Jodi Hills

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


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How it should be.

It was at the State Theatre in Minneapolis that I first heard the Indigo Girls. Dayton’s used to put on an extreme fashion show each year for charity. Oh, just saying Dayton’s does something to my heart.) The theatre was dark and suddenly they blasted the intro for Fugitive by the Indigo girls, and the first model stepped out. It was a mixture of clothes and music, and city and night, art and diversity, and they sang, “Remember this as how it should be.” Oh, how I wanted to remember. 

My mother and I loved Dayton’s. Saturday mornings. Always before lunch. Trying on clothes at our thinnest. No need for food. We were fueled. Hands gently touching racks. Filling dressing rooms. Mirrors admired. Compliments given. Hearts full. Then with hands bagged it was off to lunch. To sip at the wine, and pull out each item, tell the story, live it with laughter and praise, and before I knew the words to the song I thought, “Remember this as how it should be.”

I was mowing the lawn yesterday. Listening to a podcast. They were interviewing the Indigo Girls. I couldn’t hear every word over the hum of the motor, but my heart… I can’t tell you what the models were wearing that beautiful evening, but I can recreate the feeling of hope and desire and pure excitement for a life recognized. I don’t recall every garment tried on or purchased with my mother, but as I sit here in my new Saturday morning, my heart is filled with laughter and praise. 

I suppose that’s the way it is for everything. And that’s how it should be — the experience. Today we plan to go visit a vineyard. I know I will forget the wine. Probably even the place. But the time…my heart is already singing.


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Joie du jour.

We have a small group of orange lilies that grow wild in our yard, along with large patches of purple irises. They are so beautiful. I love fresh flowers in the house, so one year I cut several bouquets and brought them in. They died almost immediately.

If you know me, you know I love words. There are a few though, that I don’t like hearing — for example, “should have…” — “Oh, you should have done it this way…” (when obviously I didn’t or we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and like Cher and everyone knows, I can’t turn back time.). Or “supposed to” — “You’re supposed to do it like this, because everyone does.” (I learned a long time ago, I am not everyone, nor, really, is anyone.)

We all learn and grow in our way. What if we allowed each other to do this?! What a glorious, colorful, beautiful world this would be.

I step outside this morning into a sea of purple. They are beautiful, just as, and where they are! Good morning, flowers! Good morning all!


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Beyond all labels

It doesn’t surprise me when I start speaking that people recognize immediately that I’m not French. I mean, I hear it too. But what does surprise me, and it has happened many times, is when people ask if I’m American before I even open my mouth. What is it? It doesn’t make me feel bad, I’m proud to be an American…but what is it about me that people see as different?

I guess we all wear our history, without even knowing it. So I’m thinking, if I can’t even identify it in the face I see every day in the mirror, what makes me so certain I can identify it in others. It’s time to look beyond the label.

I painted the American-made wine years ago. What I remember is not the label, but the evening. I was with my publishers/friends in my living room. The warmth of the candles. The greater warmth of the conversation. I was home. Years later I painted the French-made wine. We bought the bottle of wine from a small vineyard, and a vintage frame from the same village. It was an intimate adventure. New, and familiar. I wanted to capture it on canvas. In my studio, I painted the bottle. I was home.

Is it too spot on to say it’s what’s inside? I don’t think so.

No matter where we are, I suppose, we are all on a journey — a constant journey home. That feels comforting to see it — beyond all labels – in the hearts of others – and the one that beats inside.

Cheers!


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…and if I did that for you

I am working feverishly to prepare for the launch of my new website. Taking photos, scanning, making new prints, cards, displays. I am always surprised at how subjective the eyes are. At first glance, I see what I want to see. Then I look again. Wait. Is that the best scan? Is that the right color? Then the camera shows  a different look. Then I put it on the computer, and there is something else I didn’t see. And wait, print it out on paper – oh, yes, another look. And still, I show it to someone, and they see something different. 

When I painted this wren, I know what I was thinking, so my eyes saw that story. When I showed it to my friend, she saw her sister. And I saw her heart. When I painted the image of our coffee pot, my husband’s son said he could see our reflection in the image. Did I paint it there, or does his heart just know us, know our home, our kitchen, our breakfast table? 

We see the world with our hearts, our minds, our experiences. And if we’re lucky, we see, too, through the eyes of those around us. It’s really not enough to just look. We have to start seeing each other in every possible light. 

…and if you did, see that I am not just my face, but all that I have faced, and if I did that for you…


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Every medium.

I like to switch mediums. There is a feel to each. There is a feel that transfers from canvas to paint to brush to hand to heart. And so it is with charcoal and wood. The charcoal grabs onto the wood differently. Not smoothly, like the paint. It doesn’t have the same ease, but it wants to hang on, just the same. I don’t fault it for not acting like paint. It’s not paint. It’s charcoal. And it wants to be beautiful. It is.

