Jodi Hills

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


1 Comment

…Even on fragile legs.

When I watched her dance, I couldn’t believe that those legs could be that strong. Not only to lift her in the air, but then brace her as she came back down. Simply amazing the strength. Maybe that’s why I love dance so much. This elegant combination of beauty and strength.

The champion horses in Kentucky display this same recipe for beauty. These massive animals, carried so elegantly on seemingly fragile legs. Amazing! How do they do it? I paint them with as much respect as the dancers.

Perhaps I’m only able to recognize the beauty in both because my mother has displayed this same combination of beauty and strength my whole life. I know she often worries, or says, “I want to be brave.” And she is, oh, she is! She is the dancer that doesn’t see the audience standing on their feet in awe. She is the Thoroughbred that runs through and past the finish line.

When I first started painting, even the most simple of characters, my mom would say, “oh, she looks like me…” And of course they all did. They do. I see her in everything. I guess that’s how it is when you love someone. You see their beauty – everywhere.

I paint the horse and I smile. I am a dancer. A race horse. My mother.


1 Comment

No slip of beauty


I don’t know if she was born with it. Maybe all kids have it, if given the freedom. But she has something – some may call it confidence, or a lack of shame. Maybe it’s a mixture of both, combined with the essence of youth.


She isn’t afraid to try anything. And she isn’t afraid to fail. In fact, she doesn’t see it as failure. She can finish a painting that some may see as juvenile, or crude, but she thinks, “Voila!” – and couldn’t be more proud. She can put on a swimsuit, never giving a thought to her baby fat that still clings around the middle. Not a worry. She’ll even run in her swimsuit – (a nightmare for most of us.). She’ll sing songs with no idea of the lyrics. OUTLOUD! She attempts a new language with no fear of mispronouncing the words – in fact it’s your fault if you don’t understand. She dances. She laughs. She is a super hero!


I don’t what the years will bring. I don’t know what she’ll become. Who she’ll become. I only pray she keeps the tightest hold on this – whatever this is – this confidence, this youth, THIS!


I see it in her, and I can still feel my own. Feel myself flying on my banana seat bike, without boundaries or limitations. Believing! I am so grateful for the reminder she brings. And if she’ll let me, I will help her hold on, hold on with the might of youth, so she’ll never feel the fear that living can bring, the shame in any attempt, the slip of beauty. We need to protect her. Protect THIS! Celebrate THIS! We ARE her, we are THIS!


3 Comments

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.)


2 Comments

BIG HOUSE, LITTLE HOUSE, BACK HOUSE, BARN.

The farmsteads in Maine and throughout New England evolved over time as barns and other structures, including farmhouses, were built. Throughout the 1800’s, a unique layout of connected farm buildings developed, based on functional needs including shelter from the winter weather. They were referred to as Big House, LIttle House, Back House, Barn. This connection created greater comfort for the family as the farm grew.

The first time I visited, I fell in love with Maine. The color palette drew me in. A greyish blue sky, that held both the promise of sun, and rain. The guarantee of warmth and growth. The houses and barns, never thick with fancy, but filled with a gentle strength. Such beauty in the simplicity. I wanted that simplicity. That strength. Those connections.

To connect — I suppose that’s everything. Barn. To know the work, the hard, back breaking, “foot in each furrow” labor of living. Back house. To be forever welcomed through back doors, no matter how stained and weathered from the day. Little house. To rest in the comfort and familiarity of the ordinary. Big house. To celebrate the grandeur of the extraordinary!

Big House, LIttle House, Back House, Barn — a world away, I wander through each on a daily basis, giving thanks, knowing that I am home.


1 Comment

Sans temps. (Without time. )

My mother-in-law is without time. Some days she is forty years old. Some days 60. I suppose after nearly a century you should be allowed to choose your own age. And she does. Without apology, she is young, she has babies, and thinks you are the crazy one for getting older. She’s probably right.

There is a young girl that I have painted. Little girl blue. She is just about to dance. She’s just a tiny bit afraid, but determined. And you know she will do it. I see her every morning. In my bathroom mirror, her reflection is just beside mine. I put on my dress, and I too, am without time. I, too, have the legs of youth, and can hear the music. There is no yesterday, or tomorrow, just the open blue of today, and I can’t waste it. I let go the fear of time passing, and simply dance.


5 Comments

Cardinal on my sleeve.

We sang a cheer in high school –


“We are the cardinals!

