Jodi Hills

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

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The Old French dictionary defines the word memorial as “to be mindful of.” I like this. Today is Memorial Day in the United States. Perhaps by this definition, it should be every day.

I give thanks for all those who have made a path before me. Those who have fought for it. Plotted. Planted. Dug deep. Mapped. Weathered. Walked. The soldiers. The grandparents. The children. Each and every loved one who fought for lifetimes, and always left too soon.

Today, I also want to be mindful of the living. While they are alive! Reaching out hands and hearts and smiles. Wiping away tears. Laughing a little louder. Holding hugs just a little bit longer. It’s a beautiful day to remember. It’s a beautiful day to live.

Happy Memorial Day! (and Happy Birthday, Dominique!)

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The view

The view from the window is spectacular.

I arrived in Sedona, Arizona in the dark of night. I couldn’t see any of the surroundings. I went to bed and woke with the sun. I opened the hotel drapes, and almost fell over. The view! I had never seen anything like this! The red rocks. Spectacular! All this was there in the darkness, and I didn’t know it — but the light beamed from rock to rock, yellow mixed with red to create an orange that said, I’ve been here the whole time.

Waking in Italy for the first time, I saw a sky draped in elegant clouds, allowing the sun to still dance across the water. This yellow, this blue, and this playful white that invited me to dance along. I’ve never looked at clouds the same. (Maybe, like Joni Mitchell, I didn’t know clouds at all, until this very morning.)

This morning, I open yesterday’s shutters on yesterday’s house, and I feel a brand new day. The air is fresh, and the birds are singing today’s song. It is a comfort that says, I’ve been here the whole time, and a song that welcomes me to the adventure of this dance.

The view from morningtime — spectacular!!!! Let me always see the gift.

Artist Original ~ As for the clouds, I'm just going to let them roll on by.

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Visit your library


I’m so grateful that I had to walk to the library, search through the card catalog, follow the Dewey decimal system, find the books, read every one to get the one quote I needed for my paper — instead of using Google.

I’m so grateful that I learned to write in cursive, and not emojis.

I’m so grateful that I had typing class, using all of my fingers, and not just my thumbs to text.

I’m so grateful that I wandered without GPS.

I’m so grateful I waited for my favorite shows to come out once a year at Christmastime, and couldn’t view them every day online.

I’m so grateful that I learned to draw without my ipad.

Don’t get me wrong. I love all the new inventions. I make books on my computer. Write my blog every day on my ipad. I use the ipen, draw with Procreate, and read ibooks, and I try to learn all the new apps. I watch Youtube and Netflix and rely on my GPS. But I had to learn how to learn, without technology. This I think was a gift. With it comes patience and problem solving. Not to mention the joy of creating.

You can spellcheck and grammarly your way through creating a “correct” paragraph. You can hit the prompted replies that Gmail offers. And Procreate will straighten the lines you draw. But what did you show the world? Did you show the world your heart? your brain? or ingenuity? or just your technology.

Am I old? Probably. But I’m still learning. And that is the joy. Whatever you love, learn it. Get your hands dirty. Get frustrated in the attempt. Search for the answers. Maybe even visit your local library. Then, when you’ve mastered it with your whole spirit – then, by all means, add everything you want to enhance it. Tools are tools, use them all. Technology and all the advancements that go with it can be extremely useful. Just live a little first. Then you will have something to offer. You may not always be perfect, but what you might end up being is interesting.

I have a computer — I can get all the apps — you don’t need to show me yours. Today, let me see your heart and hands, and I will be so grateful!

It being almost spring, and at the New York Library, I had the choice of going in the front doors, like and between the lions, but I chose the quiet entrance, 42nd street (and lamb).
I had maybe always entered the library that way. Quiet as a lamb. Shy as can be, I had no certainty in myself, in the world, but for the first time, in the Washinton Elementary library, I felt sure. Sure that the answers were here. The questions. The possibilities. All of it. Here were the dreamers and the doers. And me.
The library, any library, had always carried me. Spoke the words I wanted to hear. Knew my name. Held me. Launched me. But the New York Public Library, this almost spring, now that was something extraordinary. It was New York, after all.
I placed one foot in front of the other. Quietly, firmly, on hallowed ground. Smiled at the portraits on the wall, up to the first desk. And there she was, in a tan blazer and cowel neck sweater, and matching hat. Still with a glow of pink from the fresh air of winter’s remains and spring’s knockings, her coat of the same color rested on the back of her chair. She looked up from her clipboard and smiled. And suddenly I was flying over open water, years ago, my head straining to see the lady in the harbour, searching for my welcome… wait, there, yes, there she is…seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time, feeling welcomed, welcomed with complete unknown possibilities, welcomed with dream upon dream, talent and desire, and grit… welcomed with a toughened grace, like I had never seen… and there she was again, on this almost spring day… at the New York Public Library. Welcoming me to it all again. I smiled, wanting to tell her, that she was all of that – she was the welcoming lady in front of a sea of words. I continued to smile, hoping she knew, knowing she must. I only asked if I could take her picture.
Now I paint her and that feeling is all around me. Even in quarantine, I am filled with possibility and hope and certainty. Each letter. Each book. Each dream. I still live in the word. Flying above the water, knowing that all will be welcomed again. And again.

