Jodi Hills

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


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Patience

I must admit that I have struggled with this one — patience. But the world is determined to teach me. Waiting for packages. Waiting for hearts to grow. Minds to change. Learning. Every day with the learning!

And so, as if part of the lesson, we are celebrating Thanksgiving, not on a Thursday, but a Saturday night. My mind wants to race ahead, keep abreast with my American colleagues and put up the Christmas decorations. But patience tells me, and oh, I try to listen, enjoy the Thanksgiving. Don’t let it slip away because you are too eager for the next. The next will come, without your knowledge or permission, so enjoy the now. Oh, patience…give me some of that wisdom.

Just as easily as we can get stuck in the past, we can also get stuck in tomorrow. Today, I just want to be thankful for today. Thankful that I have something special — a Saturday Thanksgiving! Filled with all the traditional and nontraditional joy that a French Saturday Thanksgiving can bring.

Hello, patience. Let’s put those turkey parts in the oven, and let the festivities begin. And before I forget — THANK YOU!


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Days of thanks.

This past Labor Day, we visited Washington, D.C. It was a warm day — just enough heat to let down your defenses and let you feel at one with nature. No difference between your body temperature and the air surrounding you. We walked freely and easily to each monument. The stairs to Lincoln were long and high, and worth each sweaty step. I couldn’t help but notice each of us wore a warm and glistening glow, from the sun sure, the labor of the steps, but mostly, I think, from the hope and promise that sat before us.


With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it is good to remember how Lincoln transformed this holiday for us all. There is much controversy with the holiday beginnings, as there should be, I suppose, but Lincoln took the holiday and turned it into a day of thanks, for all to celebrate.
It was Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, who began using her columns to push for nationalizing Thanksgiving and celebrating it on the last Thursday in November. (A good woman behind every man as they say – and this time – out in front). She wrote a letter to Lincoln, stressing the urgency of making Thanksgiving “a National and fixed Union Festival” that would offer healing to a torn nation.

After receiving her letter, Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as a day when we would give thanks “as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People,” including “my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands.”


This “sojourner” wants to give thanks, every day. I understand how blessed, I am, we are, to stand in the labor, the hope that each day brings.


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Summer of ‘63

I was given a small photo of three boys fishing at the lake. He was commissioning me to create a large painting of the image. First I made the lake. The shoreline. The dock. Then each brother, in order of their age. Just as they would have entered this life, they appeared on the canvas. I don’t paint anything I can’t feel, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting to feel this much. Perhaps it was so emotional because this is where I, too, began. Near this lake. In this small town. Perhaps because I knew what their futures held. Part of me wanted to tell each one what was to come…but that wouldn’t be right, even if possible. For they, all three were safe in this moment. Pure. And this is where I would capture them. Forever innocent, in the summer sun of 1963. Full of hope.


I didn’t notice until I was finished the date on the side of the photograph – it was January, 1964. Clearly this picture wasn’t taken in January in Minnesota. But I imagine the photographer, the boys’ mother or father, must have been waiting to finish the roll of film. We used film back then. And if you bought a roll, of say 36, then you waited patiently, or not patiently, until you finished the roll, and then brought it to the film corner in the drug store to be developed. I imagine they finished the roll at Christmas time, and then had it developed.


Maybe time moved slower then. Summers lasted longer. Still, they, we, couldn’t stop it. Probably the best we can do is capture the moments. On film. On canvas. In our hearts. And feel everything. Feel the heat of the sun. The possibility rolling in with each gentle wave. The time when the common goals of youth kept us together. Easily. Slowly.


Today, these three young boys are fishing together in the south of France. Hopeful, excited, ready to go home.


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Unshackled.

It’s funny how we can all be looking at the same thing, and see something so different. When for each of us, I suppose, it is so clear, so very, very clear. But maybe it’s so clear, that it’s invisible.

We will never all have the same vision. And we shouldn’t. We need the open eyes and hearts of everyone to make this world interesting. Beautiful. Sometimes we will agree. Sometimes we won’t. But I think the key is to know why we are choosing to see what we see. Am I looking out of love, or out of fear? Am I blocking the path for others, or clearing a way? Do I really have the whole picture?

