Jodi Hills

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

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Life’s couture.

Yesterday I saw a photographer on Youtube manipulating a photo to make it seem old — like it was a memory lived, I suppose. The technique took some skill, certainly. And while the end result was interesting, I thought it lacked what the photographer wanted — the depth of an actual experience.  That feeling is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to manufacture.  And I began to think, would our time be better spent trying to capture real experiences, by, well, living?

Once the thought was in my head, spinning around like a kid on a ferris wheel — my brain urging “go ’round again, go ’round again — I began to see it everywhere, this attempt at manufacturing a life. I saw it in the catalogs. Buy our ripped jeans! What if we did the work in the jeans we owned? Wore them in the yard, the garden? Hung tools from belts? Bent? Stretched? Bounced children on bent knees? Wore them thread bare by living? 

I saw the paint splattered jeans on the next page. Couldn’t we just actually paint? Splatter our own clothes with life experience? These are the colors that I want to live in — the colors flung from my own hand and heart. 

It was everywhere. This manufacturing. Even with so-called friends. This trying to fill the life-size holes within us, with “likes” and “followers.” Certainly it has its place. I use it here, every day. To connect. Keep the strings attached through time and distance. But nothing will ever replace human contact. Sitting outside on a sunny day, laughing so hard with friends that waists become rendered useless, bent over by the weight of joy and memory. Nothing can replace the feeling of hugging someone, just a little longer. A kiss of a hand. An empathetic, no words needed, smile. A wave that can’t be contained in the hand, but must be lifted in the air with feet jumping! 

I sit here typing, with paint on my shirt. It is valuable, not because it will sell in a catalog, but because I lived in it. Life’s couture. And I will again today! My heart, threadbare as my jeans, telling my brain, “let’s go ’round again, ’round again!!!”

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I didn’t know my great aunt Ellen very well.  It was clear though, that she was the opposite of my grandmother. In size, weight, humor, and day to day living. She seemed to be afraid of life itself. She was thin as a rail, but watched everything she ate. She didn’t drink coffee, only hot water. She carried what she called a purse-snatchers purse — a decoy, while her important items were stashed in a different location. She also wore extra undergarments, just in case… I was too young to know in case of what.  

I hope there was more to her life than I remember. Otherwise, I’m not sure that she really lived. 

On occasion, my grandmother must have worried. She had nine children. Pick any day, and something had to have gone wrong. John got kicked in the head by a cow. Kay had rheumatic fever. The crops needed rain. But through it all, she never seemed paralyzed by daily fear. She seemed more to be rolling. She was chubby and laughing and  always believed in the good. She died thinking she was just about to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. 

I will admit that I get frightened by many things. We all do. But I try to keep rolling, even when my tears are doing the same – I keep rolling. Because I, too, believe in the good. And I don’t want to be paralyzed by fear. I want to be known, always remembered, in full stride, with my purse of youth dangling from my arm. Alive.

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Are those your pants?

Years ago I started painting on my clothing – I mean on purpose. Of course I had painting clothes, but these were clothes I painted with intention. I had a pair of jeans that I covered in paint, (this was long before it was cool) and then at the bottom of one leg I painted, “I have to believe my feet will take me where I need to go.” I was wearing these pants when making a delivery of art to a store in Edina. The owner, Kevin, before I even set down the paintings, asked “Are those your pants?” Laughing, I replied, “I usually wear my own pants.”  Both laughing now, of course we both knew what he meant – he was wondering if I had designed these pants, painted on them. “Yes,” I said. “I made them. These are my pants.” 

I have always believed my feet will take me where I need to go. I didn’t know at the time it would include France, but here I am. And I believe I’m supposed to be here. There are new challenges that I am supposed to face. New adventures to be on. New loves to love. Relationships to form. Places to see. Mountains to conquer. So I painted a new pair of pants. I wanted to represent my life including where I have been and where I am now. My steps between the USA and France. The Statue of Liberty. Perfect, I thought. In so many ways. I suppose it is my way of “wearing my heart on my sleeve” – just taking it to a different level.

Throughout the years that I have shared my stories, my continuing story, the greatest gift that I receive in return is listening to yours. Then we are connected. When we share our journeys, our lives, we all become a little more human. So I tell you my story, in hopes you will tell me yours. Together, we walk in eachother’s shoes…or maybe even our pants…wherever we need to go.