Jodi Hills

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


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Lighthouses.

It sold almost immediately after she put it in the window of her gallery in Wayzata — this 4’ lighthouse painting. I suppose we are all looking for the light. We painters and sailors. We who bob up and down. Knocked over, then lifted, by the same waves.

I’ve always been a morning person. Everything seems possible in the morning. Everything lightened, not just in color, but weight. But, oh, that nighttime. That darkness. Oooh, that can really get away with me. I’ve always tried to fight it. But recently, I’ve tried something new. Not fighting, but challenging. Not going toe to toe with it, round and round with it in my brain. When those thoughts start creeping in, I acknowledge them. “I see you,” I say. “But not tonight. We can talk about it again in the morning if we need to.” It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to be helping.

I have always been up for a challenge. But rarely a fight. My grandfather taught me that in the fields. My mother taught me that in the trenches. Both houses of hope, of light.

I heard a line in a song once, “My heart is a boat on the sea.” That feels about right. So I keep riding the waves, toward the light. Hopeful for all the light to come. Grateful for all the shine I have been given.

The gallery was named The Good Life. How appropriate I thought, it is indeed. I woke to all of the possibilities coming through my window, and said to the sun, “Challenge accepted.”


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I didn’t expect to learn it at the airport.

We were so tired. On the last leg of our trip home. To be honest, I don’t remember which airport it was. Maybe Minneapolis? Or New York? Inside, they all start to look the same. We wanted nothing more than to just sit down. All the chairs at our gate were filled with other passengers, also not expecting to learn anything. On the way to the restrooms, we saw a meditation room. Yes!  Why not?!  With no one else inside, I felt it was ok to break the rules posted on the wall, and I called my mom on my cell phone. I was mid conversation on speaker phone when she walked in. She sat cross legged on the floor. I smiled to make my apologies and wrapped up the conversation as quickly as possible. “I’m so sorry,” I said to her. She was so calm. “No need to be sorry,” she said. There was something to this, I thought. “It’s not about having your surroundings be calm,” she explained, “It’s about finding your calm within your surroundings.”  Wow. 

I like to do yoga each morning. We have a large house and a big yard, but I have found my tiny spot in between our two desks in our office. I like it. Here, looking out the windows onto the yard, I find my balance with the trees. Once in a while, Dominique will come in. His chair squeaks. Sometimes an ad will pop up on his computer at twice the volume. Papers will shuffle. And I’m not proud to say, it used to throw me. Almost annoy me. So ridiculous, I know, but true. Not anymore. I will never forget this lovely woman, in that forgettable airport. Calm isn’t given. It’s created within. I smile. So happy to see Dominique’s feet as I twist out my lower back. 

It’s easy to be happy when everything is going well. Easy to be kind when life is at its best. To be calm in the quiet. But what do we do when it isn’t that way? Who are we when life gets hard? This is the real test, I suppose. I want to be better, in all times. I think maybe we all could do a little better in this daily chaos. So today, let’s be gentle with our past. Gentle with our present. Gentle with each other.


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Trust in your own length.

I wish I had the same patience with myself as I do with a block of wood.

I searched my woodpile for wood that could be made into a frame for my newest painting. First, I had to find enough length. I did. Two pieces that could be cut into four. Imperfections everywhere, but the length was there. So I began sanding. And sanding. Ending each day covered in dust, filled with the scent of possibility. I filled previous nail holes with putty. And sanded again. I will continue this process for days. I trust in it.

I asked my grandpa when I was about six or seven — (I calculate my age in the length of my steps compared to his) — “…but who tells you what to do?” We were walking back to his tractor in the field. I was always amazed that he could fix anything. The tractor. The mower. The combine. Whatever it was. He made the walk to the garage, or the barn, found the right tool and fixed it. I was fascinated. And it wasn’t just that. How did he know when to plant? Where? When to harvest? What to do every day? “I’ve made this walk before,” he said.

I’m not sure I understood the answer, but I knew enough to try to keep up. 

I suppose nobody can really tell you how to make the journey. You have to put in the steps. Believe in them. Trust in your own length. It’s difficult for sure. But I see myself making the journey with a piece of wood. It’s just a small journey, I know, but it gives me patience. It offers me faith. And I take another walk, each time a little less afraid. A little more forgiving. 

Somedays, it may feel like you are being asked to do the impossible. Be patient with yourself…kind. Believe. You’ve made this walk before.


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A soft touch.

The dentist told me that I’m brushing my teeth too hard. That was humbling. You’d think after brushing my teeth this long, I would know how to do it. “Doucement,” she said. (Meaning gently.)

When they say it never rains here, it’s not like the song…we live in one of the sunniest parts of the world. It’s in my nature not to waste it. While the sun is shining I think, “I can do this, and this, and don’t forget… keep going…” And I like it. I enjoy it. I need it. But once in a while, it’s in my best interest to just slow down a little. The universe, being much more wise, saw that maybe it was time for me to be calm. But it took a darkening of the skies, and a few loud rumbles to make it happen.

I turned on my desk lamp. Opened my sketchbook. Took out the colored pencils. Rolled them through my fingers. I like the sound of the wood clinking with possibility. I sketched out a bird. Slowly. Colored in it’s wings. Feathers. Found a pastel stick to create the white areas. Pastels require the softest of touch. Doucement. And there was my bird. My gentle, little, rainy day bird.

Sometimes we are hardest on ourselves. Impatient. Unforgiving. And we need a little reminder to be gentle. Take this bird to be just that. And be kind today — to yourself. Hold the pastel of your heart softly, without judgement, and know that it’s not wasteful to be still. It’s healthy, necessary. Doucement, my friends…Doucement.