Jodi Hills

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


Leave a comment

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.


1 Comment

The calm after.

The sun was shining. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful blue. No puddles in the street. No sign of the storm. “Devastating,” they said. “It took me three hours to get to work today,” he said. “You can understand why we don’t have any cars,” they said at the rental office. We did understand. Or we wanted to, but we really didn’t see any evidence of the storm. But of course it had ravaged them. The wind. The water. It hit the east coast of the US hard! And we were lucky enough to arrive yesterday, just after it had passed.

We won’t always get the proof we think we need. But why do we need it? We seem to think we have the right to know why everything happens. When someone tells you they are suffering, this should be enough. “Well, they look fine,” we think. They should be fine. We don’t know the storms that pass through each home, each heart. And we shouldn’t need the details. The proof. When someone tells you they need a minute. They need a rest. They need help. Believe them. Be the calm after.

The sun is shining today. And we are so excited to be a part of it! So grateful. Whatever you’ve been through to get here, it shines for you too!


1 Comment

Find the good.

I don’t have all the answers. But I have a lot of them (that work for me). And I guess that’s the key.  

You know what’s best for you. You know what will fulfill you. You set the bar for yourself. Others’ successes do not hurt you. Be happy for them. Others’ failures do not lift you.

They may not even feel they’ve failed. They get to decide that for themselves. You have the answers for you.

I was about to say that yesterday was a bit of a stressful day, but I’m stopping myself because the day itself was actually perfect. The day was sunny, open, and offered every opportunity.  There were stressful moments though, within this lovely day. And in those moments, this is where all the work pays off. This is when I need to use all the tools I have been given, created, found, discovered – that work for me. First on the list is always my happiest of places – the painting studio. I took out my bird sketchbook, and penciled in the first bird. My heart rate slowed. I took out the paints. I must have been smiling. The paint moved from palette to brush to paper (sometimes to fingers and clothes), and I became the weight of the bird. I let him dry and did the second one. I know what calms my heart. The day held the same ingredients of every good day I have ever experienced – it was up to me to find it. Find the good.  

Today is beginning with the same sun. The birds are singing, as if to remind me who I am. I smile because I know the song. I know myself. It’s going to be a wonderful day.  



5 Comments

Cardinal on my sleeve.

We sang a cheer in high school –


“We are the cardinals!

Mighty, mighty cardinals!

Everywhere we go – oh,

people wanna know – oh,

who we are,so we tell ’em…

We are the cardinals… (and repeat and repeat)


I never thought about it then, really, but what a lesson. I’m not sure that people often describe cardinals as mighty, but we did. And why not? It was our decision after all. We were cardinals. That was the mascot we were given. We could choose to wear it proudly, or sink behind someone else’s fragile truth.

So the black and red became a symbol of strength to us. A symbol of celebration in victory. A symbol of perseverance in loss. And we were nothing, if not mighty!


You get to decide what makes you strong. You get to decide who you are. Stand up in the colors you were given, and the colors you create. Even with the most fragile of wings, you can choose to be mighty!

I paint the birds again and again. They are my heart. My fragile, but ever-winged, mighty heart! The heart I wear proudly on sleeve, and in song, because I still think, maybe, you just “might wanna know – oh…”


2 Comments

A place for us.

I was working at my desk when he landed on the window sill, just a foot from my shoulder. This magpie seemed to own the whole sky. No worries. He was looking out at the garden, not at me. I watched him. He was so close, but he hadn’t yet turned to see me. When he turned his black and blue head towards me, his mouth, if possible, would have turned into an OH! His neck jerked back, his eyes grew twice their size. What was I doing in his world???? He did a double take, and I was still there. He just couldn’t believe it! He shrugged his wing – he really did, and flew into the endless blue.

We are arrogant to believe this world is only for us. Each bird. Each flower. Has a place. There is room. To fight over the blue above us, the green beneath us, and every color in between… senseless. There is room. A place for us.

They sang it in the song. A time and a place for us:

“Someday, somewhere
We’ll find a new way of living
Will find a way of forgiving
Somewhere
There’s a place for us
Somewhere a place for us
Peace and quiet and open air wait for us
Somewhere
There’s a time for us
Someday there’ll be a time for us
Time together with time to spare
Time to learn, time to care
Someday, somewhere
We’ll find a new way of living
Will find there’s a way of forgiving
Somewhere, somewhere, somewhere
There’s a place for us
A time and a place for us
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there
Somehow, someday, somewhere”

I have to believe it is now. I have to believe it is here.


2 Comments

Lifted

Is it fear, or anger? Sadness… I don’t know. Is it just the nature of the flight? He couldn’t stay. He told you that. It was hard to believe, but it was true. He had to leave. The agonizing weight on his wings, he couldn’t explain. Not just a pull, a desire, but a life altering weight that he just couldn’t release here, and so he had to go. He found a way. In his mind his only way. And I, you, we, would have done anything to change his mind, but it was his mind, his flight to change. And so now… now? We wonder, we what if?, we cry, and wail, and yes, sometimes anger… and we look, look for answers, reasons. But I am not one that can say everything happens for a reason… some things are beyond reason, beyond our understanding… and so we look again. We look, not to make sense, not to understand, but to cope.

And how do we cope?

My grandfather told me that when it is too hard, looking at your own life, you look to someone else. How can I help them? In helping them, we too, help ourselves. We become aware. Maybe we help them, and they become a little more aware, aware that there is still kindness, and we become aware that we can still care with our broken hearts, and all this awareness leads to a new day, and maybe a few new choices, and maybe, just maybe, the weight is lifted from one, and then another.