I had lunch with a school friend the other day. We were reminiscing. My husband asked us about the diversity of our class. We struggled. Wanting to reveal it. It wasn’t there. So when I went to college, thankfully, joyfully, so necessarily, my world colored in so many ways. People of different color, of different country, of different religion and language. Every medium. And I had to learn. We all had to learn. (Have to keep learning.) People respond differently. And different is not wrong. Different is not frightening. Different is paint on canvas, charcoal on wood. And it is beautiful.

It’s easy to get stuck. Stuck in what we know. With who we know. And change can be frightening. Even a little messy. But if we allow it, feel it, let it move from hand to heart, oh, how beautiful it can be.

There is paint on my keyboard. Charcoal under my nails. Touching each word. Not perfect, but reaching out to you, with every medium of my heart, trying to be beautiful.


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Chances are.

The statistics teacher thought that if he showed us a real life example, it would be easier for us. So he began explaining the amount of possibilities that existed for our combination locks. X could be this. And solve for Y. And what if this? And show your work. The numbers and letters banged around in my head. I left my locker unlocked for the rest of the school year.

People really love us in the clunkiest of ways. We’re all so different. And to match what is needed with what is given, well, when you think about it, (here comes all that banging around again), it’s really something that we can get along at all.

But when we are open, and let each other fumble along in our own peculiar ways, it can be so magical, so uplifting. Maybe we can all be a little better at finding the beauty in the attempts. I want to be better. Better, not just at loving you, but letting you love me. And I suppose, if we did that for each other, well, chances are, as the song says, our chances are awfully good.


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Days of thanks.

This past Labor Day, we visited Washington, D.C. It was a warm day — just enough heat to let down your defenses and let you feel at one with nature. No difference between your body temperature and the air surrounding you. We walked freely and easily to each monument. The stairs to Lincoln were long and high, and worth each sweaty step. I couldn’t help but notice each of us wore a warm and glistening glow, from the sun sure, the labor of the steps, but mostly, I think, from the hope and promise that sat before us.


With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it is good to remember how Lincoln transformed this holiday for us all. There is much controversy with the holiday beginnings, as there should be, I suppose, but Lincoln took the holiday and turned it into a day of thanks, for all to celebrate.
It was Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, who began using her columns to push for nationalizing Thanksgiving and celebrating it on the last Thursday in November. (A good woman behind every man as they say – and this time – out in front). She wrote a letter to Lincoln, stressing the urgency of making Thanksgiving “a National and fixed Union Festival” that would offer healing to a torn nation.

After receiving her letter, Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as a day when we would give thanks “as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People,” including “my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands.”


This “sojourner” wants to give thanks, every day. I understand how blessed, I am, we are, to stand in the labor, the hope that each day brings.


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Unshackled.

It’s funny how we can all be looking at the same thing, and see something so different. When for each of us, I suppose, it is so clear, so very, very clear. But maybe it’s so clear, that it’s invisible.

We will never all have the same vision. And we shouldn’t. We need the open eyes and hearts of everyone to make this world interesting. Beautiful. Sometimes we will agree. Sometimes we won’t. But I think the key is to know why we are choosing to see what we see. Am I looking out of love, or out of fear? Am I blocking the path for others, or clearing a way? Do I really have the whole picture?

We were driving along the Mediterranean and Dominique pointed out an island. It seemed pretty close. If I opened the car window, I thought, I could just reach out… He told me it was two miles away. I saw a few swimmers braving the cooler temperatures and thought that island must seem an eternity away, if even visible from behind each wave. Same island. Different perspective.

We are all looking. Seeking. Wondering. There is so much to see. And we all want to be free to see it in our own way. But to truly be free, we have to learn. We have to understand that while some of us are on the open road, others are fighting a continuous wave. All to get to the same place of joy. The same place of understanding.

I guess the answer is to seek wisdom. Find grace. Teach. Reveal. Oh, education, the great unshackling! Free from our own ignorance, then, I imagine… oh, the things I imagine!!!! It’s so beautiful! Can you see it?


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Delightful.

I picked up an old sketchbook this morning. One I was making a few years ago while traveling in the southern part of the US. We stopped in a store in Mississippi. It was filled with home goods. I was admiring some material between thumb and index finger. The clerk, with great pleasure, not knowing me, nor where I lived, said, “These tablecloths are so French, you can’t even find them in France!” Even as I type this, I’m not really sure what that means, but she said it with such pride, such exuberance, how could I not be delighted as well! Delighted enough to write it in my journal on a January 27th.


Sometimes I think we use the excuses of time, money, location, situation — excuses not to find the joy, the beauty, the magic of the moment. I have been guilty of this for sure. But years ago, I made it my intent to see things. Everything. Everywhere. Anytime. In people. Places. Things. And this intent became habit, and became a life.


I had terrible dreams last night. The kind that want to rattle you through breakfast. But I entered my French kitchen. Heated the croissants. Drank the coffee. Mixed up the bread dough. I love making bread. I love that soon the scent will waft through the halls. Soon we will eat the most delicious bread! Bread so good, so French, it takes an American girl in provence to make it! It doesn’t have to make sense — it’s just delightful!


Let go of the night — any darkness that surrounds you. Enjoy your 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!