Jodi Hills

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


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Sofly, gently, joyfully.

My mother loved to dance. And she had the gams to prove it. Every Saturday night at the Glenwood Ballroom, her size 10’s glided across the polished wooden floor. Her heart knew the word to every song and easily instructed her feet.

She taught me how to do the same in our kitchen. Rugs kicked aside. Music turned high. She would always lead. I’d watch her eyes. Feel for the ever so slight movement of her hand against mine. And soon we were in the living room. Down the hall. Spinning. Through the bedroom. Back in the kitchen. Never pushed. Always led. With movements so graceful. So subtle. There wasn’t a difference between my hand in hers, or when I let go. I see now that that was the true gift. The ever gift.

There is no difference between the two pictures I have posted. Different times. Different countries. Sure. But for me, in both, I am being led, softly, gently, joyfully, oh so joyfully in the dance.


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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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Barely more than air.

It was common knowledge on the playground of Washington Elementary that if you skinned your knee, the immediate solution was just to blow on it. Because the monkey bars, swings, jungle gym, all rested on paved ground, this was an everyday occurance. And it was your truest friends who, when the scraped area was just out of reach, took over the duties, and eased the sting with this balm, barely more than air. 

I want you to know that I felt that yesterday, as you commented again and again with words of love for my mother.. Each letter, each phrase, relieving the pain of my skinned heart. 

We made it through recess together. Limping, hand in sweaty hand, we went back to the classroom with the love and knowledge gained on this sometimes battlefield. It’s comforting to know we can still do that for each other. Thank you, my friends, from the bottom, top and middle, of my ever-healing heart.


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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.


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Racing the wheat.

I’ve always gotten up early. Even as a kid, even (and maybe especially) in summertime. This extra light given, after a long Minnesota winter, this was something not to be missed. I would start wearing shorts as soon as the last patch of snow disappeared. My white winter-hidden legs were almost lavender. Exposed to the fresh, crisp air of sun’s warmth and freedom. It was as close to being a newborn as I could imagine. 

I suppose it was the possibility that I loved most of all. To be out in it. To be a part of it! Sun in my face, light breezes carrying, even lifting my knees, urging them to race — this is summer — this is life! And so I ran. I ran on gravel. I ran on tar. Slipped in morning’s wet dew. I ran in fields behind our house, racing the wheat – who would grow faster? 

It was always a surprise when the fields were cut. And my legs were tan. Where did summer go? But wasn’t it wonderful to still be surprised?!

I got up early this morning. Kissed by sun and warmth. Born again. Legs exposed — heart too – still believing that summer will never end.


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Hope chest.

Before I knew what it was, I began filling mine. I had overheard some older cousins and aunts talking about it around my grandmother’s kitchen table. From what I knew of hope, you couldn’t actually see it, nor did I see any physical “chests” within this conversation, so I took it literally, as children often do, and assumed it was my own chest, the chest that housed my heart, and this I thought, was the place to put all the hopes that I could carry.

I walked around the farm that day. And I listened. My grandfather hoped for rain. I put it in my chest. My mother hoped for peace and an appetite. They fit in nicely. It felt exciting to fill my hope chest. I hoped my older cousins would pay attention to me. I smiled and put it in my chest. I felt safe, and almost powerful. And surprisingly, lighter. With everything I put in, I just became lighter. This was the real treasure, I suppose, learning that hope will never weigh you down.

Even when I learned the so-called truth of these hope chests years later, I stuck with my own version. I went to France with almost no belongings. They would have cost a fortune to ship. But what the airlines didn’t know, didn’t weigh, was “my hope chest” — my hope chest that was completely full, bursting even. Loaded with every story, every life event, every day survived, every smile, every dream — every, well, hope really — all still within me. 

And in my hope chest, there are no expiration dates. Everything remains fresh, light, and new. A small cage of ribs protects them easily. They are mine. As long as I’m willing to carry. 

You have one too, you know. Oh, how I encourage you to use it. Fill it. Walk with it daily. And see it for the real and only treasure there is – a heart filled with hope.


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A berry in the window.

I’m currently reading the book, “Sorrow and Bliss,” by Meg Mason. The main character is remembering a period of time when her mother, a sculptor, would get lost in her work and not want to be disturbed. (Her mother is quite the eccentric character and a delicious read.) During these periods she would put a note on her studio for her two daughters, “Girls, before knocking, ask yourself this, is anything actually on fire?”  I’m still laughing. 