2 Comments

Nothing small.

“Why didn’t you tell me I was small?” she asked her mother.
“Because I never thought so,” she replied.
“No really. Am I small?” she asked again.
“You fill my heart with joy. Could anything small do that?” her mother replied.
She smiled. And felt a world of possibility.
“I wish I were beautiful,” she told her mother.
“You light up the sky, my love.” Her mother showed her the stars.
“What if I’m not smart enough?” she cried before leaving.
“You are stronger than you think.” Her mother held back her tears.
“What if I’m not strong enough?” her mother asked the open sky.
“I love you,” she sang to her mother as she flew.
Love held her. Could anything small do that?

(Chickadee – from the book “Bird Song” by Jodi Hills)

I found something huge yesterday. (Yes, I’ve been deep diving in the cleaning department). Well, what I found is only about 1″ x 1/2″, but to me it’s huge! A pencil sharpener. Even in its original packaging. Unopened. Sometimes the universe just knows what you need. (Or maybe it always does, and we’re just not looking.) And the most important thing of all – it works!!! That may not seem extraordinary, but believe me, I have a lot of pencils, for all types of drawing, and I, until yesterday, did not have a pencil sharpener – that worked. I have one that you just spin and spin and spin and nothing ever happens. I don’t think you should have to lose weight while sharpening a pencil. I have another that, no matter what you put in, it only takes out that one side, and you’re left with the shard of wood that you try to pick off, and it gets stuck in your fingernail, and you start all over again, getting the same result. I have another that absolutely fits no pencil that I own. I have no idea what it’s for. And my last one, has the most voracious appetite, eating everything inserted. None of these I actually purchased. They were all left behind from Dominique’s family. (Maybe left behind for good reasons.) But yesterday, aah yesterday, I found it. I opened it with such hope — oh, the tenacity of HOPE! — yes, I opened it and tried the closest pencil. The most perfect point. I tried another. Perfect. Easy. I tried charcoal. Yes. Lead, yes! Colored – sure, why not! Soft – no problem. Perfect points all. I wanted to fling open the doors of the studio and shout to the world – it works – it really works! I raised up my best Sally Field’s impression to the sky, “You like me – you really like me!”

I know it’s a pencil sharpener, yes, it’s small, but it takes that one thing in my life and makes it so much easier, makes it delightful. Nothing small can do that.

I guess it’s always the little things that make up a grand life. If you look at the ingredients of a croissant, it’s almost nothing, and extremely ordinary, but rolled and rolled, it becomes something magical. And shared with someone you love — even better. While eating our croissants at breakfast my husband said, “We have to find or make these for your mother, because she would really love them.” I told my mom that later in the day. She beamed – I could feel it over the telephone. He had thought of her. Just a little thing, but oh, so magical. The universe does this for us every day. Certainly we can do it for each other.


3 Comments

Looking up

The track meet was nearing the end when the coach approached us on the grass. I had one event to complete, and Colleen was finished for the day. The mile race was coming up and we had an extra space to fill. It didn’t have to be filled of course, but if someone competed in this spot, we were sure to get a point just for completing the race. That point could make a difference on whether or not we won the meet. He was looking at Colleen. She seemed confused, because she had never been a miler. I could feel the inner shaking of her head. It would be really difficult. You need to train for something like that. Just jumping in at the last second would surely be almost impossible. Clearly she wouldn’t win, and probably would be embarrassed. There could even be puking. The coach would never force her to do it, he only asked. She got up. I smiled. I was so proud of her! That’s my brave friend, I thought. There were no real surprises. The other contestants raced out in front of her. She kept running. Her heart and lungs fought for her attention. She kept running. Her legs turned to stone. She kept running. The others finished. She kept running. And running. She could have stepped off the track. No one would have blamed her. But she kept running. She finished. I hope she was proud of herself. I hope I told her just how amazing I thought she was! I can’t tell you if we won the meet. If we had a good season. But I do know this – at sixteen – I witnessed strength. Courage. And pure will. When I saw her going around that track, she wasn’t just running, she was flying, and the most beautiful bird in the sky!


My mom ordered a dress from the Sundance catalog. It should be arriving today. Why is this a significant event? She is currently surrounded by friends and family who are giving up. And she could do the same. Who would blame her? But she keeps believing. She keeps dreaming. She orders the dress and believes in a tomorrow where she looks beautiful! And she will. Because she keeps running. I have never been more proud of her. She will put on that dress of blue and teal and white, and she will be the most beautiful bird flying in the sky!
If you want to believe in miracles, sometimes, you just have to look up!


Leave a comment

Two-fer

The parking spaces in France are incredibly small. Whenever we enter a garage we always look for a double opening — or as I like to call it, a two-fer. With a two-fer we have plenty of room to get in and out. No damage to our car, or the ones next to us. No worries. Luxurious. It’s just that little something extra that makes our lives easier, and so much better. Why wouldn’t we always look for that – in everything? Especially with each other. What if we gave this to those around us, the space to move freely, the luxury of no worries, no damage…


I painted a sweet little bird the other day on a panel. It seemed so obvious to paint another one on the other side. Whoever buys this bird – or that one, will get a little something extra — for no other reason than just to feel special.


I hope you can find that space today – that two-fer – in your travels, in your heart.