Jodi Hills

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


Come in, you and your heart sit down.

For many it is a tradition to drive around neighborhoods to look at all the houses lit up for Christmas. That’s fun, I suppose, but for me, I looked at it a little differently. I was never so much in search of the light, but the warmth.

Since giving up our home when I was a little girl, I began the search. I would walk by. Bicycle by. Look at the homes. Wondering what they were doing inside. How did it feel? What was it like to be gathered in? Wrapped inside the warmth. Not the heat, nor the light. For it wasn’t about that. It could be a summer’s day, and I would search for the warmth.

What was that warmth? If I had to give it a definition I would say the feeling of belonging. The feeling that if you went there, they would not just have to take you in, but delight in it. They would sigh with hearts, that you made it here – home. They would not care how you got there, just that you were there, here, in the warmth of this place.

And so I painted. Houses. A yellow house. A green house. White houses. Doors. Entries. Windows. Shutters. I painted it all. Willing it to life. And I did, you see. I found it in the search. The destination was my heart. (I guess Glinda from the Wizard of Oz was right — “You had the power all along, my dear”)

I still paint the houses, even though I have found my way home. I’m no longer searching, but presenting. Maybe you need to find it too. So I paint them. Again. With a palette that will draw you in. Open arms. No judgements. No restraints. I want everyone to feel that. Not just Christmas in December. Or July. But every day!

Welcome home.


Empathy (just a little more)

I painted Judy Garland about nine years ago for a show in Chicago. She’s started at 8 feet, and through mounting and unmounting, she’s maybe closer to seven now. Chicago was only the first part of her journey. Since then, she made the voyage to France. She has suffered through each leg, not unlike real life, I suppose. She is cracked and chipped, some may say even damaged, but I think that makes her beautiful. I think that makes her real.

I don’t know how she lived her life. I wasn’t there. But I do now how she sang a song. Almost as if her heart were breaking with each note. This is something to me. This is how I see her on the canvas. Without judgement. Because, no one escapes, do we. We all have to survive our wounds, those thrust upon us, those self inflicted. This is how I want to see people. Looking beyond the damage and the dust, to the pure music of their lives. Because it’s there. Let go of the judgement – it’s so noisy! Listen to the music. It’s beautiful.

Judy is recorded as saying,
“…wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be a little more gentle with each other, a little more loving, and have a little more empathy, and maybe, next year at this time we’d like each other a little more.”

Good morning, World! Today I like you – even more!



“She learned to look at things more softly. And even when the gift wasn’t returned, she had received her own.”

It’s a funny thing – forgiveness. Maybe one of the hardest lessons to learn. And it’s not like a recipe from which you can get the same results every time. That would be too easy. No, forgiveness wants, needs, to be learned and relearned, over and over.

I used to think it was like a debt, you were letting someone else off the hook. And that felt so wrong. Like to forgive was to say it didn’t matter. But that’s not really it — partially though, the letting off the hook part is right — but it’s not the other person, it’s you. It’s releasing yourself. Giving yourself freedom from the hurt, the anger, the torture of reliving the situation.

But even in knowing this, it’s still hard though. Sometimes I find myself replaying a conversation in my head, oh, I should have said this! How could they have done that??? And everything tenses up – I can feel it. I can actually feel my face get harder. That can’t be pretty. And it takes a few beats before I think, what am I doing? What a waste of time. And I learn the lesson again.

Someone told me once, if you’re nervous, like going to the doctor for example, to wiggle your toes. I tried it during an exam, and it worked. For some reason, it’s hard to tense up when wiggling your toes. I could feel my cheeks get softer, and in the softness, I began to smile.

I didn’t have a story in mind when I started painting her portrait. But the softness in her face gave me the story, gave me the gift. The ease of her coming smile. That’s the grace I wanted, still want, every day. That was the gift. I pass by her face each day. I give thanks. (Maybe even wiggle.) And I let go. Softly.