Jodi Hills

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

Leave a comment

Out wandering.

“If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes.” Agnes Varda

I cannot pass a golden field in any country, without thinking of my grandfather. The breeze that blows through the harvest to come is the breath of hard labor and kindness.

I was 19 when he got pancreatic cancer. They cut him in half to assess the damage. They closed him almost immediately. When I saw the row of staples, I couldn’t imagine they couldn’t see something — something that could be salvaged. Clung to. Some hope. Because that’s what I imagined beneath the scar. This was the landscape I knew lived within him. A field that had turned from brown to green to gold. A yearly harvest to be counted on — this, I knew for certain, was inside my grandfather. A landscape I carry still today.

We went to visit Dominique’s mother at the cemetery. She rests between two vineyards. We stopped at each one. Tasting the white. The rosé. The red. Delicious. What a fitting landscape for her. The vine that doesn’t end. From the work of the fields. To the joy of the table. The French landscape I will carry too, within.

We’re not always given the answers. But we’re always shown a way. If you look for me today, be patient. My heart is wandering landscapes.


Of all things important.

Until yesterday, I had only ever heard my grandfather use the term “…and stuff.” I was listening to a podcast and this man was explaining how he got his job distributing vacation brochures at the rest stop. “Well,” he said, “the guy who had the job before me got sick and stuff…” He continued, “He got the diabetes and stuff… and then he passed away and stuff…”

As I mentioned, my grandfather used the term quite frequently, but certainly not for the important things. He would have never “and stuff”-ed someone’s death.

He was a man of few words. He didn’t suffer fools. He said the things that needed to be said, and that was it. I think he used the term “and stuff,” not to be rude, but just to end the conversation already and get back to the things he deemed truly important.

I stood by the kitchen window, looking out at the barn. I couldn’t hear the exact words my mother was telling my grandfather. I was breathing so heavily, the wind that traveled from heart to nose to ears made a deafening sound. Of course I knew. We were going to be alone, my mother and I. She was scared. Hurt. Embarrassed even. So many feelings. So many words. He listened. Patiently. He was still overalled from the field, but I could see that he had washed his hands (and I could smell Grandma’s perfumed soap). His nails were scrubbed. I suppose he already knew. Knew that he would be holding my mother’s hand. Telling her, without words, that he would be there. For her.

He pulled me away from the window. Bent down. Looked me in the eyes. “You can turn in, or you can turn out…it’s all up to you.” There was no “and stuff.” No walking away from the conversation. He would be there. That was the promise we sat in. Silently.

I learned early on that you can walk away from the unnecessary, but not the uncomfortable. The real trick, I guess, is in knowing the difference. I’m still learning, but as I look out my kitchen window at the morning, I know days can be difficult, times even, but I am secure in the gift that of all things important, I am one.

1 Comment

Up and farther.

I’m not sure I thought it was so beautiful, when I walked alongside Hugo’s field behind our house. But the song Mr. Iverson taught us at Washington Elementary said so, “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…” Neither had lied to me before, so I Iooked long and hopeful, as my sunburned legs brushed against the amber.

I was yet to see the ocean, but for in books. And in those books they spoke of the tide. The magical way it rolled out, rolled back in…and some said, within this magic, you could let go of all your worries, your problems, and the waves would take them out to sea, and return to you, free from them all, freeing you as well.

I was in need of some of that freedom. I walked as closely to the field as I could. Hugo didn’t want us inside. I imagined it was so we didn’t trample on the magic. That made sense. I only let it brush against me. Praying it was enough to latch on. Praying the wind could make the grain actually wave. Praying it could take away the noise of our house. The argument shook walls that creaked late into the night. The noises that worked themselves into fear and then, as if to taunt, lay deep inside my muscles.

I didn’t know how big an ocean was. Was it bigger than Hugo’s field? I could see across it. Maybe it wasn’t big enough. Maybe it wasn’t even real, but I kept walking. I continued my solo prayer. To say the words out loud seemed too dangerous. As if these words might be the final noise to break the last board holding our fragile house together. I walked and whispered.

We moved from VanDyke Road. I like to believe it was the wave that carried us. Again. And again. From the gravel to the tar. The field to the city. From the noise of fear to the sound of possibility. To Lake Michigan. Then the oceans, Atlantic and Pacific. Then across the sea.

Yesterday, I was readying for my afternoon walk, in France. Ear buds. iPhone. Tennis shoes. I am not proud to say that my thighs were heavy with something that was best let go. It can still happen. Then it nudged me – a tiny wave perhaps – and I reached for the book of poetry next to my phone. I read the lines in French. Could that be right? Did I have the French words right in my head?

“Où même les roseaux répétaient leurs prières
Que reprenaient de plus plus fort et plus loin les oiseaux”

I went to the translation poem.

“Where even the reeds repeated their prayers
Which the birds took up louder and farther on”

I smiled. The magic was real. Had been real all along. I walked lighter in the afternoon wave.

When I got back home, I decided to paint this little bird. A little bird that carried my prayer of only this — thank you.

“Thank you.” Up it went, and farther on, into the oh, so beautiful, spacious skies.