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A beautiful mess

There is a trend on Youtube where creators give sketchbook tours. They film as they page through their perfect sketchbooks – each page the best work they can possibly do – masterpieces. It’s not unpleasant to look at – but it feels a bit inauthentic. (I’m not sure I even sure I like that word – “authentic” – since Oprah it has become so overused – ironically taking out the authenticity of even the word.)

The sketchbook was created as a place to work things out. Find yourself – your strengths, your weaknesses. Explore new ideas. A safe place to simply try. I look at it like a true friend, maybe a family member. That person who not only allows you to be yourself, but encourages it. That person who wants nothing more than for you to create the best you. And the only way to do that really is to explore the options. This true friend, this sketchbook, allows you to take that trip. Fall. Rise. Change. Grow. And they remain, steady, true, with you throughout the journey.
To not embrace the beauty that the sketchbook allows, to me, is really saying, “I don’t trust you enough to show you myself, all of my imperfections and talents.” The gift exchanged between sketchbook and hand, is the trust, the journey. These are the gifts exchanged, I believe, between real friends.

Each day, I trust the pages and playfully explore the gifts I’ve been given. I am not perfect. But I am me.
What a blessing to be yourself. I give thanks each day for the open pages, the people in my life who allow me to be me. I hope, I pray, I promise to try to return the favor every day — to open this day and get joyfully, imperfectly, and delightfully messy.

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Bon voyage

Miss Green was my fifth grade teacher. Both her title, Miss, and her name, Green, should tell you that this was her first teaching experience. And fitting, because this was my first time in fifth grade (my only time :)). It was nice to begin together. In the grades before, all of my teachers were veterans. They seemed to have a leg up. But Miss Green was young and fresh and new and it felt like she was on this journey, not way ahead of us, but with us. Maybe it was her youth, or enthusiasm, that made us feel like anything was possible. When she hung the giant map on the wall, and told us that each week we would take a trip, a spelling trip, it really felt like we were packing our bags and taking flight! We closed our eyes and randomly pushed a pin into the map, and then had to research the destination and write a story about our imaginary travels.

I think this began my life-long adoration for travel. And what a gift that was. I had no money. No experience. No real reason to believe it would ever become a reality. But what she gave me, us, was hope, possibility. And I still carry it with me.

Today I sold a painting that will ship to Washington, DC. A part of my heart goes with it. From my hands, to the canvas, to the plane, to its new home. In this lockdown world, I am traveling. And it feels as magical as it did in fifth grade.

I do not live in the same country as Miss Green, (now Mrs. Vickerman), but today, we are both going on a journey together. Bon Voyage!

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When I was in kindergarten, first grade, and second and third, even fourth… my yearly review always noted that I was so quiet. “She works really hard. Does well…but so quiet.” My mother – a defender from the start would always reply, “When she has something to say, she will say it.”

I carried that with me. It fit into that tiny place in my heart, and filled it. For that’s what I was doing – filling my heart, my soul, my brain, and my courage (wherever that is carried – probably in all of those places). I believed that when they were full, full all the way into my throat, that I would speak, really speak. But something magical happened. As I became more full, of knowledge, and hope and questions, and dreams, all these things began to channel to my hands. My hands. I had hoped to fill my mouth with all of these feelings, but they had a path of their own, and they went straight for my hands.

Whatever I was feeling, happy or sad, I would go into my room and draw a picture. Or write a poem. From the age of 5 or 6 it began. Slowly, softly. I had a voice, it was just coming through my hands.

Through the years, more people began to hear it. Hear it, me. Understand, me. I did have something to say, just a different way to say it. Words and colors mixed together to create a noise for all the world to see, to hear.

What’s even more beautiful, in finding my voice, I found a way to listen. Sharing my stories and life, opens others, and they feel safe to share their stories with me, with others. And to me, that feels like living. Really living. Each time someone tells me their story, I am filling up, able to share more, and it is a beautiful cycle. A beautiful noise.

We all have a voice. A story. Something to share. No one should be silenced. Listen. Share. Believe. “When you have something to say, say it.” Find a way. You have a voice. I’m listening.



By nature, I guess I’m a bit of a worrier. Not that things are going to be bad necessarily, but I’m constantly thinking about the what if, the what next. I have found comfort in making. Making anything. When you’re creating something, you have to stay in the moment. If you are building a frame, you first have to find the wood. Then cut the wood. Then sand the wood. Then nail it together. Then sand the wood again. Then stain it. If you were to get ahead of yourself, stain it before you sand it for example, it wouldn’t work. And so I create, step by step. Patience. A virtue to be learned daily.

