Jodi Hills

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


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Let it be me.

Yesterday, on the way to the mountains, I was sure that I would see beauty. Of course the countryside, the eight colors of green, the old farm houses, the flowers. I knew it would be beautiful. And it was. Hay wrapped in golden bales, against the green – what a color palette! The smell of lavender in the air. It was expected and it didn’t disappoint.

But there was a moment. A gift really. Nature at its finest. Moving rapidly in the car – wait, goats! My husband slowed down. Backed up. The herd rested gently in the shade. Unafraid. They were unafraid I suppose because of what happened next. A large dog, came barreling toward the fence, near our car. I had only rolled down the window to take a picture, but this dog was having none of it. His bark was not just lip service. He wanted us gone. And right now. We eased the car up the road a little bit and this dog continued. Nothing was going to harm his goats. Our car was bigger, faster…didn’t matter. He could withstand – stand up for – anything! How could we not respect that? We took off down the road, rather quickly and that dog ran alongside as fast and as far as the road allowed. It was beautiful. He had a job to do and he did it. But not just that – he did it with all of his heart and capabilities.

Was that love? Empathy? Loyalty? Courage? What did we just see? I know it may sound ordinary, but trust me, it was something! To stand up for someone who doesn’t look like you, talk like you, live like you. That is something! Are we doing that? Are we? I hope so. For those who can’t fight. Who can’t stand. Are we protecting them? Are we giving them a voice? Oh, I hope we are. I want to.

It’s so easy to say “somebody” should do it. Who is this somebody? Let it be me. I do not have the bark, nor certainly the bite, but I have a voice. I have the words and the paint, and the willingness to tell my story, your story, our stories.

One of my greatest joys is when you see yourself in the words and paintings, maybe for the first time, maybe for the only time, but not for the last time. I love it when I hear, “Oh, that is so me!” “Oh, that’s my story!” “Are you sure you aren’t writing about me?” This, I love. This is me, humbly, running down the side of the road, as fast as I possibly can, so you can be seen, protected, valued.

I have certainly at times been the goat. And I’m so thankful for those who would stop at nothing to protect me. What a gift! I saw them today, at the side of the road. My grandfather. My mother. A few dear friends. My husband. What a beautiful gift! I will carry it with me, and try to do the same, as far as the road, this life, will allow!


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Growing the herd.

I first learned about herds on my grandfather’s farm. He had a herd of cows. “Why do animals need to be in a herd?” I asked him. “If the herd doesn’t pull together, it can be in danger. The herd knows its survival is dependent on the herd.” I shook my head. It made sense, but it also made me nervous. We, my mother and I, were in trouble. We had lost our herd. He could see me doing the math in my head, subtracting all those who had gone away. “How many does it take to make a herd?” I asked, hoping, pleading, begging with my heart for it to be a small number. I’m sure he could see my desperation for a clear and concise answer. “Two,” he said, and took my hand. Looking back, I’m not sure if he meant him and me, or my mom and me, but either way I was happy. I was a part of something. I would survive.

I’ve heard it used, and overused, the phrase – “We’re all in this together.” (I think I’ve used it myself.) But are we? Humans are herd animals. We do need each other. In a perfect world, I guess we would be – one human race – one herd, helping each other live a little better, a little stronger.

Each day I reach out my hand with words and paintings in hopes to strengthen the herd. You reach back by telling me your experience. And we find out a few more things about one another. My mom exclaimed in delight the other day, “I didn’t know Lynn Norton liked Jeopardy!” And we are all a little more connected.

The herd is as strong as we make it. Reach out your hand.