Jodi Hills

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


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Never finish.

There was a certain percentage of students at Washington Elementary that ate the Elmer’s glue. I must admit I liked the smell, but I never did eat it. I, along with the remainder of the class did however, put it on our fingertips, let it dry, and then peeled it off. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how satisfying that was.  This, along with a box of colored construction paper and Crayola crayons, could keep us busy during any rain altered recess. 

I was watching it rain yesterday afternoon through my office window, busy working on my new website. I have a small selection of paints at my desk, and a couple of brushes. 

I needed a recess — a rain altered recess. It’s amazing how it still can thrill me. The colors. The possibility. I knew at 5 years old, how magic this world was. Not only could it take you anywhere, but it would stay with you, inside of you, so permanent, so sure. I suppose it’s possible that I could have learned this on my own, I don’t know, but I give thanks every day for Washington Elementary. I give thanks for the teachers that introduced this world. What a gift they offered — this ability to go anywhere, even when the world was closed down…this ability to save yourself from the storm.  

I’m still learning. Still loving. I pray I never finish.


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New!

I don’t think it’s too spot on that this city is called New — New York. Every time I come here it does feel new, and probably more importantly, so do I! “Ok,” I ask myself, “what are you going to see, learn, create from all of this?” Because it’s easy to lose the magic. Magic relies on both the magician and the viewer – you have to want to see it. And, oh, how I want to see it, be it! I always have – probably because I grew up with a magician.

When I was a little girl, we heard the tales of New York, Paris… heard that everyone dresses up there — everything is elevated. I’ve been to both cities, many, many times, and it may not be completely true any more, not for everyone, but I still believe in it — this dressing for success — I suppose my mother taught me that. And it was never about “putting on airs”, it was more about being good enough, and I don’t mean for “them,” (whoever they are) I mean proving to yourself that you are in fact good enough, good and enough, more than enough to walk along, beside, within, outside, along, every day in this world.

When I was a teenager, inside our humble apartment, each morning before 7am, my mother worked her own magic. She pulled out a neatly hung ensemble from her small bedroom closet, freshly ironed, and got dressed for the Superintendent’s Office of School district 206. She was tall and thinned by angry words that no woman should ever hear. But she was beautiful. Beautiful because she made the choice to release herself from the pain, and become new! She made the choice, every day, to present her best self. And I smiled and cheered, front row.

So today I will walk down this New York street with my head held high, out of respect for my mother, my self, and this magical new day!!!! As the song says, “It’s a new dawn, a new day, it’s a new life, and I’m feelin’ good!”


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Nothing wasted.


“Inspire” is a tricky word. I think a lot of people want someone or something to inspire them. They want the “other” to do the work. But I’m not sure that can really ever happen. You have to want to be inspired. The receiver has to do the work. For example: living here in France, I can say that I receive a lot of inspiration from the Sainte Victoire mountain. Now, this giant rock isn’t really doing anything. It sits there. But if I watch it – watch it change colors in the different light, watch it turn black and gray under a cloud, turn so white that it’s almost lavender in the summer sun – if I do this, really see it then I am inspired. If I climb up its steep and rocky slope, breathe from my belly to my toes, rubber my legs, pump my arms, reach the summit, then really let it take my breath away – then I am inspired! If I paint it. Photograph it. Wave at it as we drive by – I receive all that it has to give. Inspiration is in the work of the receiver.


Cezanne painted the mountain countless times. He painted a simple apple again and again. He created his own inspiration. Some might look at my sketch book and ask, Why are you painting so many apples? Paint something different. But you see, I am. Every apple IS different. Every apple is unique in its shape and color. But you have to want to see it. And I do want to see it. I want to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I want to find the inspiration in everything – every day. It is on me to find it. Feel it. Use it. Enjoy it.


Today’s yellow sun jumps from the sky into my hands and onto the page. Nothing wasted.


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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!


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The short lens.