I was still a teenager when my mother started dating. She met a man, we’ll call him Roger, (because that was his name). When she (they) wanted a little alone time, she hung a decorative berry in the window of our garden apartment on Jefferson Street to alert me. It was a small strawberry, made of plaster, with a tiny string. So unassuming. So telling. If, when returning home on my ten-speed bicycle, I saw the berry in the window, I knew to keep riding. And joyfully, I did. 

I knew my mother was human when I saw her cry. Sorrow. It was good to now see her humanness for (forgive me) berry different reasons. Bliss. I can’t see a strawberry now without smiling.

I put up my painted berry today, in hopes that she can feel that girlish heart. In hopes that she will know, I will do anything for her to feel that way again. So I keep riding, round and round the block.


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O’Keeffe and Ukraine.

I’m currently reading the book, “The Other Side of the Painting,” by Wendy Rodrigue. An accomplished art historian, she is also the wife of George Rodrigue, the Louisiana artist widely known for his Blue Dog series.  I have never really been a fan of his work, so you might be curious why I would read this book. I am a fan of Louisiana, the culture, the history, and all things art. She explores in this book, not just her husband’s work, but explores his education, influences, from famous artists to the Cajun culture. All good information. There is one thing though, that I don’t agree with, that stops me long enough to write this, and that is his disregard for Georgia O’Keeffe. And it’s a pretty strong disregard — probably more accurately, a dislike. I happen to like her – probably more accurately, really like her. Now, certainly, Georgia O’Keeffe does not need me to come to her defense. She has stood the test of time, her art, her lifestyle. She, in my opinion, and that of most of the artworld, is far more accomplished than George Rodrique, so what does it matter? Why would I bother to voice my opinion, my respect? Why would I stand up for her? Sometimes, I think, what we stand for, says as much about us, as the other person, or the situation. Who we are, as humans, shows through. 

Once again, or still, or on top of, we find ourselves in a global crisis. So in my humble, humble voice, I say that I stand with and for the Ukrainian people. I believe in peace. Humanity. I even believe that the most humble of voices matter. So I stand. I listen. I read. I pray. 

Georgia O’Keeffe writes, “I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to.” I want to be brave. I want us all to be brave. To believe! To let our humanity shine through. It has to matter. Please, let us stand!


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A little more hope in the air.


During our last trip to the US, I went to Oncology with my mom. Because of Covid (it seems I start way too many sentences like that), I couldn’t go into the doctor’s office with her. I said it was fine, but those pesky tears in my eyes thought differently. So I did like my grandfather always told me – focus on someone else. People filled the room, all waiting… all hoping… and as I told you in a post at that time, I took a piece of paper out of the drawer, and wrote, “If you see this, I’m wishing you a good day.” So simple. But it kept my tears at bay, and put a little more hope into the air.


This year, as we were leaving Oncology, the head receptionist, told me to wait. She slipped a note into my hand. It read, “I did see the note. It made my day better. If you see this, I’m thanking you and wishing you a good day too.”


Connections. I’m not sure there is anything better. Whether we connect here on social media, or in real life, I can feel it — I am blessed by it — I am grateful for it! So if you see this, I’m wishing you a good day!


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A hint of blue.

You know I love yellow. I have written. Painted. Praised. So it might surprise you to know that my favorite thing about this painting is the hint of blue, near the top. The yellow of the pair is beautiful. Mixed with the life of orange and green. But it’s the peaking of the blue, for me, that makes it all possible. Just a little nod to say, remember how you got here.

Each morning we have our croissants at the kitchen table. There is window to our left. A window to our right. (I suppose you might say east and west, but I have a tendency to be directionally challenged.) But I do know the sun always rises on my left side. I look out that window and it’s bright. Hints of blue pushed by the pink urging of the sky. The opening of night’s gray that still looms on the other side. I look from side to side. Each morning. One blue. One gray. And it’s a choice. I urge my heart and mind in my strongest of pinks — “Make it a good day!” I look to the right and give thanks. Because I do remember how I got here. Each step. Each day. Each decision. I look to the left. Find my crack of blue, where everything is possible and I become…

Good Morning, Yellow!