Jodi Hills

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


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Growing poppies.

My grandmother was a dreamer. My grandfather was a worker. And together they created a life of faith. I think that’s what faith is, believing in things some people may call unimaginable, but you imagine them anyway, and work towards them. My grandfather was the muddied rack of coats that hung just inside of my grandmother’s unlocked door, the door she kept open, hoping to let in her next big thing! And it worked. The house – this home – this giver of nine lives, stood strong.


I knew the poppies would come. Because I put in the work. Because I believe in what I imagine. I show you the painting today, so you too, can believe in all of the things clearly and unclearly imaginable and reach out your own weary and working hands, and grow your fields of rouge!


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Maybe we were all looking to be saved.

I was waiting for my mom to come out of the doctor’s room. I couldn’t go in with her. Covid. Most of the chairs were filled in oncology. The weight of that…things didn’t stop just because of Covid. People still got cancer. It filled the room. I sat on a small chair with a desk, just outside the door. The chair was formerly filled with a greeter I suppose, or support person — no longer able to be present. I opened the drawer. There was a pad and few crayons. I wrote a note and left it on top of the desk – “If you see this, I’m wishing you a good day.”


We had to go back to oncology the next morning. As we walked out the door, the woman working the front desk called out my name — “Thanks for writing that note!” she said. It travelled through the weight of the room and fit directly into my heart. She knew me. She saw me. And I was saved.


My grandfather told me years ago, if you want to feel better, focus on someone else. I often forget. And then he angel pokes my self-focusing heart, lifts my hand, and I try to do better. Always try to do better. And so I’m sending out the words again today, to cut through whatever weight is clouding your room, “If you see this, I’m wishing you a good day!” A good day that will save us all.


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10,000 lessons.

We’re crossing bigger waters today, but we always find our way to the comfort of shore. And how would I have ever dared without the waves that first rocked me? Gently. Easily. Each one saying, you know there’s more…we taught you well. Go see. And they did teach me well – these 10,000 lakes, this Minnesota. With each arm splashing, leg kicking, breath-losing, breath-taking wave – taught me when to dive, when to keep my head up. Gave me laughter. Washed me clean.

Today is a day to keep my head up. I won’t let my teachers down. Thank you, Minnesota.


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A blink of blue

We decided to get lunch before taking pictures at the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we went into the restaurant. We had the most delicious sushi. We stepped outside under a gray cloud. Wow – that changed quickly. Still, we went to the lake. The sky, was a mixture of grays and whites. Full of movement and rumble. It wasn’t the beauty we had seen just 45 minutes ago, but it was beautiful! We walked along the shore. The golden leaves popped out against the gray. The lake’s sky, as if to thank us for still coming out in the ever changing weather, blinked a brilliant shot of blue. It was so magnificent! It lit the air and my heart with hope.

Life moves and changes – often faster than we’d like, but we still need to show up. Find the beauty. And forever cling to even the smallest blink of blue, the promise of hope. Can you see it? Can you feel it? It’s beautiful!!


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Standing on the beast.

The bronze statue The Fighter of the Spirit, by Ernst Barlach stands near the 24th Street entrance of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The statue shows a winged man holding a sword vertically, tip up, and standing on the back of a snarling beast. The statue was commissioned by the University of Kiel (Germany) and was originally placed in front of its church (Holy Spirit Church). The statue did not fit with the ideals of the ruling National Socialist party; it was vandalized and condemned as degenerate art. As a result, the statue was removed and cut into four pieces, in preparation for melting down. However, the pieces were hidden on a farm and didn’t resurface until 1946. The statue was repaired and placed in front of the Church of St. Nicholas. Two copies of the statue were made at this time; the Minneapolis Institute of Art acquired one copy in 1959. This glorious spirit survived.


Growing up, I too, had my own snarling beast. (We all do at some time.) But it was my mother who was always “tip up,” (many times saved by a farmer) — ready to fight, to declare a different life, a better life, a life above the snarls. What a direction she was given, and then gave to me! She, this fighting spirit, my mother, pointed me straight to what I love. Straight to what I live.


The beasts will always try to run in our paths, but we stand tall. Forever tip up.


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…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.


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Green. Golden.

It was not an accident that I ran into the stainless steel tree yesterday in the museum’s park. It was beautiful. Permanent. It would never die, I thought. And this seemed so appealing, just after hearing of her death. This tree would never die. Never.

It was an overcast day. No sun visible. And what if time did stop for us? What if it stopped now, and we were forever here? Never changing. No, I thought. I don’t want to be the stainless tree. With all of life’s flaws and heartaches. Goodbyes. Tears. I want to live. I want to feel it all. I don’t want to miss out on what today will bring. What tomorrow will bring.

