Jodi Hills

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

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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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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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Print your photos.

I “purchased” my first camera with Bazooka Joe gum wrappers. It was plastic and came in the mail. It lasted three days. Three glorious days. I took pictures of my banana seat bicycle, my sister’s dog – who jumped out of frame, my own feet – accidentally, the neighbor girls, and the summer grass. Film in pocket, I rode my bike to Peterson’s drug store and gave the roll of Kodak film to the smocked woman behind the counter. And I waited. And waited. When they called my mom to tell her that the prints were ready, I raced on my bike back to the drug store. Gave them three weeks worth of my allowance, and clutched the photos in my sweaty hands. Beautiful. The most beautiful photos I had ever seen. Because I took them. Me. With my Bazooka Joe camera. The plastic camera that I did in fact drop and drive over with my own Banana Seat bike. Still, perfection.

It’s so easy to take pictures now. I take them with my phone, my ipad, my actual camera. All digital, it’s so easy. No worries about mistakes, just take another. And another. I take hundreds, thousands. I swipe through them occasionally. It’s nice. Convenient. But not extraordinarily special. So I decided to have a few printed. I looked through my galleries and chose five. Just five. I made sure the quality was good. Uploaded them properly to the online store. And waited. And waited. I received 8 emails. They would arrive between the 5th and the 8th. They would arrive on the 9th… no, the 10th… no, the 15th, no, for sure on the 13th. The mailbox sat empty for two weeks. Until yesterday! They arrived! The most beautiful prints. Prints I could hold in my hands. Place in frames. Put up. Stand in front of. Remember the time. The love. And they were beautiful. They are beautiful!

I don’t often quote fictional movie characters, but this one is pretty good. It was Ferris Bueller who said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It’s not always convenient, this life, but oh how lovely, when we invest our time, our efforts. Make today. Every day. Important. Take your time. Make some memories. Print your photos.