Jodi Hills

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


The hand given.

The amount of reasons not to do it had to be plentiful. It could be too dry. Too wet. Too hot. Not warm enough. The tractor could fail. His body could fail. Grain prices out of his control. And yet, I never heard my grandfather complain. 

Sitting on his overalled lap at the card table he only spoke of the current hand he was playing. He and the chosen three adults laughed, accused, pointed, shook heads in knowing victory, slapped losing cards on the table, and kept playing. Oh how they loved to play cards after a full day of farming. And when the sun came up the next day, he walked past the card table, pocketed his pipe, and went to the field that was given, worked it accordingly, without complaint. Each year turning it from brown, to green, to gold. 

Yesterday at our family gathering, (a multi-national event), I was speaking with my German niece in English in the French countryside. “I don’t have enough time,” she said. “And I’m sort of afraid,” she continued. “And I could fail…” She offered up reason after reason not to paint, even though she claimed she wanted to. She was looking so far ahead. Beyond canvases painted, sold and shipped. A business created, and what if that failed, all before a brush or tube was even purchased. “You could just paint a picture,” I said. I could hear my grandfather’s voice deep from within.

He never played next year’s hand. He farmed in the day that was given. What a lesson to be learned. I remind myself constantly. Because I, at times, can get way too far ahead of myself as well… with all the what ifs of tomorrow. But really, we only have this day. And I choose to make something of it. 

It occurs to me as I’m typing this, the answer to one of her questions. I told her I was working in my favorite palette. Stroke by stroke in these moody, earthly colors. She asked why I loved it. It’s so clear to me today, it’s the hand I was given. 

Thank you, Grandpa.


My precious time.

Barbie was my first (and only) friend to get Pong — the premiere “tennis like” computer game. She couldn’t wait to show me. I rode home with her on the school bus. The way she flung open the door, dropping her books, racing to her bedroom, I thought this must really be something. She turned on the small tv screen. It blinked in blue. “It takes a second,” she said. All smiles. I wanted to love it, because she loved it. After explaining the bars of light were like paddles, and the light that moved was like the ball, I enthusiastically said “Great, let’s play!” She told me that we already were. “That’s it?” I thought – I hope it wasn’t out loud, but it probably was. “Isn’t it great????” Was it? Was it even anything? “We could go outside and play tennis,” I said, hoping. “No, this is cool. Let’s stay here,” she said. The screen plunked. Boop. Boop. I was never so bored.

I was so happy when my mom picked me up. I was always happy for that, but this evening most especially. “How was it?” She asked. “Ok, I guess.” “Just Ok?” “Really kind of stupid,” I said. “So you don’t want one?” “No.” She shook her head and smiled.

The next night I stayed outside as long as I possibly could. My mom called me from the garage door three times, not angrily, because I think she knew, (she knew I knew) we were given only so many youthful suns, and they weren’t to be wasted. Our “someday” was now.

My first college roommate loved Ms. Pac-Man. She begged me every night to go watch her play in the common room. Her eyes, shiny like the quarters she held in her hand, “please, please…” she urged. I finally put my book down one night, giving in, and went to watch her move a gobbling girl across the screen. Boop. Boop. Each sound eating up my time. My precious time.

We don’t all love the same things. And maybe I took it too literally when my mom shortened what every mother said on Van Dyke Road — “Go outside,” to just “go.” Off I went. First, just in my mind. Then in books. In school. Across our country. Then off to another.

I made peach and apricot scones for the first time yesterday. I picked them off the tree outside of our open kitchen window. The wind carried the fresh scent through the house, and I carried them to the outdoor table. All the while, our Meta Quest headset that we received as a gift lay charging in the living room.

I continue to create my own world. By heart. By hand. By imagination. My youthful sun is still rising. And the wind carries the gravely voice of VanDyke road saying, joyfully urging — “Let’s go!”