We were driving along the Mediterranean and Dominique pointed out an island. It seemed pretty close. If I opened the car window, I thought, I could just reach out… He told me it was two miles away. I saw a few swimmers braving the cooler temperatures and thought that island must seem an eternity away, if even visible from behind each wave. Same island. Different perspective.

We are all looking. Seeking. Wondering. There is so much to see. And we all want to be free to see it in our own way. But to truly be free, we have to learn. We have to understand that while some of us are on the open road, others are fighting a continuous wave. All to get to the same place of joy. The same place of understanding.

I guess the answer is to seek wisdom. Find grace. Teach. Reveal. Oh, education, the great unshackling! Free from our own ignorance, then, I imagine… oh, the things I imagine!!!! It’s so beautiful! Can you see it?


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Big deal.

Yesterday morning I was romanticizing the beauty of hotel bedrooms. I’m not sure why. The person who does the filing in my brain must have pulled out that particular file and the images were so inviting, I sprung into action. I pulled the sheets off of our bed, the pillowcases and duvet cover, putting them in the laundry. Found a new set of sheets, and stretched them over the bed. They were ironed, (yes, I do iron our bedding) but still needed the smoothing of my hand, if only for the welcoming. I dressed the pillows. Filled the duvet cover. Found a new throw blanket to style. Even though the cover was ironed, it’s time in the cupboard was apparently not that easy, so I got the iron and steamed it back to its origin. So clean and fresh, I lit the candles on the bedside tables in celebration. The sun shone directly on this hoteled bed and for one brief moment, I thought, yes! But the sun said, wait… look at the windows. Oh, that sun can see everything. This beautiful bed deserved clean windows, so I got the Windex and paper towel and squeegee and went to work. Round and round each pane. The inside and outside. Of course, in doing this, yesterday’s vacuumed floor was not spackled with dust, so I got out the new vacuum and followed it’s headlight until the floor was once again clean.


Today, it will show a bit of rumpling, and I will fight the good fight with smoothing hands. But tomorrow it will show a little more, and a little more the day after that. And that’s ok. Because yesterday, for a brief moment it was perfect, when my husband eased himself under the covers and said, “It feels like a brand new bed!”


We think life is made up of a few grandiose events, but really, it’s a million little moments. The everyday things. The clean sheets. The croissants for breakfast. The hopes that shine through the windows with each morning sun. These are the moments! I want to respect them, work for them, enjoy them, live them!


Here comes another! Don’t miss it! Each little thing is a pretty big deal!


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Stringing joy.

My office smells like the cinema this morning. I began stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree we have yet to purchase. I usually don’t start decorating until the day after Thanksgiving, but technically, I thought, this wasn’t really decorating, it was just pre-decorating. Truth be told, I also started hot gluing the strings on the pine cones from our yard. Still, only the “pre” stage.


I love Christmas! I mean, I really love it! And I want to be patient. And stringing popcorn, what an exercise in patience! I have a memory of popcorn being one big chunk of white fluff at the top that you could easily slide the needle through — but not our popcorn. Our popcorn pops with a flurry, in some sort of neurotic burst that makes the accessible part – almost inaccessible. But I love the look. The smell. The challenge of it all. So I strung, bit by bit, through the tears of watching Love Actually for the 15th time.


I will never apologize for feeling. I want to feel everything! And when there is joy – I will do my best to elongate it! Stretch it out, string it along, kernel by neurotic kernel. You don’t need my permission, but I will offer it anyway, wrap it in colorful, scent-filled words, telling you to do it – find what you love and do it! This day and every day – ’tis the season.


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This little light of mine.

We got a new vacuum cleaner. It has a very bright headlight. It was amazing, and a little bit frightening, what I could see in the corners, under furniture — see what I had been missing. The great revealer, this light. It was so satisfying to know that I was actually making a good cleaning. It felt good, and I found myself vacuuming with enthusiasm. I can’t go back now, to the old vacuum, the old way…I know too much.

I suppose it’s that way with everything. At least I would hope so. But in so many ways, I think we are failing. In the few minutes of news a day that I allow myself (my heart can’t take too much), I see, what I can only call filth. The absolute worst of us, making the same mistakes over and over. And we allow it. We shine the light on it, and still refuse to see it. We have to do better than this. We know better. Right and wrong are not that difficult to see.

