Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…

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Sometimes we need to step back, to see what is right in front of us.

IMG_6363I never liked Agnes. The lake by our house. Lake Agnes. I never talked about her. I never went in her. I didn’t speak to her as I raced by on foot or on bicycle. Agnes was not popular, unless you were a goose. Maybe a duck. I was neither. And so I didn’t even really see her. The lake I passed by almost every day, I chose not to see.

I loved lakes. Lake Latoka. Yes, I will ride by bicycle to swim to you. I will meet my friends there. I will go there alone. Yes, the water was wonderful. The sound of the waves, the coolness. The freshness. The joy. I did love lakes.

I imagined what others would be like – others outside the 10,000 of Minnesota. 10,000. 10,000! C’mon – that’s huge, but maybe not when you live there. And so I dreamed of others. Florida. Yes, Florida. The ocean. Wow. It was amazing. I saw it for the first time in 9th grade. I burned my Minnesota white skin (almost lavender winter skin) on Cocoa beach. Yes, I loved the water. This was beauty. Even through my sun swollen eyes, I knew. This was beauty.

florida keys good

I live in France now. We visit Marseilles. Aaaaah, L’Estaque. Cezanne painted it. Loves were made on the shore. Lives changed by the beauty. The beauty. I was in love.L'Estaque


I went back to Agnes. I took a few pictures. Wait. Had she always bee
n beautiful? I mean, really beautiful. I walked by her. Slowly. She had no touristed beaches. She was in no pictures. No paintings. No movies. But she was blue, wasn’t she? Really, such a lovely blue. And she was still there. She was unapologetically still there. For geese and ducks. And me. She had waited. And yes, she was beautiful.

I recently painted Agnes. L’Estaque. Florida Keys. It was all beauty. Unique. Giving. Lasting. Beauty. Each with a story to wash up on shore. And I listened. I painted. I was in love.

Beautiful!  Blue.


Beautiful Women.

I was reminded today of the resilience of women. We see the signs of war every day. If we are lucky, we see them only on television. People are living these lives. But if we are the lucky ones, to only get clips of these wars, we have to be aware that we are usually only given one perspetive. The male perspective. We see the guns and the fighting and the tanks and the soldiers. Yes, there are some women soldiers and we must not eliminate them either. But as Zainab Salbi tells us in her most recent TED Talks – we are missing so many stories.

We are missing the story of Fareeda, a music teacher in Sarajevo, who made sure that she kept the music school open every single day in the four years of besiege in Sarajevo and walked to that school, despite the snipers shooting at that school and at her, and kept the piano, the violin, the cello playing the whole duration of the war, with students wearing their gloves and hats and coats. That was her fight. That was her resistance.

We are missing the story of Nehia, a Palestinian woman in Gaza who, the minute there was a cease-fire, she left out of home, collected all the flours and baked as much bread for every neighbor to have, in case there is no cease-fire the day after.

We are missing the stories of Violet, who, despite surviving of a genocide in the church massacre, she kept on going on – burying bodies, building homes, cleaning the streets.

She also tells us of her days of being a humanitarian. She went to Bosnia in the days of Sarajevo. It was the longest besieged city. She went to the women there and asked them what they wanted her to bring next time she came. One woman said lipstick. She replied, “Don’t you want like, I don’t know – vitamins?” And she replied, “No, lipstick.” She explained, “…because it’s the smallest thing we put on every day and we feel we are beautiful, and that’s how we are resisting. They want us to feel that we lipstick womanare dead. They want us to feel that we are ugly.”

And another woman said, “I put on the lipstick every time I leave because I want that sniper, before he shoots me, to know he is killing a beautiful woman.”

These are the stories we can’t miss. We can’t miss them from the war. We can’t miss them from our daily lives. Joyfully, my mother taught me that lesson years ago. When I was sick, or when she was sick, she told me this, “Slap on a little lipstick, you’ll be fine.” When I had surgery for the 20th time. When my father left. When we lost our house. “Slap on a little lipstick, you’ll be fine.” Somehow, some way, she too, let me know, that whatever this world was going to throw at us, they were going to throw it at a beautiful woman! What a gift! I will not forget it. I will not let you forget it either.

No matter what this world throws at you, you will thrive, believing in mother’s simply brilliant words, “Slap on a little lipstick, you’ll be fine.”


No path back.

Reaching for my iphone this morning, I could see a book of poetry on the shelf. I thought, “I was raised on poetry. I need to read more. Every day.” I grabbed the phone and went to exercise. The book stayed on the shelf.

While exercising I like to listen to podcasts. Today, on This American Life, it was “It’ll make sense when you’re older.” The stories went from kids in school, who thought they knew everything, how they got a little older, started to realize what they didn’t know, and ended with an elderly man in the beginnings of Alzheimers. He hated going to the doctor. At 79, and a successful physics professor, he was irritated, that this 40 year old doctor, now asked him the simplest questions. Who is the president? What year is this? Can you draw a clock? It was so simple, until one day, it wasn’t. He said the doctor told him to draw a clock face showing the time 11:20. He picked up the pencil. Held it to the paper. His brain did nothing. He looked at the pencil. He looked at the blank paper. He couldn’t do it. He could not draw a clock. He felt like something had been taken from him. His brain had let him down. In the weeks following, he tried to use his brain, to figure out why his brain wasn’t working, wasn’t allowing him to draw the clock. He figured out that the clock had three major things – the small hand, which told the hours. But it was small? Why was the important thing so small? It had the bigger hand, which told the minutes. Now he had to count by 5’s with each number. Then the largest hand, which was the skinniest, told the seconds. Breaking it down, and learning what each component was for, he willed himself to tell the time. In the interview, he explained what he had to do each time he wanted to tell the time. The process, for those listening, seemed agonizing. Yet, even though htreee was hung up by his sweater covering his watch, he prevailed. It took several minutes, but he was able to tell the time. And he felt good. He said it gave him a little pep. And this is what he took. He took the only gift that was given. He told the interviewer that this is what he had now – “There is no path back.” Wow. The words rung inside of me. “There is no path back.” He said he would never return to a time, when just telling time, was simple, just managing time.

There is no path back. That is true for all of us. I did read a poem today. I read, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” by Wallace Stevens.
Later, I will go look for one.

And I write a poem –

Today i will read a poem.
Write a poem.
Feel the sun. IMG_8798
Eat cake, or a cookie, at least!
Laugh. Laugh and Laugh.
Learn something. Think.
I will be curious.
I will be thankful.
The river will flow.
The black bird will fly.
I will drink the wine and love.
Oh, how I will love. Today.
Today the path lies before me.
There is no path back.
I see the black bird.