Jodi Hills

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


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Yellow.

We have a group of people here in France called the “yellow jackets” – those protesting, well, I’m not even sure what they are protesting… They have lost a lot of momentum, probably because, as near as I can tell, that had nothing to stand on, or for. I remember watching the news in Paris when they were interviewing them on the streets. When the reporter asked why they were in the streets, why they were protesting, so many said, “Well, I’m just not happy…”. I laughed. Not happy. Since when was any government, any other person really, responsible for your happiness. And this is not unique to France. We have these people in the US. You see them all over the world.


Happiness is not a gift. Happiness takes work. It’s a process. A practice. It’s the art of finding a bit of joy in the smallest of things. The courage to look, in the most unlikely places. The guts to keep trying, to keep searching. And I will never belittle the effort. Some days will always be easier than others. Some days you only have to get over the fact that UPS is running late. Other days, your heart may be ripped in two. There is no “yellow jacket” for that. But there is always yellow. The promise of the bird singing in the tree. The dawning of a new day sun. The joy, that if you dig, deeply, and then have the courage to look up, it will carry you on wings — yellow wings of hope, of guts, of joy.


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The waves are calling.

Things have always been more clear for me on paper. It starts in my brain. Works its way through my heart. Travels down my arm. Through the pencil. Onto the paper. Now, I’ve always said I’m not one to edit. Once the words are on the paper, I try to keep them as pure as they arrived. I suppose one could say they’ve been filtered as they make this journey from my head to the paper, and that’s probably true. My brain has an idea, so many creative ideas, but I believe it is my heart that keeps them honest, real. And by the time it scratches through the lead of the pencil, (or the keys of the computer) I can trust that these are the words I believe. All the questions and concerns and worries that my poor brain can create, invent, inflate…when I can get to the core of them, calmly work through them, release them onto the paper, they are never the gale force winds that were whipping around my brain, but a calm and peaceful breeze of truth, that brushes across my face.

I used to love standing on the shore of Lake Michigan on a summer Chicago day. As the waves rolled in, I would tell them my thoughts and concerns, imagining they gathered them in, reversed and took them back out to the open water. And I was lighter. I was free. I was saved. This for me, is how I write. Releasing the thoughts. Letting them go. Standing on the shore. Free.

Each morning, I ask the words to take me where I only feel the wind upon my face. And with any luck, I reach out my hand, and take you with me.


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This year.

This year,let’s say the things we never said. Let’s forgive the things we never could.Let’s love like no lessons have already been learned. Let’s dream like we have the chance,and live like we have no other.

I first showed this piece in New York. Two women from a local gallery approached it. I listened to them. “Is it only for New Year’s, you know, with the ‘this year…” one asked the other. “No, she replied, ‘this year,’ it’s the same as today, every day.” And she was right. They bought the piece. Five of them. For their gallery.


I keep it beside our bed. I read it every day. Some days, one line is easier than the other. I liken it to a golf game. Some days you can drive a mile long, and miss every putt. Your short game is good, but then there is that bunker. No one gets it completely right every day. But we keep playing. We keep trying. We keep swinging.


And so I read the words. And I try to do the best I can. I keep loving and forgiving, (even myself), and dreaming and living, because ‘this year,’ is ‘this day,’ and I don’t want to miss it. It will be like no other!!!

Happy New Year!


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Happy Day!

I suppose it’s not that exciting to try something new on December 29th, or the 30th. Nobody blows a horn or lowers a ball. But I thought it was fun. On the 29th I painted a woman on a block of found wood, in a style I don’t normally do. Crisp outlines. Bright colors. It was a good lesson in determined strokes. On the 30th, I painted a bird on crafted paper. “Well, that’s not new,” you must be thinking, but this time, I did it all with the same brush. No relying on the tools of the trade – testing my patience and skill.

January is almost upon us. I used to go to the New York gift show every January. I would come home with hundreds of orders to fill. Looking at the pile of papers was incredibly overwhelming. So I didn’t. I taught myself to finish an order. One at a time. Complete the work, box it, label it, claim the victory, then go on to the next. Clearly I wasn’t the first to think of this, but it seems to be a lesson worth learning again and again.

Yes, today is New Year’s Eve! And that IS special! But so is tomorrow and the day after that, and the one after that. I don’t know what lies ahead. And I can’t plan the entire year. I wouldn’t even want to. Today my hands and heart will covered in December 31st, truly worthy of celebrating! Happy Day!


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Nobody told the birds.

December 26 is not the day we celebrate, but nobody told the birds. I’m sitting by my morning window, swarmed in song. I’ve never heard the birds so joyful. You can almost see the notes dancing in the trees under this cloudy Sunday morning sky. It truly is spectacular. What a beautiful thing to wake up to! A gift. Nothing to unwrap. Nothing to return. Everything to enjoy!

I guess every day is a gift. If the birds can see it, I, we, should be able to see it too. And I want to. Every day. I don’t want to waste one. I don’t want to wait for the calendar to tell me it is special. Each one is special. So on this 26th, this Sunday, this cloudy, uneventful day, I am going to celebrate this life. And I am going to sing!!!


