are aware that it is illegal to commit acts of hate and discrimination so they find ways around it - excuses for taking away your employment, for not serving you well in a store, for excluding and marginalizing. 

I know things have changed and the battles have been well-fought by centuries of people who had to find their way around the hate to the time of Stonewall and the people who stood their ground publicly and said no. I remember when it was a PRIDE march rather than a parade - when you took your life and career in your hands by making that walk. Let us not forget the millions of lesbians and gays around the world who remain imprisoned under a death sentence because of who they choose to love. There are more than seventy-six countries where it is illegal to be gay. There are ten countries where it remains punishable by death.

It is time for me to pull back from the fight somewhat. The battle scars have begun a ceaseless ache in my being and the costs keep going up. It seems the more honest I have been with what I have faced and continue to face, the greater the chicanery and subterfuge used to perpetuate hate and discrimination. So, it is time for me to lay down my sword (aka flag) for the time being and hope that it is picked up by anyone and everyone who is appalled by fear and the hate it creates. 

It's not that I am climbing back into the closet, far from it. I am making way for younger and stronger warriors to lead the charge. The whole battle analogy is weird anyway as I haven't ever raised a hand to defend who I am, with the exception of the instances in the early days where I had to defend myself against the physical blows and sexual assaults instigated by men who thought it was their job to show me what I was supposed to be like as a "real" woman. They are abusers and criminals against love and peace. 

I am a warrior, a survivor, a lover and a philosopher. I am a healer and a teacher, a spiritual guide and a storyteller. I am your daughter, your mother, your sister and your wife. I am a human animal just as you and deserving of peace, kindness and love. I give these things to myself and your hate will never finish me. Of these things, I am proud. I am proud of my physical womanhood. I have no need for the social construct you call gender for that is only a political lie to keep women down. I am a free soul, a superhero of love and of all the things I wonder in the world, it's "Why the heck are you so afraid of me?" 

May your PRIDE come from the knowledge of the worth of your life as it relates to how you value all life, how you raise each other up and celebrate one another for your beautiful uniqueness and difference, without the need to push another down to do so. 

In loving memory of every soul who has been murdered, jailed, beaten, outcast, tortured and marginalized for who they are. In other words, this is dedicated to every LGBT* human throughout time. 

As always, thanks for reading. 


Gillian Cornwall, c. July 10, 2016