Painting is the same for me. Building the canvas. Then gessoing the canvas. Then beginning with the image. It takes a while to appear. Whether painting a person, or a pear, to give it life, it must have layers, depth, thought… time. Step by step. Stroke by stroke. Patience.

I have done both enough to know that it will work out, or should I say, that I will work until it does.

Yesterday I made a frame for my pear. A patient pear that deserved to be completed. I carry the lessons of this “still life” into today, and wish the same for my heart and mind — to be patient, to be still, and know that it will all work out as it should. And it will be beautiful.

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Dig deep

We have a large garden. Which means we also have a lot of weeds. And oh, the strength of weeds. They seem to be able to survive anything. Their only weakness comes after the rain. When the rain soaks the ground around them, everything loosens. Lets go. And it is so much easier to pull out the weeds. From the roots. Get rid of them.

I have this thought that maybe we’re the same. I think it’s ok to cry. For me, when I need to loosen the fear, or anger, maybe the sadness, I let the tears flow. And all those weeds around my heart start to loosen. I’m able to pluck them out and focus on what I have. What is growing inside of me. Growing every day. And it is beautiful!

I watched the Andy Griffith show as a kid. (Still do when I get the chance) It always made me laugh. One day Aunt Bea arrived at the Sheriff’s office, very upset. Crying and breathing heavy, Deputy Fife, in his Fife-like way, huddled around her, saying… “We should loosen something… what can we loosen?” It’s so funny, but so true.

If you need to loosen something today, I’m with you. If you need to let it rain, I’ll cry with you. And if you need to dig deep, I’ll grab my shovel. We’re in this together — in this beautiful garden together! Let’s grow.

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You have to dare to give of yourself, as freely

as the gift was given. As freely as this gift said yes to you, you

have to do the same. You have to say, yes, I see!

You have to be bold enough to embrace it, even when others will

tell you it isn’t there. That YOU aren’t there. You have to be bold

enough to say, I have been given a gift. I have been given a life

that is worthy of being seen. I am here. And that is something!” Jodi Hills

Dominique received a wine refrigerator for a gift. It arrived on a pallet. That was a gift for me. I took the pallet apart. No easy task. The extra long nails put up a fight, as I imagine they should – it’s their job. On a rainy afternoon, I separated each piece of wood. I cut the boards into equal lengths. Put them in my handmade square (also made out of scrap wood), nailed them together, and secured them with equal lengths on the back. It was strong. I sanded the new piece, smooth, but still revealing it’s beautiful flaws. It had been through a journey to get here, so why not show that? I gave it a light stain, then began to paint. And she arrived. Slowly, hair, eyes, a comforting smile. She would be my welcome into the studio. She would be my, “Well, we’re open. I’ve been waiting for you.”

You have to claim it.  This is my special place. I want anyone who enters, literally or virtually, to know it. And I need to remind myself of it, every time I pass through that beautiful door to my studio. I have been given a gift. I used to be afraid to say that – like maybe it sounded like I was bragging – but no, it is exactly the opposite. I have been given a GIFT – and what a gift – to be able to do what I love!  This is life! The thing is -we all have – we’ve all been given a gift!  But we do have to claim it. We have to be bold enough to live it – pull at the dirty nails and shape and form and glue and paint! We have to be bold enough to live it. 

So I welcome myself to this day. I welcome you to this day! We are here!!! And that is really something! (Oh, and I almost forgot – there’s also the wine.)


Fruits doux

Yesterday morning we put on new pants and went to the center of Aix. It felt like a day for new pants, as our stores have been closed for over a year. Masked and motivated we walked on Rue d’Italie, per the suggestion of our favorite pastry chef. (We went there the day before, fully clothed, but not in new pants, and the pastry master — although a master — was not making what we were looking for — hand crafted marzipan candies in the shapes and colors of realistic fruit. We have specific needs.) With our new information, and new pants, we set out on our adventure. Maybe that’s the gift that Covid has given us – a renewed sense of appreciation for the little things, like sweet and glorious handmade candies, from an open store, in an open city.
We walked up close to the window. Maybe… no, just callisons filled the window (also an amazing french delight, but again, the heart, or mouth, wants what it wants.) But wait, no, let’s go inside. There! There they are! Yes! Victory! Look at those beautiful candies. Should we get two bags? (in my defense, the bags are very small — tres petits!) Do we need two? We need two. She placed them in our beautiful sack for confiserie and we stepped lightly and joyfully (in my heart I was skipping like a schoolgirl) back to the car.
We took off our masks. Opened the bag, and each ate one. Slowly. C’mon! It was vacation! It was summer! It was open streets and soft sugar goodness! We ate a second, and Dominique told me to hide the bag. We finished the bag after lunch. I would have eaten anything for lunch just to get back to the candy.
I know we will finish the second bag today. We bought them to eat, to enjoy! There’s no need to put off deliciousness. Yesterday was an adventure. We filled our hearts. We fed our souls. We tasted this life!!!!
I can’t wait to taste today! Bon appétit!