Jodi Hills

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


Asked to grow.

We had to trim our olive tree down to almost nothing. It was growing into the shade of a large pine tree. It just wouldn’t be able to survive in all that darkness. It was hard to watch as each branch fell to the ground. But it has a chance now. A chance to grow in the other direction. A chance to thrive in its own light.

He cut a thin slice of one branch for me. I began sanding. First with the 40. Then the 80. The 120. Change doesn’t always come quickly. Two days of sanding, and it is cheek brushing smooth. This olive branch lives on as a coaster on my desk. The desk that faces the window. The window that shows the olive stump. The olive stump that has a chance at new life.

Change can sometimes feel like a chainsaw to our limbs. But it’s often our only chance to grow. And we don’t always get to be ready. But we do get to decide — decide whether these will be growing pains, or simply pain. I choose growth. May we all choose growth.

The sun is coming up. I drink from the cup that rests on the coaster that came from the tree that waves to me with its hopeful limb. Welcome to the garden!


Crossing over.

We felt like we knew a secret. Decoding DKNY. Donna Karan New York. She was one of the first designers displayed as you entered City Center in downtown Minneapolis. My mom and I thought it was like entering the magic kingdom. The greatest part was that we shared the key.

We spent most of our time in the designer sections. We couldn’t afford to buy it. We couldn’t afford to miss it. We tried on everything. And the matching shoes. It was never about having, it was about seeing. Experiencing. Adoring, not only the clothes, but this time together.

Yesterday, walking in Aix en provence, I was listening to a podcast. It was the designer that first helped Donna Karan launch her brand. They were both just starting out. Both New Yorkers, with all the love that entails. The designer listened as Karan expressed her love for New York, as they sat under the Brooklyn Bridge. It reminded him of the story of why he was in love with this city. As a young boy, his grandfather — a fishmonger — would bring him to this bridge in the middle of the night. They set up for the early morning sales. His grandfather gave him this bridge. Gave him this dream. With this beating inside of him, it was so natural, so easy for him to create the branding for Donna Karan. He included the image of the bridge. The words New York. And gave birth to both of their careers.

I imagine my mother, sitting in my grandfather’s pickup. Sweaty legs against the vinyl seat, at the last stoplight before turning into town. Waiting anxiously for him to put the truck into gear, place his foot on the gas, and take her across the “Brooklyn Bridge” of her heart and into the city of Alexandria.

He took her to Alex. She took me to Minneapolis. I eventually took her to New York. Love always leads us. Helps us cross over, to the beauty that lies ahead.

No dream left unspent.

Leave a comment

Crossing over.

We were in the car yesterday morning. Paused at the bridge. It was built in 1655, so it can only support traffic going one way at a time. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but we both burst into laughter, just as the car approached from the oncoming direction. Because you have to drive slowly, the driver could see our explosion of laughter and he too, not knowing, not hearing, also burst into a smile. That, I suppose, is the pure power of joy.

Decades before selfies, my mother taught me to smile in every mirror. She did it out of necessity. Even during her lowest times, she still had to “put her face on”, walk out of her apartment door at 7:15am, go to Independent School District 206 and answer every phone call, every visitor, with a smile. She did it with a grace I didn’t yet know, or understand, but I could see it. Every day. She willed herself to cross over. To cross over and find the beauty. It may be the slow approaching reason that I am able to pass on my smile today. Because of hers, I am able to give you mine, and together, we all cross over to the beauty that lies ahead.