Jodi Hills

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


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One

She, at the age of ten, already has a vastly greater grasp of the french language than I do. It is humbling for sure, and that’s not a terrible thing, but sometimes I wonder, what do I have to offer if I can’t convey it? Then we go to the studio. My paint. My brushes. My canvas. This is my language. And she wants to learn. I give her a small canvas and ask her what she’d like to paint. Immediately she looks around – at everything I’ve done. (And that’s when I think, I do have something to offer.) The apples. She wants to paint the apples in a bowl. I place that painting in front of her. Tell her to just draw in pencil at first. Give herself a good start. She chooses the paints. We create a palette. Slowly we go through each step. The light. The shading. The mixing. She is interested. Curious. And she is learning. It is a beautiful thing. We are different in age and culture and language and knowledge, but here, we are one heart, one creation, and that is everything.

It’s not easy to come together. Efforts need to be made. Egos must be put aside. We have to be curious. Interested. Yes, it can be difficult, but the rewards — immeasurable. Stop looking for the things that make us different – because you will find them — it’s so easy. Look for the things that can bring us together. And look again. And again. One creation. One heart. Everyone. That’s everything.


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Delicious

It’s natural to want someone to love what you love. Most afternoons, my husband and I enjoy iced vanilla lattes. I love being the barista. I measure, and pour and stir. The color fits perfectly into my most calming palette. It is cool and soothing, and I’ll say it – extremely delicious! I am proud of it. I delight in it. I want to share it!

When she came over in the afternoon, I thought I would surprise her with this tremendous gift. I was sure she would say, “Wow!” as I do every day with each sip. I poured and measured and stirred with anticipation. Upon entering our salon, I offered up my most treasured afternoon delight. “Oh, no…” she waved it off, “I don’t like milk with my coffee.” Oh, no? How could this be? No wow? I hadn’t seen this coming at all. The conversation moved on and I stood motionless with a latte in each hand.

I’ll admit it stung for a minute. I think my first reaction is, you don’t like me? We probably all have that reaction on some level. This is something, I, we, need to get over. We don’t all like the same things. We don’t even like the same people, but we can still come together. We can still enjoy what we enjoy. And let others enjoy what they enjoy. Believe what they believe. Love who they love. We can do this, if we make the effort.

We all enjoyed a day in the sun. In the pool. I roasted marshmallows over an open flame. Some people love them. She did. I don’t really, and yet she still likes me. I smile. We can do this.


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Growing the herd.

I first learned about herds on my grandfather’s farm. He had a herd of cows. “Why do animals need to be in a herd?” I asked him. “If the herd doesn’t pull together, it can be in danger. The herd knows its survival is dependent on the herd.” I shook my head. It made sense, but it also made me nervous. We, my mother and I, were in trouble. We had lost our herd. He could see me doing the math in my head, subtracting all those who had gone away. “How many does it take to make a herd?” I asked, hoping, pleading, begging with my heart for it to be a small number. I’m sure he could see my desperation for a clear and concise answer. “Two,” he said, and took my hand. Looking back, I’m not sure if he meant him and me, or my mom and me, but either way I was happy. I was a part of something. I would survive.

I’ve heard it used, and overused, the phrase – “We’re all in this together.” (I think I’ve used it myself.) But are we? Humans are herd animals. We do need each other. In a perfect world, I guess we would be – one human race – one herd, helping each other live a little better, a little stronger.

Each day I reach out my hand with words and paintings in hopes to strengthen the herd. You reach back by telling me your experience. And we find out a few more things about one another. My mom exclaimed in delight the other day, “I didn’t know Lynn Norton liked Jeopardy!” And we are all a little more connected.

The herd is as strong as we make it. Reach out your hand.


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Hope.

Hope.

If I would have painted the clouds I saw yesterday, you may have said, “Well, that’s just wrong. Clouds don’t look like that.” But I saw them. From the pool. I was doing laps and out of the goggled corner of my eye, I saw something so blue, so white, I had to stop. I took off my goggles and looked up at the sky. It was so beautiful. The sky was blue. The kind of blue that artists try to invent and call their own. And the clouds — they weren’t puffs of white, or animals, or anything familiar — it was as if nature had taken its incredibly large brush and flung it across the sky. Not contained by recognizable shapes, but just pure motion. I told myself to breathe and look. A part of me wanted to jump out the pool and grab my camera, so I could capture it, stop it, but it was a windy day, and I knew if I took the time to dry off, go upstairs, get the camera, the magic could be gone, offering this vision of hope (For that’s what it felt like – pure hope) to some other person, looking up in the summer sky. I didn’t move. I didn’t want to miss it. Because maybe that’s the way hope works — it’s always there in constant motion — we think it has to stop for us, but maybe, maybe we have to stop for it. Just stop and see it. Feel it, believe in it. And I do. Fear wanted me to race after my camera, stop time. Hope told me to just stop. Feel. And believe.

I don’t want it to end. So I tell you. And it lives on. And maybe you tell someone else, and maybe we all live a little lighter, a little more hopeful, a little less fearful, under the ever changing strokes of white and blue. That can’t be wrong.


