Jodi Hills

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

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The Farm Report.

Maybe it was different. Maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe we just didn’t hear about it. But what I remember of the news is this — riding in the front seat of my grandmother’s car. Windows open. The smell of earth. Bare legs stuck to the seat. Grandma’s house-dress waving in the breeze, and the flap of her upper arms. The news we listened to was only this — The Farm Report, and Paul Harvey. The voices melodic. Familiar. Simple. And we were saved.

I was washing the breakfast dishes. Looking out the window. Contemplating, agonizing, over this morning’s news. I opened the window. “Please just drive,” I thought. Drive us in open-earth-smelling air away from all this heartache. This killing.

I looked down below the window. “Uncle Wally” (the baby walnut tree) was standing strong. The tulips, looked dry, a little watering needed. The roses — full bloom, nothing to do but enjoy. My “farm report.” My heart calmed to a simpler time. I wish it for everyone.

I will not take up arms to fight arms. It is not my nature. It is not my belief. I can only offer my humble words. String them together, and possibly you can find some comfort in that. Some release. Some hope. Maybe, if we all could do that for each other — be the voices of common sense, common understanding, maybe we could all be saved. Maybe it’s too simple – but I pray it’s possible.

When Paul Harvey signed off, he always said, “Good day…” Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought his voice raised up a little at the end, as if maybe it were a question. And maybe it was. Maybe he was asking us to be better, to be more human, asking us to please, make it a good day.

Today, I will ask myself, and ask the same of you, “Good day…?”

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All of the trees in my grandparents’ yard were climbable, I suppose, but especially one. It was one of the biggest. It faced the road. Someone, I don’t know who, had pounded in strips of wood. If you could get one foot on the lowest piece, and reach your hand up to another, and pull, with all of your might, then up you would go.

There were 27 of us grandchildren. That tree had been marked and carved by every kind of shoe. And it stood strong. As strong, I imagine, as our need to get higher, to see more. get above and beyond.

And we did. We climbed. Higher and higher. And then, each of us, on different days, different years, we got high enough, and brave enough, and off we flew. With all of our wildly different high hopes.

I have flown far and wide, with the memory of trees — the strength of those who gave me a start, a rung to climb. And I give thanks. For I have been lifted, daily, knowing, we never really fly alone.

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Before Fleet Farm was cool.

For this to work, one must agree that Fleet Farm is cool now, and I do. But that wasn’t always the case. In its early days, and mine, Fleet Farm was not the megastore that it is today. It was small. Crowded. Dark. Clothes, the few they had, were not displayed, but crammed closet style. They weren’t bought ironically. No hipsters sported Carhart – did we even have hipsters? Fleet Farm looked more like an enclosed garage sale, and people went as far as changing tags on items, as if it were.

Visiting from France, my husband loves Fleet Farm. We have spent hours walking through the aisles. Fishing rods and overalls. Candy. Space to browse. And people ARE browsing. It is a real store.

Perhaps everything looks different from a distance. Oh, things change for sure, but so do our perspectives. I hope they change.

When I was in high school, my mom bought a pair of painter’s pants for me from that very uncool Fleet Farm. Today, most of my pants are “painter’s pants” – in one way or another. I wish I could say I knew Fleet Farm was cool then, but I don’t think I did. I had to learn a lot of things. Still do – by trying to see them. With new eyes. I paint my grandfather, wearing overalls he no doubt bought at that very uncool Fleet Farm. I paint with respect, and an apology for not seeing it, him, sooner. I paint the cows that he raised, the cows that the unpopular kids in FFA (Future Farmers of America) too raised in their fields that no one visited.

I browse this world with new eyes. A new heart. Not to be cool, but to recognize that they are, and really, always were.