Jodi Hills

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


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Choosing yellow!

Today our yard burst out with yellow flowers of joy! I can think of no other reason than it was just so happy to see us.

You have to go to the edge of our property – in the tree line. You won’t see them just in the middle of the lawn. We were cleaning up the yard after being gone for a month. Moving slowly with the jet lag. I don’t know why I looked down the slope, but there they were. Hey!!! Look! I was awakened by a sea of yellow.

I suppose everything is about perspective. How we choose to see things. Yes, a new season is approaching. We’ll close the pool. Change our routines. And at first glance, that can seem a little, if not sad, melancholy, but then the garden tells you – “Hey, there’s life here too! Don’t forget about us! Take another look!”

There are some things bouncing around in my head. Someone did something recently that I didn’t like — I mean really didn’t like — and my weary brain likes to keep dribbling that ball of negativity. But I have to be the one to let it go. No one else can. And that’s not always easy, but I had a thought last night. You know those late night thoughts that keep you up. A line occurred to me — “I take it back.” Now some might think that means I take back all the things I said in my head…no, I meant those things. Still do. My brain would still keep saying them if I let it, and maybe even more… like saying “No!” more, and saying “No more!” But what I take back is my own life. My own joy. I have a sea of yellow blooming just for me, and this is what I have to choose. Yellow! I choose to be yellow!!! So when those thoughts come creeping, as they are famous for, I will grow over them and take it back. I will take it all back. My yellow life.


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Next year’s garden.

Maybe there’s only two ways to look at things — there is no point to anything, or there is a point to everything.

I am a bedmaker. Some might ask, “What’s the point? — You’re going to mess it up again tonight.” I understand. But for me, I like a made bed, so I make it. And it matters to me. It starts my day the way I like it. So it goes with everything, I suppose, we either decide that it matters or it doesn’t. And that’s how I fill my day. My time here.

One of my dearest friends is a hospice nurse. She had a patient. A woman. This woman knew what was happening. She was completely aware. Not naive to the very brief time ahead. But one day, when this hospice nurse arrived, the woman was busy. She was planning next year’s garden. What would be planted and where. Seeds. Earth. Growth. All going down on the plan. On the paper. And that’s how they spent their day. Their whole day. Another nurse asked, “Well, is she in complete denial?” “No,” my friend said, “Today she just wanted to spend the day living. Not dying. Doing something she loved.”

I pray I do this every day — spend the day living. So I write the stories. Paint the paintings. Some might ask what’s the point? Did the painting sell? Were the words best sellers? The point is in the doing. The making. The living. And it matters. I have to believe that. So I wake up early, sort through the words — the seeds of my heart — and I plant my garden. Every day.

Here’s to forever gardening.


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A tourist in pink.


It’s summer in Aix — our peak tourist season. We were just walking through town – going to Dominique’s dentist appointment. I wanted to feel what they were feeling – the tourists. I started looking around. Wow. It really is beautiful! I took a few pictures. The houses, the churches, the scent of the pink flowers — I saw it all again, for the first time.

We decided to stop at the fish market. We bought some sea bass (loop de mer) for the barbecue. And some vegetables for the plancha. Some rosé wine for the imagination.
We ate slowly in the summer air, and I fell in love, again, for the first time.

The world is pretty extraordinary. But we have to decide to see it, every day. I suppose that’s why I paint. In these moments, I have to forget all the “well, I’ve seen this before…” — all the “it’s just another day…” — forget the noise of “but this… and this.. and my…”. I have to just stop, and see something for the first time. Look at the flower. It’s brand new. It’s waiting just for you. I stop a bit of time, a vacation from my brain, a tourist in pink.





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A little wild.

Most of the time, we leave the wild flowers in our yard. They seem to thrive outside. On the occasion that I bring one or two inside, I’ve noticed something special about them. Just as if they were outside, when the lights go out and it gets dark, they close up for the evening. When I open up the shutters, letting in the morning light, they open themselves up again. 

At the moment, we have a bouquet of florist lilies received as a gift in our salon, and a couple of wild lilies from the garden. True to form, the wild lilies open and close, and the florist lilies stay open. All are gorgeous. 

I have been guilty throughout the years of trying to be an indoor lily. Thinking I could only be loved if I was like the others. Nature has a way of sorting things out, and I have learned. I’m still learning. There is so much beauty in being yourself. I am not perfect. I may not even always be chosen for the center bouquet, but in my wild and glorious way, I have a place at the table. I am beautiful and I am loved. Please know this. Please learn this, again and again if you have to. The wild lilies know. And as they open and close, it feels like a secret wink in my direction. A wink, to say, “You belong beauty, just stay a little wild.”


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The sun isn’t lost.

On the box it said four to five weeks. But yesterday, just two weeks in, this one tulip made its entrance. Popping up to say hello. Telling the others, “It’s not so bad at all, once you make it through the dirt. In fact, it’s lovely. Blue sky. This glorious light. Come on up!”  

Change can be so difficult. And we don’t always get to be prepared before we’re asked to grow. Struggling through lessons of muddy soil. Life will get you dirty. No doubt about that. But then the sun. That glorious sun. Always there, smiling, even when we try to take credit, saying, “Look what I did! I found the sun!”  

Now that’s not to say you can’t be proud of yourself when you get through. That’s a big deal! And you should be happy about that. And perhaps the best way to celebrate is to show the others that it can be done. Bring them along. Because you never know which role you will be in. Some days you will be the strong one, popping up early, other days you will be deep, deep in the soil. Be gentle when you lead. Gentle when you follow. We’re all just trying to get to the sun.