Mighty, mighty cardinals!

Everywhere we go – oh,

people wanna know – oh,

who we are,so we tell ’em…

We are the cardinals… (and repeat and repeat)


I never thought about it then, really, but what a lesson. I’m not sure that people often describe cardinals as mighty, but we did. And why not? It was our decision after all. We were cardinals. That was the mascot we were given. We could choose to wear it proudly, or sink behind someone else’s fragile truth.

So the black and red became a symbol of strength to us. A symbol of celebration in victory. A symbol of perseverance in loss. And we were nothing, if not mighty!


You get to decide what makes you strong. You get to decide who you are. Stand up in the colors you were given, and the colors you create. Even with the most fragile of wings, you can choose to be mighty!

I paint the birds again and again. They are my heart. My fragile, but ever-winged, mighty heart! The heart I wear proudly on sleeve, and in song, because I still think, maybe, you just “might wanna know – oh…”


1 Comment

Worth the time

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time. Georgia O’Keeffe

She held the clipboard tightly to her chest. It was a listing of all the paintings I was showing at her gallery. She didn’t list the prices on the wall. Only on the secret clipboard. I wondered at first if this was a good idea. I watched her interact with the guests. She was in complete control. Like she was leading the dance. They followed her. Asked questions. Even if someone asked to buy a piece, she said she would write their name down and let them know at the end of the show. Really? Was this a good idea? I didn’t know, but I trusted her, and this dance, it was so lovely. So the evening went on. Glorious with anticipation. People chattered. Who would get the paintings? It was so exciting. Value was added with each inquiry, each name taken down. And she held it all close to her heart.


She took her time, you see. She made the people engage. Ask questions. Learn about the paintings. The meaning of each one. The stories behind them. And it all had worth, the paintings, the people, the time. She sold out the show. The only time this has ever happened for me. It was amazing! What a rare and precious gift. All because she took the time. And in the time, saw the worth, held it close to her heart.


I want to live like this. Make friends like this. Gather it all in, close to my heart, every story, every second. This life, it’s really quite a show!


2 Comments

Simply. Love.

She was immersed in gray, this young woman on Youtube. I watched her walk by the lake, in the fog, in the drizzle. The sky seemed to seep into the water, barely a difference. And she was so happy! Truly happy! The kind of heart-sighing that breaks into the widest smile of content. And just to confirm it, she said, “I love this weather. I wish I could live in this every day! It’s my favorite!” And I knew she meant it. You can’t fake that kind of happiness. She thought it was absolutely beautiful. She took photos and videos. Gasping in delight.

Normally, I am a person who can’t get enough sun. I feed off of it. I love the colors it creates, in nature, and in my heart. It is a warmth that I crave. But here she was, telling me how beautiful it was, the exact opposite of what I love, and you know, I could start to see it. Yes, it was beautiful. Because now I could see what she sees.

Now, I’m still going to hope for a sunny day. It is, and will always be my favorite. But I can appreciate that she loves what she loves in the very same way that I love what I love. Let’s slow that down a bit. She loves what she loves and it is beautiful. I love what I love, and it, too, is beautiful. That probably works not just for what, but for who…

It’s a pretty big world. Room enough for all kinds of love, I suppose. Maybe we should just let love, simply love.


2 Comments

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.


2 Comments

One

She, at the age of ten, already has a vastly greater grasp of the french language than I do. It is humbling for sure, and that’s not a terrible thing, but sometimes I wonder, what do I have to offer if I can’t convey it? Then we go to the studio. My paint. My brushes. My canvas. This is my language. And she wants to learn. I give her a small canvas and ask her what she’d like to paint. Immediately she looks around – at everything I’ve done. (And that’s when I think, I do have something to offer.) The apples. She wants to paint the apples in a bowl. I place that painting in front of her. Tell her to just draw in pencil at first. Give herself a good start. She chooses the paints. We create a palette. Slowly we go through each step. The light. The shading. The mixing. She is interested. Curious. And she is learning. It is a beautiful thing. We are different in age and culture and language and knowledge, but here, we are one heart, one creation, and that is everything.

It’s not easy to come together. Efforts need to be made. Egos must be put aside. We have to be curious. Interested. Yes, it can be difficult, but the rewards — immeasurable. Stop looking for the things that make us different – because you will find them — it’s so easy. Look for the things that can bring us together. And look again. And again. One creation. One heart. Everyone. That’s everything.