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Dress Designer.

We were shopping the City Center Mall in Downtown Minneapolis, my mom and I. The shops were magnificent. Such beautiful things. Could we afford them? No, of course not, but the real question was, could we afford not to look? We were dreamers. We had to see.

We dressed up to go shopping. (I suppose like one used to dress up to be on a plane.) We stopped at the Lillie Rubin store window. Such elegance. We began to enter the store when the longest legged clerk I had ever seen asked if we had an appointment. An appointment? “You need an appointment to enter,” she said, as if words could be an eye roll. My mom, without missing a beat replied, “Are the clothes busy?” I laughed out loud. Long legs turned and walked away. We laughed all the way to Dayton’s.

We had already survived much bigger rejections than a Saturday afternoon store clerk. This would never stop us. Life gives you the opportunity to decide. People can’t hurt you unless you give them the power. City Center is long gone. But we’re still here. Still shopping. Still dreaming. Still looking. Still laughing. Through everything, still deciding to make it a good day.

My mother was a dress designer. Not for Lillie Rubin, but for us. I give thanks for that, every day.


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Winter boats.

It’s easy to love the summer of someone. The well lit, sun filled long days of them. But when the tanned shoulders are covered, with no aid of chilled rose wine in clinking glasses, you have to really love them. Just them.

But, oh, the winter boats. They are so beautiful. Resting on the shore. This is when you know. You know you can trust the love of the winter boats. The ones who will sit with you when the waters have cooled. Will be there, when no fireworks light July’s sky. Will be there, just be there, for you.

What a joy it is to not look back, nor forward, just beside. True love rocks gently.


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Pull over fantastic!

There is a Prada store alongside the road near Marfa, Texas. Prada Marfa is a permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. The installation, in the form of a freestanding building—specifically a Prada storefront—was inaugurated on October 1, 2005.

I suppose it can be argued as a statement against consumerism, but that was all lost on me, when we saw it, in this middle of nowhere…the extreme unlikeliness of it all, it just seemed so beautiful.

A picture came up in my photo memories — me, standing in front of a Christmas store window in Paris. That is “pull over to the side of the road” fantastic — the unlikeliness of it all. I mean, I was born in Alexandria, Minnesota! It took me years to see it – but what a gift – to begin there. A gift to begin with (you probably are thinking I would have said “nothing” here) but to begin with desire, hopes and dreams and the belief that if I kept driving, driving through this empty dessert, something magical would happen — and that, is not nothing! That is something! And something magical did happen! Continues to happen! Every day! You just have to be willing to search for it, long and hard, and pull over to enjoy it when it does.

I remember it was an extremely cold day in Paris. The winter winds were blowing. Most people walked with their heads down, bracing the cold and the wind, having seen it all before. But this was Christmastime, in Paris, and I couldn’t keep my head down. I could barely keep my feet on the ground. I stopped in front of each window. Big smiles – the unlikeliness of it all! The magic of this season, this life! I am the Prada store in Marfa. That is my Christmas miracle – every day!


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The good review.

I was listening to an interview yesterday with the author, Ann Patchett. You may know her from her books, Commonwealth, and the Dutch House. She is an accomplished writer. She has won many awards and her books are best sellers. The interviewer asked her about reviews and she said she rarely read them, and certainly never the bad reviews. She said she has a group of people around her, good friends, that shield her from these. But the crazy thing is, she explained, strangers, people who love her books, buy her books, wait in line for her to sign the books, some of these people still want to remind her of bad reviews. She said people will even take the time to cut out a bad review from the newspaper and bring it to her when they want their book signed. What?????And in all the years she has written, all the book signings she has done, no one has ever cut out a good review and brought it to her. This seems insane for so many reasons.

I have to believe this is some sort of flaw in these particular people. This can’t be human nature –this need to bring people down, the people you like, respect, love even… Because if it is a flaw, it can be fixed. And it must be fixed. Perhaps it is insecurity, jealousy, anger… I don’t know… but it has to end.

There is an old Native American Proverb —
No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves. Perhaps we could be as smart as the trees. Grow together. Learn together. Support each other. Stand in line. Slip gently across the table, the good review.


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Joie du jour.

It’s dark now in the mornings when I open the shutters. I miss the light of summer. I took my tentative steps through the morning mist, just a little uneasy. But the birds were singing. Singing as if nothing had changed, or perhaps in spite of the changes. Even in this darkness, they found a reason to sing. They found the joie du jour — joy of the day. So I stopped to look around. The heavy air glistened in the light of the street lamp. A good photographer could capture that I thought. The birds sang, as if to say, a good heart could simply stop and notice it. So I did. And it was beautiful. Different, yes. Lovely, for sure.

We sat down to eat our croissants. The radio said it was going to be a lovely day. I smiled. Knowing it wasn’t for them to decide. It was for me, for each of us, to make the decision, no matter the weather, the circumstance, to decide to be happy, and sing!