Nothing is permanent. And that is frightening. But even more, to me, is to not really live. I want the chance to blossom. To bloom. To green. And with that, I will not get forever, but I will get now! A more beautiful now than any permanence could ever promise. A today of chance and hope and love and life.

We said goodbye to Rose Ann Maloney yesterday. She did not live a perfect, stainless steel life. It was filled with hellos and goodbyes and joys and heartaches and laughter and laughter, and work, and more work, and love – so much ever changing LOVE! So no, it was thankfully not stainless steel. It was not permanent. Not shiny. But make no mistake – it was green! It was golden!!!

In loving memory, I will repost a blog that she said was her favorite. She said it would help her be brave in her journey. Maybe now, for those saying goodbye, it will also, I hope lend some of that much needed bravery.

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Barely more than air.

There is a group of migratory birds that, each year, flies 7000 miles over water, without stopping, without eating, without sleeping. They are able to shut down a piece of their brain. Their heart rate changes. Their digestive system adapts. These beautiful living beings, weighing barely more than air, have been given every tool necessary to make the journey. Each year, at the same time, in the same place, without worry, without discussion, they take the flight. They don’t gather and wonder, “Well, I don’t know, it’s a long ways… I’m not sure… It’s super hard…We could get hungry… Probably tired… Maybe we should wait…” No, these are the voices in my head, probably yours.

When I was five years old, I began to write and I began to draw. My mother said, no matter what I was feeling, I would go into my room and create the feelings on paper. Feel them. Work through them. Resolve them. These words and colors would carry me through unimaginable things. They still do.

Sometimes I forget. Clogged down with little things like, oh, my computer isn’t working correctly, how can I possibly go on… I’m embarrassed to say that I can be grounded by the smallest things, when I know, I have been given everything I possibly need to make each day’s journey.

I, we, barely more than air, hold the most magical gifts. Here comes the sun, my friends. We can do this. The sky is open with possibility. I’ll see you up there.

———-

See you up there, Rose Ann!


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Beating.

There is no vacation from your heart. It’s forever with you.

Even as we travel, I always take time to create something. Daily blogs. Sketches. Small paintings. It’s who I am. It’s my heart. I don’t need a break from my own beating.


I started painting and writing when I was five or six years old. My mother says I would go into my bedroom, and no matter what I was feeling, it would end up on paper. Felt. Resolved. I know I am one of the lucky ones. Not because I have something I love to do – I believe everyone has that – but because I knew what it was early. And continue to do it.


Every bird in the sky, and each of us on the ground were put here to do something. Find your reason. For yourself and for the world. The scariest part I suppose is claiming your gift. Daring to do it. Once you’re doing it, you’re doing it. No fear in flight.
You can flap and flutter all you want. Fighting it. Digging your feet in the ground. But your heart won’t rest. Each beat telling you – “Just do it already. I’m right here with you.“


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Brilliant.

As we change hotels almost every night, we also change the lighting in the bathroom. The ever so important lighting by which we begin each day. I fear my vanity may be showing, but I do like good lighting. It’s funny, perhaps hopeful, optimistic, but when I’m getting ready in poor lighting I think, “well, this can’t be right… this can’t be the way I look.” And then we get to better lighting and I have to admit I think, “yes, this is me, this is how I look!”

And why not? Why not think the best about yourself? Is it vain, or simply brilliant? I’m going with brilliant. And perhaps even more brilliant — if I’m willing to do this for myself, see myself in the best light, I think I should be able to do this for you. I think we all can.

We catch each other in so many moments during the day, and they may not all be flattering. But maybe, just maybe, on the days we are feeling “well lit” we can share that light with others. And maybe we’d all have a better day.

Step into the light. It’s going to be a beautifully brilliant day!


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Anyone.

After seeing it, the Liberty Bell, I had to look up the actual definition of the word. The thing is, we always think we know. There are many interpretations of course, but the words that kept popping up were freedom, rule of law, and not depriving anyone else of their freedom. Oh, we get the first part so easily, freedom, freedom, freedom. Me, me, me. But do we get the second part? The anyone else’s? That’s the hard part, I suppose. That’s where the crack comes in. This is where we fail so often.

We stood in line to view it, this line of anyone else’s, this line of every color and age, this respectful line that moved slowly in the heat of the sun – the great disinfectant. We were quiet, polite, respectful. For we were all in search of the same thing – proof that this was still the case – it could be done peacefully – this search, this daily march toward liberty. This daily march together in our differences, together in our similar pursuit.

We only got a few minutes to stand before the symbol, this bell. But it rings in my heart. I pray it rings in yours. I am your anyone else, and you are mine. And we march together, search together, work together, to ring out the great truths we all want to hear.