Jodi Hills

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


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What a relief.



I will admit that I buy Q-tips with tan bamboo sticks because they match the palette of my bathroom.

When you don’t have to explain this, then you know you have found your tribe. And what peace! What joy! What a relief to be yourself.

Conversations with my daughter-in-law are labored, her English, my French. But we have connected through a common palette. We both love the calming natural colors. She walked through my office and softly touched the tans and creams and whites and blacks. We laughed and smiled, both understanding the extensive joy that only a box of Jonathon Adler matches can evoke. Connected. Family.

When I was young, I remember people saying things like “you’ll find your way home,” “you’ll find love.” But maybe we have it wrong. I’m not sure any of it is found, but instead brought to life, nurtured, traveled, lived. And when it’s right, it’s as comforting as your signature palette. No performing, or worrying, just being. Oh, how I wish that for everyone! The comfort of your palette. The pleasure of your path.


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Seven or eight good naps.

Certainly I have never been mistaken for normal. But what does that even mean? And should it be something we strive for?

The world is ready at a moment’s notice to tell us what is good. What is beautiful. Right down to the color of the year. Do people actually paint their interiors because they saw a color survey on Instagram? We are bombarded with what we “must have” from Amazon. What everyone is buying from IKEA. Fast fashion from H & M. 

I guess we are filled with this from the day we are born. We are told what is beautiful. What is good. It used to be Norman Rockwell that captured the moment. And if you didn’t have the father at home smoking a pipe by the fireplace, then you weren’t supposed to be happy. You weren’t complete. They showed us in books and on television. If you didn’t drive the right car, or drink the right cola, how could you be happy?  

I gave up those standards long ago – some by choice, others by force, but it all turned out to be a gift. I got to make my own standards. My own happiness. 

We always ask each other in the morning “did you sleep well?” “Why not” is our usual response. We have different sleeping habits, my husband and I, neither “perfect.” Rarely do either of us sleep “all in a row.” And certainly not for eight hours. And I suppose I used to think, well, I must have slept badly. But years ago, I gave that up. Why was it bad? Did I sleep some? Rest some? How do I feel? Fine? Then what was so bad? So when he asked me this morning, “très bien dormi?” I replied, “I had seven or eight really good naps.” 

It’s going to be a great day!


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“Fall”ing.

I love summer. I won’t deny it. But I’m not going to live for it, only it. I would lose so much. The colors of autumn. The crackles underfoot. There is a peace that comes. A slower speed. A much needed rest.


It takes me a bit to see it. To feel it. To remember my sweater. Sock my feet and close the doors. But the never-ending song of the birds in our trees reminds me — there is a melody here — a song of the season — worthy of being sung. Sung without the pining away for green. Sung for the beauty of now.


I shuffle in the fallen leaves. Grab my brushes and capture the soft colors, the non- demanding colors of autumn. And I see it. The beauty of this autumn day.


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The fourth R.

In grade school, they called them the three Rs — reading, writing, and arithmetic. We had so much to learn, I guess we never questioned it. Years later, I was talking with a friend about it. He said, “You know, arithmetic doesn’t start with an R…” “Not to mention writing,” I replied. We laughed!

My husband and I love to visit antique stores. Traveling through the US, we get a feel for each part of the country as we thumb through the stories they leave behind. Stories that, if touched, or purchased, become part of ours. I love pins and patches. I fill my jackets. They become roadmaps of our travels. I picked up a high school letter. It was in great condition. The letter R. I held it up to Dominique. “Isn’t it great!” I said.
“What does the R stand for?” he asked. And without missing a beat, he answered his own question — Rtist. We laughed for about 20 minutes as I carried it through the store. Still laughing as I purchased it at the counter. (Still laughing as I type this.) My fourth R! Reading, writing, arithmetic, artist.

I fell in love with Dominique all over again! He knows me. I never question it.

This last trip to Alexandria, I found a plain gray sweatshirt. Yesterday, back in France, in the sewing room with the picture of my Grandma Elsie (a great seamstress), I sewed the R in place. Attached a couple of pins. Added the “tist” to my “R” – and claimed once again, that I am an artist. What a joy! What a relief — to be yourself! To live the vocabulary of your own heart – my wish for you – every day!


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The lightness of now.

I have seen the Berlin Wall in Berlin, and at the University of Virginia in the US. You can learn something everywhere. In the most expected and least expected places, if you are open to seeing it.


At a dinner party, early in my move to France, someone asked me about painting portraits. Was there a difference between the American faces and European faces? What a good question! And yes, there was, I thought. There is. Europeans carry a history that the youth of Americans can’t yet possess. Wars and walls, even though ended, they never really disappear. Their load gets lighter perhaps, but even scattered, they remain.