Yesterday, the first of January, we decided to take a walk up the small mountain close to our home. (In France we would call it a hill, but coming from Minnesota, it feels like a mountain.) The morning air was as fresh as a new year could bring. Going up the hill (mountain), the sun was out, but as we neared the top, we became one with the clouds and the fog. It was so beautiful!


We love to travel. We want to see and do everything! The world is really a magical place. So magical, that sometimes I forget to see what is right in front of us. I can get caught up in the what else, instead of focusing on the right here. So on this first day, this morning of the new year, I took the camera to celebrate the extraordinary of our every day!


And the universe was right there to help me focus on the right here. It brought the fog, as if to say, there’s no need to look that far ahead. Focus on what’s right in front of you. It’s so simple. But it’s true. I am one, for sure, who needs to learn that lesson again and again. I can get caught up in the awfulizing of the future – what if this happens, or that, or what will we do if they… It’s all out of my control. My vision. What I have is right in front of me. And if I take the time to see it, really see it — oh, it is beautiful! So very beautiful.


I want to see this day, this year, with the short lens. Live this life without worrying about everything that lies ahead. Without worrying beyond the fog, beyond what I don’t know. I want to see the beauty of the right here. Right now. And know that it is more than enough! More than I could ever capture. I walk joyfully, lightly, in the clouds, and give thanks.


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Joie du jour.

It’s dark now in the mornings when I open the shutters. I miss the light of summer. I took my tentative steps through the morning mist, just a little uneasy. But the birds were singing. Singing as if nothing had changed, or perhaps in spite of the changes. Even in this darkness, they found a reason to sing. They found the joie du jour — joy of the day. So I stopped to look around. The heavy air glistened in the light of the street lamp. A good photographer could capture that I thought. The birds sang, as if to say, a good heart could simply stop and notice it. So I did. And it was beautiful. Different, yes. Lovely, for sure.

We sat down to eat our croissants. The radio said it was going to be a lovely day. I smiled. Knowing it wasn’t for them to decide. It was for me, for each of us, to make the decision, no matter the weather, the circumstance, to decide to be happy, and sing!


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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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Tuesdaying

Shakespeare has been credited for creating hundreds of words for his plays. I’d like a little of that Shakespeare invention now. I think we need a new word for dreams. You know, the supposed daytime ones – the kind they mean when they say, “Follow your dreams…” Well, the person who created that statement has never spent a night in my head. Yikes. Those are some dreams – terrible dreams. And I would really rather not associate anything I love, anything I want to create, that I want to follow, with such horrible moments. So I search for a new word.


Because maybe, (even for you lucky ones that don’t experience these horrible dreams) maybe, they aren’t really ever dreams at all, these “daytime, heart-filled, hopeful goals” that we want to achieve. “Dreams” sound somewhat unreachable, or not even real. But I say, these “daytime, heart-filled, hopeful goals that we want to achieve”, they certainly can be real — very real. But they take work. Aaaaah, work. People don’t really want to hear that — that’s so not “dreamy.” And it isn’t. It’s gritty, and exhausting (in the best possible way)!


When I awoke this morning, from an awful dream, tears running down my face, I was never so happy for some reality!! The reality of homemade bread and jam, and the smell of coffee that fills the kitchen. The reality of love beside me. The sun in the sky. The birds singing. And another glorious opportunity to create. Create what I love. Write down the words. Move the paint. Do the work! This is my glorious reality.
Reality isn’t boring. It’s beautiful – or it sure can be! You can create your own reality — far better than any dream! Be curious. Be inventive. Be open. Do the work! And you will make love that is real. Friendships that are real. Jobs and art and lives that are fantastically different, and curious and very, very real!


Shakespeare saw a need, and filled it. When there wasn’t the perfect word, he created it. Or he took an existing noun and made it a verb (this perhaps is the ultimate definition of doing the work — taking your noun of a life and turning it into a verb of living!)