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Pulling nails

Yesterday I spent two hours pulling nails and unscrewing screws out of reclaimed wood. I like to call it reclaimed, and not used. Used sounds almost damaged, doesn’t it? Sure it is worn and in need of a little repair, but it has worth. So much worth.


To reclaim, by definition is “to retrieve or recover something previously lost.” This wood may no longer be an armoire, but now it will have new life. It may become the four pieces of wood that support the canvas that proudly displays the portrait of the previously unseen person. There is worth in that! A portrait held in front of the woman who says, “I never saw myself as beautiful, until today.” Now this is the ultimate joy, for me the creator, the wood, the canvas, the paint, the staples, the nails… for we all have a part in it. Even the armoire that no longer exists, lives on in this new face.


If we can see the beauty that comes from each step, and not just the final outcome, then maybe on those days that we are asked to pull the nails, we can still find the joy. There is no doubt you will be asked, for yourself, and for others. You will be asked to be the wood, be the canvas, the paint… and in time, without your knowledge or permission, you will be the one who shines – the face in full claim on the canvas.

So I, we, pull the nails, and reclaim the day.

Transition

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I woke up wondering how I would make the transition from yesterday’s post into today’s. Not like Casey Kasem (the famous radio host) ranting about making the transition from an uptempo song to a somber dedication – I wasn’t that concerned, but it was on my mind. But that’s life, isn’t it, making the transitions? It’s easy, or perhaps more understandable, to be in the middle of something. For example, it’s easy to be in love, and it’s easy to be single, but to make the transition from one to the other… well, I think we’ve all been there. Life gives us constant change, and we have to make the transitions.

Each morning, when I’m doing my French lessons, I know that right after I will be writing the daily blog. Some days I have an idea, and other days I don’t. I just begin to write. Beginning is always the most difficult. Once I start. The words flow. And I let them. I don’t edit. I hope that’s not too obvious… or maybe I do… I hope you can tell that each post is coming straight from my heart.

We’re all asked to go through things, impossible things. Here, in these transitions, is where we need the most grace, from ourselves and from each other. In the transition is where each new day begins. Each opportunity. Each glorious awakening. Believe in the unbelievable. Find the joy. Good morning!

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A rose by any other name

I showed her a picture of the roses outside our front door. She breathed deeply into the phone and asked if I looked at them every day. “Yes,” I said. I could feel her smiling on the other end of the phone. She had taught me that – to pay attention to the details – be grateful for the little things, the impermanent things.

On Sunday evenings in our small apartment, the apartment where you couldn’t drink the water from the tap, we would lie by the record player (it was that big) and dream out loud of all the things we would do. She said, “If I had a big house, I would go from room to room. Not in a hurry. But slowly. And enjoy each space. I would read a different book in every chair. Sing a different song out each window. It would welcome me and it would feel glorious and I would belong – in every room.” I have that now, what my mother dreamed up (because I believe that’s what we do, for ourselves and each other – create the dreams, manifest them). And I am grateful. And I do belong. In every room. I claim the spaces with books and paintings and flowers and songs and love. And I am home.

I see the roses when I open the shutters each morning. I see them out the kitchen window as I make the coffee. I really see them. I appreciate them. (And yes, I stop to smell them.)

I was watching a YouTube video by Bryce and Hailey (a young couple from Alexandria, MN — my hometown, where my mom still lives). They were visiting all of the thrift shops and I went along with them. Each street. Each store. The last thrift shop they were in was about a block from my mother’s apartment. I watched the video again and again, willing them to go just that one block over and see her. See her waving out the window. Walking down the street. “She’s right there,” I kept telling the screen. Please go see her. I know she’s there.

I fill the coffee pot with water, smile at the roses, and dream up another beautiful day, because that is what I was taught to do.

I watch the video again and know she is there. I move from room to room and know she is here. A rose, by any other name.


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Don’t dig your toes in.

We have become polarized in so many ways the past few years. “But they didn’t vote right.” “They aren’t wearing a mask.” “They’re protesting the wrong way.” “Who do they think they are?” “They can’t be serious!” “It’s just so obvious!!!” Each side certain of their beliefs. And not just certain, planted, stuck.

I started practicing yoga. There is a pose called tree pose. You have to balance on one foot, bringing your other heel half way up that balanced leg. When you feel steady, you can bring your hands to your heart, and eventually make branches by reaching your hands above your head. Tree Pose improves your sense of balance and coordination. Regular practice will improve your focus and your ability to concentrate in all areas of your life, particularly during those times when you might normally feel “off-balance.” This pose has a positive impact on the grace and ease with which you approach all circumstances, even outside of your yoga class.

The yoga instructor I listen to online tells me something every day (and I need to hear it every day). In the middle of the pose, when you might start to wobble, she says, “Don’t dig your toes in the ground, it won’t make it any easier.”

Don’t dig your toes in. I need to hear that. To live that. People will have different opinions. Different likes. Different tastes. And the human reaction is often to fight back immediately, as if the angered certainty will change someone’s mind. It doesn’t.

Instead, I want to focus on my own quiet certainty – my own balance. From my toes to my hands, my hands that gather first at my heart, as they should, then over my head. That quiet balance that works for me. That gives me strength. That gives me peace.

I wiggle my toes, because even in all the uncertainty, life is still fun, life is still filled with grace. Find your balance. Enjoy your day!