Jodi Hills

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


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Green. Golden.

It was not an accident that I ran into the stainless steel tree yesterday in the museum’s park. It was beautiful. Permanent. It would never die, I thought. And this seemed so appealing, just after hearing of her death. This tree would never die. Never.

It was an overcast day. No sun visible. And what if time did stop for us? What if it stopped now, and we were forever here? Never changing. No, I thought. I don’t want to be the stainless tree. With all of life’s flaws and heartaches. Goodbyes. Tears. I want to live. I want to feel it all. I don’t want to miss out on what today will bring. What tomorrow will bring.

Nothing is permanent. And that is frightening. But even more, to me, is to not really live. I want the chance to blossom. To bloom. To green. And with that, I will not get forever, but I will get now! A more beautiful now than any permanence could ever promise. A today of chance and hope and love and life.

We said goodbye to Rose Ann Maloney yesterday. She did not live a perfect, stainless steel life. It was filled with hellos and goodbyes and joys and heartaches and laughter and laughter, and work, and more work, and love – so much ever changing LOVE! So no, it was thankfully not stainless steel. It was not permanent. Not shiny. But make no mistake – it was green! It was golden!!!

In loving memory, I will repost a blog that she said was her favorite. She said it would help her be brave in her journey. Maybe now, for those saying goodbye, it will also, I hope lend some of that much needed bravery.

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Barely more than air.

There is a group of migratory birds that, each year, flies 7000 miles over water, without stopping, without eating, without sleeping. They are able to shut down a piece of their brain. Their heart rate changes. Their digestive system adapts. These beautiful living beings, weighing barely more than air, have been given every tool necessary to make the journey. Each year, at the same time, in the same place, without worry, without discussion, they take the flight. They don’t gather and wonder, “Well, I don’t know, it’s a long ways… I’m not sure… It’s super hard…We could get hungry… Probably tired… Maybe we should wait…” No, these are the voices in my head, probably yours.

When I was five years old, I began to write and I began to draw. My mother said, no matter what I was feeling, I would go into my room and create the feelings on paper. Feel them. Work through them. Resolve them. These words and colors would carry me through unimaginable things. They still do.

Sometimes I forget. Clogged down with little things like, oh, my computer isn’t working correctly, how can I possibly go on… I’m embarrassed to say that I can be grounded by the smallest things, when I know, I have been given everything I possibly need to make each day’s journey.

I, we, barely more than air, hold the most magical gifts. Here comes the sun, my friends. We can do this. The sky is open with possibility. I’ll see you up there.

———-

See you up there, Rose Ann!


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Go higher.

We almost past by this store yesterday, until we saw the sign, “This store voted number one in Midway, by owner.” We turned around and went inside. A store with a little pride and a big sense of humor, we couldn’t miss that! It was a delightful store. And we almost missed it. The people inside were welcoming. Funny. And they had great merchandise. And we saw it all because they presented themselves in the best manner. Maybe we could all do that.

Even at our most poor, my mother always looked like a star. She dressed well. Put on her make-up. Put on a smile, sometimes gutted there by pure will, but it was always there. She looked great! Still does. Because she cared. We were at the downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s store. It had many levels. The levels got more expensive with each escalator ride. She didn’t even look at the first level. At the second, she glanced around and said, “Ewwww, this looks like stuff we could afford…”. We laughed and went higher.

Through the years she found the sales. Put things on lay-a-way. Saved. Wished. Styled. And always looked wonderful. She taught me that. What a gift. It’s never about money. It’s about style. And if that style can include a little pride, self-esteem, and a great sense of humor, that will take you pretty far, and you’ll look good along the way.

She will always be voted #1 mother, (by her daughter.)


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Family

He used to sit right above my head in my office. Sold recently to a wonderful family in my home country, he now has a new home. Now it is she who rests above my head. And although they are completely different, she teaches me every day, (because I need it – perhaps we all do…) the lesson of empathy. The lesson of seeing other people. Because once you see someone – truly see them, you know better, and when you know better, you have to do better.

Yesterday I sat with my family outside at the garden table. We drank wine. Ate the fruits of the sea. Barbecued. We were one. Now, in reality, we are not related by blood, by language, or by culture, but we are family. Because we chose to be.

Across the sea, my mother put on her new dress, and went out to dinner with her best friend, Carol. They drank and ate. Gave and received compliments. And I could feel their joy! They are family, because they choose to be. And I will always choose to be theirs!

The world needs to make some big choices now. Are we really prepared to see what is happening to humanity? And if we truly see them, can we every look away? Or can we make the choice, that as humans, we belong, we have a place at the table. We are family. I look at the face that rests above me. She tells me this has to be true.


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— and my heart beside —

I’m not sure which lesson is hardest to learn, to be there for someone when they need you, or to let them be there for you when you need them.


My mother had two male friends. And they were good friends, to her and to each other. When one of them was near the end of his life, the other wanted so badly to be there, to help in the biggest, or smallest of ways. In any way. And not just wanted – needed. Really needed it. Needed to be by his side and show him that he mattered. Show him that their friendship mattered. To be let in this one last time. But the failing friend couldn’t do it. Couldn’t allow this last gift. He saw it as weakness – and not the final gift that he could give his friend.


I can’t claim to know either side of this exact experience, but what a lesson! For our daily lives. Some days we are the one who gets to stand strongly beside, and other days, we get to rely on that nearby strength. Both gifts. I want to be strong enough to stand. I want to be strong enough to let you in when I can’t.


And we do this together. Side by side. Each the better for it. No one keeping track of whose turn it is. Our shadows and hearts melding as one.


Emily Dickinson wrote, “It’s all I have to bring today — this and my heart beside –“


Beside. Today and every day. The perfect gift.


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Unassuming strings


Yesterday three different people sent pictures to me of my artwork in their homes. I can honestly say this is nothing short of thrilling. Truly. I will most likely never visit the home in Germany that has the original painting of my clock radio and coffee cup. Nor will I step foot into the house in Ireland where my painting of Gregory Peck hangs. But in a small way, I am there. I am next to the cause that you represent. Next to your son’s image, who has passed. In your daughter’s bedroom where she practices her dance.


We have the saying, “no strings attached” – meaning, I guess, a gift, a connection without obligation. This is good. We should always give without expectations of getting something in return. But I’m thinking how nice it would be if we could, in this spirit, still make the attachments, the connections. Still become a part of other peoples’ lives, with the tiniest of unassuming strings. Strings that reached out in compassion, interest, the pure joy of association, connection. And maybe those tiny strings could weave a web of empathy. Supporting us in the most difficult times. Raising us together in our times of celebration.


Today, I link each letter, each word, each sentence, with the hope they form the smallest (but strongest) of unassuming strings, and somehow, we attach.