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Sprigs of green.

I received this tiny flower for May Day and I put it in the bathroom. It’s only been 48 hours, but I don’t know how I will ever live without it. I thought I loved this shelf before, but now… I will forever want something green. Something growing. Something alive. 

They say that about love. “When you know, you know…” But the problem with that is, you only know what you are taught. And until someone loves you, shows you what real love is, how can you possibly know? And I’m not just talking about romantic love — I mean all of it – the “thy neighbor”, fellow man, global, empathetic, understanding, forgiving, curious, ever kind, evergreen sort of love. Because that’s what love is. Love doesn’t make mistakes. Humans do. And we fail all the time. I fail all the time. But I have been blessed to see what real love is, maybe only glimpses, and maybe that’s all the human eye and heart can handle of this beauty, but what I’ve seen makes me want to try. Makes me want to do better. Like Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” Oh! To be better!  

Today I give thanks for all those who have shown me, taught me about real love — all those sprigs of green that have lit up my heart. I wish it for everyone — a love forever growing, forever green.


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May Day.

May Day in France is all about two things: muguet, pronounced “moo-gay” (lily of the valley in English) and Labor Day. On the 1st of May friends and family offer each other little sprigs, bouquets or whole plants of lily of the valley for good luck. The more little bell-like flowers the plant has, the better the luck.

We used to make May Day baskets in school. Gifts for our mothers. Construction paper. Scissors. Glue. Making them was not that hard. We had cut and pasted so many times before, and in the security of our desks and under the watchful eye of our teacher, we easily constructed baskets of pink and blue and green. The most difficult part came after the bell rang. Releasing us into the wild. It was a small miracle if your fragile basket of May could survive the bus ride home. 

I would cup the basket like a baby bird in one hand, and straight- arm my other to protect it.  Bus fumes. The wind through the windows. Wild boys. Sick girls. Anything could destroy my tiny little basket. With my sweaty, nervous legs stuck to the fake green leather bus seat, I guarded my mother’s gift with my whole heart. I suppose I’m still doing that. I always will.

Today we will bring flowers to Dominique’s mother. Tiny little bells of luck. Fragile symbols of hope and care. Giving this to each other, probably our most important work of all. Happy Labor day!


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Full bloom.

I know we could have purchased tulips, but they brought these to us, from Amsterdam. Native tulip bulbs. Spectacular. We dug little rows in the ground with the tiny rake and shovel from our greenhouse. Of course I was smiling, not just because of the gifted tulips, but because I had been here before, in the spring of kindness.

I was five when I saw it wrapped in the garage. Easter morning. Not chocolate, or a bunny of any kind, but a tiny set of garden tools, just my size. In the brightest of colors. A green shovel. A red hoe and a yellow rake. Colors so shiny, they were spring itself. They were bright and simple. 

Not all the days to follow would be like this. Something in my heart told me to hang on. Something in my heart told me that this is what would carry me — moments of kindness. The shiny moments of people who care, and dare to show it.

We placed the bulbs in the ground. Four to five weeks it said on the box from Holland – that’s how long it would take. I laughed to myself, knowing, in my heart, they were already in full bloom — the spring of kindness.


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Fool’s tulip.

I wrote a poem – my grandparent’s story – it begins:

She was a beauty like he’d never seen,
Elsie turned his head with a smile,
When Rueben looked back
He knew for sure
That she’d be in his heart for a while.

“I’m such a stubborn man, Elsie,
I’m stubborn as a mule.”
She said, “I love you just the same.”
He said, “Then I hear you love a fool.”

And he fell for her as only fools can.
The story of Rueben and Elsie began.

Yesterday I walked into our yard — maybe not in the best of moods. I saw a sea of dandelions. “Stupid dandel -“ I couldn’t finish. It was another yellow that took my breath away. A yellow tulip. My favorite. It had popped up in the middle of our yard. Almost daring me to notice it amid the other yellow. And I did. We normally get a row or two of orangeish-red tulips in a different part of our garden, but here it was, yellow, as if the universe knew I loved a yellow tulip, knew I needed one. (Even believers sometimes like to see it first hand). Now, some might say, “Oh, that’s rubbish to believe such a thing – to believe it grew for you.” (Rubbish — apparently the nay-sayers in my head are from a 1960’s play in England). But it’s not rubbish – not to me. It’s my favorite flower. My favorite tulip. And it arrived just when I needed it. And oh, how I believe in the magic of it all. So, no, it’s not rubbish. And yes, I am proud to be as gloriously foolish as my grandfather, and I fell for her, this tulip, as only fools can… this is the magic of how my day began.


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Being Lily!

When I lived in Minneapolis, I could buy a group of lilies for just three dollars at the Byerly’s store next to my apartment. It would produce four to five giant, beautiful white flowers, that often lasted three weeks. This was a luxury I could afford.

I would buy a stem that was mostly unopened. Each morning I would check to see how she had bloomed. “Good morning, Lily!” I always wanted to catch her, in mid bloom – see how she opened, but I never did. I would be in the kitchen, or bathroom, and come back, and she would be new. Lovely.

I suppose that’s the way it is with most of us. We don’t often get to see what makes others change, grow, but it’s happening. All the time. We are all going through something — struggles, lessons, living. All of us, just trying to bloom. And if we’re lucky, truly lucky, the beautiful few that we can call our friends, will show us how they got here — how they came to bloom. A luxury we could all afford.