There is so much to learn and to see. In the faces. The places. The scatterings of others. And I suppose one of the greatest gifts of this time spent learning, is less time spent creating the same mistakes. Wouldn’t that be something! Wouldn’t we all be a little lighter? If all the walls became merely pebbles in learned shoes.


The lightness of knowledge. Of now. What a beautiful reward. Now that’s something to see!


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Steady.

“Focus on something steady,” she always tells me. I do. Every morning, for my yoga session. I was looking out the window, this morning, as I usually do. I like to focus on a tree for balance. Keeps me strong. Sturdy. Rooted. Standing strong in tree pose, a squirrel ran up the branches (on the tree outside, not me). My focus darting along with it, I lost my balance. Nearly tipping over. Back to the tree. Back to my balance.


It makes me laugh, because that is so typical of my life. I try very hard to stay on track (as crooked as my track sometimes runs). But it’s my normal. My balance. And it works for me. I keep my heart steady above my anchored feet, my reaching arms. But even in my practice, my trying, my hold steady, my brain will shout out “Squirrel!” And go racing after it. I forgive myself and look back to my heart, pumping still steady through my veins.


Nature is filled with every kind of normal. Every kind of distraction. We choose what to grab on to. Focus on. Lean against. Grow with. I heard once, a tree is never foolish enough to fight amongst its own branches. And so, too, I let my heart and brain reach as far as they can, then gather it all in, in my ever green, ever practicing core.

Focus on something steady today, my friends.


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A blink of blue

We decided to get lunch before taking pictures at the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we went into the restaurant. We had the most delicious sushi. We stepped outside under a gray cloud. Wow – that changed quickly. Still, we went to the lake. The sky, was a mixture of grays and whites. Full of movement and rumble. It wasn’t the beauty we had seen just 45 minutes ago, but it was beautiful! We walked along the shore. The golden leaves popped out against the gray. The lake’s sky, as if to thank us for still coming out in the ever changing weather, blinked a brilliant shot of blue. It was so magnificent! It lit the air and my heart with hope.

Life moves and changes – often faster than we’d like, but we still need to show up. Find the beauty. And forever cling to even the smallest blink of blue, the promise of hope. Can you see it? Can you feel it? It’s beautiful!!


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Brilliant.

As we change hotels almost every night, we also change the lighting in the bathroom. The ever so important lighting by which we begin each day. I fear my vanity may be showing, but I do like good lighting. It’s funny, perhaps hopeful, optimistic, but when I’m getting ready in poor lighting I think, “well, this can’t be right… this can’t be the way I look.” And then we get to better lighting and I have to admit I think, “yes, this is me, this is how I look!”

And why not? Why not think the best about yourself? Is it vain, or simply brilliant? I’m going with brilliant. And perhaps even more brilliant — if I’m willing to do this for myself, see myself in the best light, I think I should be able to do this for you. I think we all can.

We catch each other in so many moments during the day, and they may not all be flattering. But maybe, just maybe, on the days we are feeling “well lit” we can share that light with others. And maybe we’d all have a better day.

Step into the light. It’s going to be a beautifully brilliant day!


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Big Harriet.

We stood next to her statue in Annapolis, Maryland. Harriet Tubman. I towered over her in physical size. She was so small. Yet, she towered over me in strength.

The only way I know how to thank someone for their gifts, is to show them that I really see them. I begin by making a sketch. “I do see you,” I say with each pencil marking. But knowing this, I also know that she can see me. We are connected now. And what does she see? Am I continuing the work? Am I doing the work? Because there is work to be done for sure. And acknowledging this is where I begin. Where I continue. Until each color comes to life off the page. Each statue dances off their podiums and rejoices in the progress. The victories. The work has to continue.

Yesterday I saw Harriet. She lifts me. She inspires me. Could anything small do that?


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Anyone.

After seeing it, the Liberty Bell, I had to look up the actual definition of the word. The thing is, we always think we know. There are many interpretations of course, but the words that kept popping up were freedom, rule of law, and not depriving anyone else of their freedom. Oh, we get the first part so easily, freedom, freedom, freedom. Me, me, me. But do we get the second part? The anyone else’s? That’s the hard part, I suppose. That’s where the crack comes in. This is where we fail so often.

We stood in line to view it, this line of anyone else’s, this line of every color and age, this respectful line that moved slowly in the heat of the sun – the great disinfectant. We were quiet, polite, respectful. For we were all in search of the same thing – proof that this was still the case – it could be done peacefully – this search, this daily march toward liberty. This daily march together in our differences, together in our similar pursuit.

We only got a few minutes to stand before the symbol, this bell. But it rings in my heart. I pray it rings in yours. I am your anyone else, and you are mine. And we march together, search together, work together, to ring out the great truths we all want to hear.