Jodi Hills

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

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Hotel breakfast.

I call it hotel breakfast. It can be as easy as putting out the extra homemade jam. Changing the artwork on the counter. But it feels special to me. Like that feeling when you walk from your hotel room down through the lobby, following the scent of coffee, and then seeing the magnificent spread on the table. I suppose maybe it’s all about the luxury of choice. And if I can give that to myself, to us, with just an extra jar of jam, why wouldn’t I do that every day in our own home? Why wouldn’t I give us the chance to feel a little extra special? The chance to begin the day choosing joy. 

I don’t know if my grandma visited many luxury hotels. But somehow she knew. I read in her diary about her first kiss behind the Alexandria Hotel. I assumed at the time it was grandpa, but I can’t be sure. Maybe it was here, too, that she had her first hotel breakfast. I’d like to think so. Something sweet on a white tablecloth. Tasting of choice and possibility. A kind of sweetness that when kissed on lips it stays with you. Lingers in the farm house so quickly filled with children and grandchildren. Lingers and rests in the cupboard to the right of the sink. On the bottom shelf. The variety pack of Kellogg’s Cereal. A variety pack that certainly was too expensive, but something she could not afford to pass up. Something she had to pass on to her grandchildren. Giving them the sweet choice of possibility. Making them feel so special. With each sugary spoonful, created just for them. She did this for us. 

The sun comes up. I have a choice to make. So I put out the extra jam. I begin the day knowing that this day is special. That I am. That we are. What could be sweeter than this!!!!?

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I have professed my love for libraries, over and over. The Washington School Library. The Alexandria Public Library. One small room. One small building. Each opened a world to me that will never close. I can smell the wood that housed the paper. The slight hint of sweet mildew, like an open window.

The truth is, this was not my first impression of books. My first collection of words on pages — words mixed with colorful art – these books held the smell of fresh produce. It was at Olson’s Supermarket. My mother hoisted me into the shopping cart. The silver denting the back of my thighs. Legs dangling. Her purse beside me.

Just after the cart corral was a long display of Golden Books. I can feel my arms reaching. They were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She placed one in my chubby hand and I was changed. Words on paper. My arms will be forever reaching.

I can hear her voice reading each page. Night after night. Year after year. And then I started to hear my own. How do you thank someone for giving you the world? I suppose the only way I know is to use the same words I was given. Again and again.

I was speaking to the young woman who is currently working on my new website. Not a small task. She has to handle each piece of art, each word. She told me yesterday, because she is so immersed in all of the work, “I feel like I know you.” My heart is still smiling. My arms are still reaching. We are in different countries. From different generations, and my paintings of the apples remind her of her mother’s kitchen. Once again, the sweet smell of produce… My world opens, and I give thanks with the words that first saved me.

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Out of the tree of life.

A red plum in France is called prune rouge. I like the sound of it. Elegant, I think. We have a tree in our front yard. Each year she gives us the most delicious harvest for making jam. It’s my favorite. Of our fruit trees, peach, apricot, cherry (she is yet to produce enough for jam) and plum, the plum, or prune rouge is the most difficult to make into jam because the fruit is very small and the pit is very big, and very attached. But the reward! As the fruit turns from yellow to pink to the most glorious, well rouge, aaah, it is magnificent. And the taste! The taste bursts into Frank Sinatra singing, “Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum!”

I heard once, and it took a long time to learn, but I believe it now, “One doesn’t love a home less for having suffered in it…” Things happen. Hurtful things. But I suppose, only where there is love can there be pain. People, places, that you don’t know, that you don’t care about, they can’t hurt you. But they can’t give you anything really. To really love someone, love something, there is always the risk of being hurt, well, more than risk really, you will get hurt. But the reward! When you take that hurt, grab it with both hands, break it apart, tear away the pit of it all, it can transform – you can transform, into something absolutely delicious!

Coming home now, I can see this place for all the rouge it contains. All the gifts it has given me. And I am grateful for it all, the pain, the work, the possibility, the start, and most of all the love! For giving me the lyrics to my song, “Still it’s a real good bet, the best is yet, to come!”