Jodi Hills

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


I got to close my eyes.

When I was little, sometimes I would stay with my grandma at the farm. The farm was where my grandma and grandpa lived and worked. We called it “the” farm, as if it were the only one. And in some ways it was, it was ours, and the only one. I’m not sure why, perhaps I know, perhaps I don’t need to say for sure, but as young as three or four, maybe even younger, if you go by memories other than my own, I had a problem with trust. My grandma would say, “Oh, she’s such a good baby. I can put her anywhere and she just stays there until I move her.” She was delighted with this. I think I was probably more afraid than good. I didn’t move, not because I didn’t want to, but more because I was afraid. I didn’t want to get into trouble. When I was just a bit older, my grandma put me in the tractor seat chair by the roll-top desk. We weren’t allowed in the roll-top desk. I had heard that many times. I didn’t technically go in the desk, but I surveyed the items on top as my grandma turned away. I picked up something sharp. It cut my guilty, chubby hand. I threw the razor blade back into the cup on the desk. My grandma turned back around, and knew, as grandmas always do, that I had done something. She came closer. “What did you do?” She asked. I didn’t move. She saw my hand. “Did you touch the razor blade on the desk? “. I still didn’t move. She said, “You know I will still love you. Just tell me.” I closed my eyes. I closed my eyes and told her and she still loved me. I closed my eyes, not in fear, but relief. I closed my eyes and hugged her belly and knew I was home.

When you can trust someone enough to close your eyes, trust them with all the darkness around you, then you are free.

I sleep through the night. My eyes closed, my heart safe and wide open.  2017_heart_exposed_red_card_1024x1024

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The path.

Today I listened to an interview with James Taylor. He recalled a time when he was young — about 18 — he had just broken up with his band and was alone in New York. He was really devastated and alone. His father called from North Carolina and could tell that his son was hurting. He told him, “Just wait. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be there in 10 hours..” And he was. He drove to his son. James Taylor said it is one of the biggest riches of his life. He has money and fame. His greatest fortune is that his father was there for him. How beautiful! More than beautiful. It’s the kindness that stays with us. Makes us whole. Makes us rich. So be nice to someone. It makes a difference. It may just be their fortune. thepath4


Last chance Texaco


You can’t go back…but you can go.

“Where are you from?” Such a common question. But not really a simple answer. Are you from your country? Your state? Your ancestors? Where are YOU from?

That place where you grew up. That doesn’t exist any more.

That town is not the same. That city. That state. My goodness, the nation is ever-evolving. You changed. Of course that town changed. So you can’t go back in time. And what a relief, actually. That place that maybe let you down, taught you impossible lessons, didn’t believe in you… maybe even hurt you — that place is gone. It’s gone. And you lived on. You became something. You became you. So now you can return to that place – and you can say, well, this is me. And it can say, here we are. And you can meet again.

And home will always be home. Because that’s not actually a place, but a feeling. It might be your mother’s embrace. It might be when you learned to read, ride a bike. Felt secure. You can carry that with you, anywhere. So you can’t relive, but oh, how you can live. Live this wonderful journey.

And on this journey, this fabulous drive, maybe your “last chance Texaco” is really just another chance. You fill up, pull out, and go. And you can go. You can always go. You go on. You live. Always another chance. Where did you learn that? Maybe those loving arms that you call home. The same ones that let you go. And hold you now.


I see you.

David Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, writes – In 1998, I made a documentary about the last flophouse hotels on the Bowery in Manhattan. Guys stayed up in these cheap hotels for decades. They lived in cubicles the size of prison cells covered with chicken wire so you couldn’t jump from one room into the next. Later, I wrote a bookon the men with the photographer Harvey Wang.I remember walking into a flophouse with an early version of the book and showing one of the guys his page. He stood there staring at it in silence, then he grabbed the book out of my hand and started running down the long, narrow hallway holding it over hishead shouting, “I exist! I exist.”

What a beautiful gift to give someone. You know we can all do that, just by seeing each other. For me, and maybefor everyonmom portrait to be framede, the worst feeling in the world is that you are disappearing. I’ve always found it so funny when people are asked what superpower they would like to have. Some actually say invisibility. To be able to go anywhere and not be seen. I’ve had that “superpower.” It feels nothing like power. I’ve witnessed these so called invisible people. People without money. People without the right color skin. The right religion. The right race. The right gender. The right politics. The right zip code. We can give them their super powers back. All we have to do is see them. All we have to do is see each other.

And we can start with the people right in front of us. I remember when my father told my mother, “I could kill you and it wouldn’t even matter.” He was so wrong. So incredibly wrong. And so I paint my mom’s portrait. And I love her, as so many do, and she is seen. She is a bright and shining beacon of kindness. What could be more powerful than that. And so I paint my friends. My family. Strangers. They need to be seen. We all need to be seen.

And we don’t have to paint everyone. We can smile. Make eye contact. With every nod, we say, “You exist! You exist!” Nothing could matter more.

(For my mom’s birthday, July 6th, 2017)