Today, when you are Tuesdaying, maybe forget the dream, and awaken to all the possibilities around you, within you!


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Kick. And push. And soar!

There was such freedom in it. Learning to swing. The first few years, having to ask, can you push me? Again? Knowing if they left, it would be all over. It was so limiting. So discouraging. Just you, hanging there. But then one day it happens. Fed up with the waiting. The depending. You push off from the ground. Reach your legs forward a little. Then ride it back. Curling your legs in. A little further this time. Pointing your toes. Back again. Further. Hugging in your knees. Then releasing. Pointing those toes to the sky. Hair blowing. Heart racing. Legs pumping. You are doing it on your own. How glorious! You’re swinging! All on your own!

I guess that’s what happiness is. You can wait around for someone else to make you happy, or you can figure it out on your own. You can create your own joy. You can pump and reach and fling yourself into the beauty all around you! Then you have something to share.

And, if you’re lucky, someone might come along and sit beside you. Fly along beside you. And you can turn to them and smile – a smile that says – hey, this is really some ride!

My legs are pumping. The day begins. I’ll see you up there!


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Nothing small.

“Why didn’t you tell me I was small?” she asked her mother.
“Because I never thought so,” she replied.
“No really. Am I small?” she asked again.
“You fill my heart with joy. Could anything small do that?” her mother replied.
She smiled. And felt a world of possibility.
“I wish I were beautiful,” she told her mother.
“You light up the sky, my love.” Her mother showed her the stars.
“What if I’m not smart enough?” she cried before leaving.
“You are stronger than you think.” Her mother held back her tears.
“What if I’m not strong enough?” her mother asked the open sky.
“I love you,” she sang to her mother as she flew.
Love held her. Could anything small do that?

(Chickadee – from the book “Bird Song” by Jodi Hills)

I found something huge yesterday. (Yes, I’ve been deep diving in the cleaning department). Well, what I found is only about 1″ x 1/2″, but to me it’s huge! A pencil sharpener. Even in its original packaging. Unopened. Sometimes the universe just knows what you need. (Or maybe it always does, and we’re just not looking.) And the most important thing of all – it works!!! That may not seem extraordinary, but believe me, I have a lot of pencils, for all types of drawing, and I, until yesterday, did not have a pencil sharpener – that worked. I have one that you just spin and spin and spin and nothing ever happens. I don’t think you should have to lose weight while sharpening a pencil. I have another that, no matter what you put in, it only takes out that one side, and you’re left with the shard of wood that you try to pick off, and it gets stuck in your fingernail, and you start all over again, getting the same result. I have another that absolutely fits no pencil that I own. I have no idea what it’s for. And my last one, has the most voracious appetite, eating everything inserted. None of these I actually purchased. They were all left behind from Dominique’s family. (Maybe left behind for good reasons.) But yesterday, aah yesterday, I found it. I opened it with such hope — oh, the tenacity of HOPE! — yes, I opened it and tried the closest pencil. The most perfect point. I tried another. Perfect. Easy. I tried charcoal. Yes. Lead, yes! Colored – sure, why not! Soft – no problem. Perfect points all. I wanted to fling open the doors of the studio and shout to the world – it works – it really works! I raised up my best Sally Field’s impression to the sky, “You like me – you really like me!”

I know it’s a pencil sharpener, yes, it’s small, but it takes that one thing in my life and makes it so much easier, makes it delightful. Nothing small can do that.

I guess it’s always the little things that make up a grand life. If you look at the ingredients of a croissant, it’s almost nothing, and extremely ordinary, but rolled and rolled, it becomes something magical. And shared with someone you love — even better. While eating our croissants at breakfast my husband said, “We have to find or make these for your mother, because she would really love them.” I told my mom that later in the day. She beamed – I could feel it over the telephone. He had thought of her. Just a little thing, but oh, so magical. The universe does this for us every day. Certainly we can do it for each other.