Get your house in order, they say. And I guess that’s right. I will do my best in my little corner of the world. Try to make it as beautiful as I can. It was what we were taught, wasn’t it? This little light of mine? I’m gonna let it shine.


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To flutter.

I woke up to another 5-star review on my Etsy page. She said my painting “was her very favorite in her whole house!” Just a few words strung together, but they fit perfectly into my heart and filled it!
It’s amazing what we can do for each other. Just the tiniest bits of kindness. Humanity. It’s so contagious. I give you a piece of my heart. You pass it along to someone else. It flutters and flies and fills the air.


Some will call it the butterfly effect — how the simple flapping wings of butterflies in India can change the weather in Iowa. I am not a scientist, but I have seen this play out with humans. I have seen the flapping of kindness change the behavior of many. I have seen the soaring effects, the light and airy beauty of it all. And I want to be a part of it. A part of the beauty. Of the changes.


Today, can we let go of all the things that are weighing us down? The weapons of bigotry, and hate. Fear and anger. Can we just let them go and fly? Oh, how I hope so! Let’s fill the sky. We can be the change.
I’ll see you up there!


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Rise up.


She sang with her whole body, this woman in the choir. I was just a child at Bethesda Lutheran Church. Sitting in the pew in front of the choir loft. The crowd was silent as she swished to the music stand. I know now that it was her nylons rubbing together, but then it seemed as if she were floating. She was more strapped in, than wearing that polyester dress. The fabric gripping each curve of her torso, rising up to the gold plated brooch on her shoulder. The organist began the intro, and I heard her breathe in. I could feel myself being pulled back with the intake. I turned around, resting my head on the wooden pew. It would not be enough to say she “sang” this song, this hymn, “The old rugged cross,” but more that this music rose from within her. It rolled, so majestic, through each ripple of that Lutheran polyester, gathering strength in her core, building through her heart, and then, like powerful lava flowed over the congregation. She said she would cherish the old rugged cross, and I, we, believed her.


I want to say her name was Doris. I’m sorry if that’s not right. But I can see her, to this day. Rising above us all, with this gift of song.


I don’t think I can recite most of the things we had to memorize. I can’t recall the sermons. But I remember the pure grace I saw with this woman. This unconventional beauty.


My mother is still waiting for a call of support from her church. It’s only been six years since she received her first diagnosis of cancer. But, at the same time, she has been given love. Friends who show up with cookies. Rides to doctor appointments. Beautiful cards. And books. Phone calls of laughter. Hugs of encouragement. Shared tears. For what is church, other than the kindness of people. The grace of the imperfect, rising up! I give thanks for each Doris willing to carry your burden for just a few moments. Moments that will last a lifetime.


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Adelaide!

Adelaide!

The apricot tree in our front yard is letting loose her leaves. She, (because of course I named her — Adelaide) is not bearing fruit, not green with the youth of spring, but golden. So beautifully golden. And never, I think, is she more vibrant. She cries her golden tears, not in sorrow, but gentle tears of tenderness, so loving, such beautiful memories of summer breezes. The pines that surround her, evergreen, never make fun of her…I imagine they marvel at her strength, almost envy her ability to feel the changing seasons — her ability to color her surroundings with her ever adapting heart.

My mother had to shed a few tears on the phone yesterday. It was one of those days. An Adelaide day. She worried that she was letting me down in this moment – that she wasn’t being strong. Impossible, I said. I stand pine-tall beside her, and know that I am witnessing the most beautiful colors of an ever adapting heart. The most golden pool of life itself!

Remember in the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes — when she shouts out “Towanda!” “Towanda” is a reference to the alter-ego of the character Idgie. Idgie refers to Towanda as an “Amazon woman” and introduces herself as “Towanda.” It is the name she uses when she wants to feel strong, empowered. So, too, aging Evelyn shouts out “Towanda!” as she runs her car into the snobby young ladies who take her parking spot. “Towanda!” It became a battle cry for 80’s. Well, today, my Towanda is Adelaide! Adelaide I shout to the sky! Adelaide, I shout for all the beautiful women in their beautiful golden battles! You are strong! You are empowered. You are beautiful! Adelaide!