Jodi Hills

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

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Nothing shouted.

The first time I visited New England was with my mother. I was just out of college. Up until then all of my “vacation” time had been used to have surgery. To say we both fell in love immediately would not be an exaggeration. The main street was lined with seemingly freshly painted white houses. Porched and welcoming. A street sweeper (by hand) waved us in. Washed windows revealed the contents. Clothes. Beautiful clothes for sale lived in this house. My mother looked at me and beamed. We walked the white stairs and opened the door. Was that the slight hum of angels singing? Or just my mother’s heart. 

It was all like this – this understated elegance. Lobster on paper plates. Lawns mowed. Cars washed. Nothing gilded. Nothing shouted – it wasn’t necessary, it showed. 

I visited again. Several times. I have never harbored a New England address. And though I may have never actually “there,” I have lived in it, here. 

There are so many gorgeous places around the world. I have been lucky enough to visit so many of them. And as the saying goes, “if you’re lucky enough to be here, you’re lucky enough.” 

I have, in the past, been guilty of waiting — waiting to be happy if I was in the right place. I’m learning, daily, to create those places, those feelings, that joy, that comfort, in the exact place that I am. Making the hotel breakfasts. Dressing up to go to the grocery store. Eating slowly. Seeing the day for the first time, because, aren’t we all? Today is really our vacation from yesterday. Our journey towards tomorrow. I’m going to take those photo opportunities along the way.

The electrician was here the other day. He finished his job. I don’t know his name. But I invited him inside. He vacationed for a few brief moments at our kitchen table. A cup of coffee. A plate of cookies. I smiled, hoping, for these few moments, that maybe I was his New England. He asked where I was from. And, as so many people do, asked which place I liked better, the US or France. How could I explain that I was trying to live in the best of places. That I carried a piece of it all within me. That I was a French breakfast in a New England town. A relic of Rome. Dancing to the joyful music in Spain. Dangling my feet in a summer Minnesota lake. Standing in front of my own painted “Mona Lisa.”  My heart jimbled at the thought. I could hear the angels softly sing, my mother now one of them. “I love it all,” I said. And meant it. 

I’m here. And I am home.

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The Italian

She always wanted to be Italian, Dominique’s French cousin. She dreamed about everything Italy since she was a little girl. She loved the language and the people. How did she know? Who tells the heart what to love? Where to fall? Somehow it knows. 

I hadn’t been living in France that long when we went on an Italian excursion.  We saw glorious things. Me for the first time. Drove Italian fast, round round-a-bouts. Monuments, relics, at ever exit. Stood along with the other tourists as they tried to push or hold up the leaning tower. Bello! 

I thought it would be a complete let-down to visit this cousin on our way home. She opened the door. Flowers in hand. Smile on face. A warmth that transcended any language. I barely spoke any French, and certainly no Italian, but somehow, I felt at home. I suppose the heart can recognize another that has found its way.

I have seen extraordinary things. We have returned to other parts of Italy. I have seen the Colosseum. The Pantheon. The Vatican. Civilizations. Empires. Each standing stone, evidence. 

Maybe it all comes down to those who dare to dream. Maybe that’s why I think of her so often. Some might ask what difference does it make? What difference did she make? How can any one heart matter? But I say it is something! Something extraordinary. I can still feel the love in that room. That Italian room. That French heart. The dreams of that little girl floating around the room, filling it with the evidence of risk, of hope, of pure love. 

You can travel the world looking for guarantees. You won’t find them. But you will find examples. Monumental examples of the human experience. Sitting a country away. In my American/French heart, the evidence remains, and oh, how I believe!

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Flinging towards faith.

I’m not proud to admit that there were several years in my youth that I thought it was the leaning Tower of Pizza.

I was driving on this leg of the trip when we arrived in Pisa, Italy. I thought (and still do) that the French drive crazy, but it was raised to a new level in Italy. The last round-a-bout before the city was packed, but not packed at a standstill, packed at a blazing speed. Dominique told me you just have to go – just fly through it. But I’m from Minnesota – we wave people in. There would be no waving. No thinking. Just doing. I held my breath and double dutched my way into the flow and was flung out through the first exit. Sometimes you just have to trust. 

Some of the most frequent questions I have been asked through the years — How did you know you could become an artist? How did you know you could make it? Weren’t you scared? The truth is, the scariest part was thinking about it. Once I started doing it – I was just doing it. There was no time to be afraid. There was work to be done. And I loved doing it! It was, is, my heart’s truth, and I trust in it.

It has continued to be the case for most things in my life — the worrying is always worse than the doing. Oh, I know, because I can get myself caught up in the worrying, especially in the wee hours. But the doing has always saved me. The living in the light of day. The flinging myself into the mix, the moment, and trusting that I have been given everything I need. 

Through the round-a-bout, onto the main street of the city, I could see it. The most beautiful tower. It was real. Through all of the chaos, it stood strong, a little crooked, but strong. I’d like to think I, we, can do the same.  

I watch the sun come up, and fling myself toward the faith.