Jodi Hills

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


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Covered in dough.

A few years ago I received a mixer as a present. It’s a nice mixer. I took it out of the box. My husband looked at it, and asked, “What does it make?”

I smiled. “Well, it doesn’t “make” anything. I can use it when I’m making bread, or a cake, but by itself, it really doesn’t do anything.” 

People ask me all the time, “What inspires you?” I suppose it’s the same answer. Nothing. If you are looking for something else, someone else, to do the work of inspiring, then you’re going to be very disappointed, and well, uninspired. You have to participate. It’s not enough to find inspiration, you have to “be inspired.” Gather if from within. A book on its own is only paper. But if you pick it up, read it, feel it, look up the words, trace them with your fingers, really live inside the pages – you, my friend, will be beyond inspired. Now, you might say, “Well, it has to be a good book.” Again, I disagree. When I’m reading something fantastic, something I adore, I think, “Wow, I want to be this good! I want to be better. I want to work harder!”  When I read something that I don’t think is very good, say – I can see the ending coming for miles, then I think, “I can do better than this!” So I write some more. 

Paintings. Music. Nature. It’s all out there. Just waiting for you to look, listen, explore. Eat the candy. Drink the coffee. Light the candles. Sip the wine. Take the walks. Have the conversations. Be inspired!

It’s messy, for sure, but delightfully so! Get your mind, heart and hands, covered in dough.


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Little bruises.

I had no helmet. No pads. Just an impatient brother, a hill, and a generic used bicycle. He gave me a push. Yelled “Pedal!” Half way down the hill I flew off. Landed knuckle first. I still have the scars. 

One of my favorite quotes is from the book, “All the Pretty Horses,” by Cormac McCarthy. After falling off the horse repeatedly, the lead actor is asked, “Don’t you ride?” He replied, “I was ridin’ when I fell off…”  That’s how I learned to ride a bicycle. Perhaps that’s how we learn to do everything. 

If only bravery were accumulative. But it doesn’t seem to be. For me, I have to summon the courage each time. For each new thing. Every day. I imagine we all do. If we want to really live. Hearts as fragile as pears, we have to summon the courage each day to say, “I’m here!” Summon the courage to laugh and cry. To ask for help. To love. And we will get cut and bruised, on hands and hearts and egos, but Oh, the ride! The glorious ride! And we are ridin! Even when we fall. I have to believe – always worth it!


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Songs of thunder.

Nothing really has changed from yesterday to today, I mean weatherwise. You would be hard pressed to differentiate the two. But they feel different. And I suppose that’s everything. Yesterday, spring began, and with its arrival came hope, freshness, anticipation, curiosity…. life!  Perhaps you saw a Robin, or the date on the calendar, but I know you felt something, heard something, I did too. 

I did a little Google dive on why Robin’s are the sign of spring. And there was so much more. So many “myths” attached to this beautiful bird. But are they myths? If you believe them, and they make you feel better, isn’t that just truth? 

Poets and philosophers, religious leaders, and songwriters, try to define what nature already knows – that love is eternal, continuous, ever renewing. It makes you think all things are possible. That you, and I, with each passing season, still have the chance to grow. Nothing could be more springlike than that!

And so it arrives with sun and wind, and robins in trees, and songs of thunder, all telling us to “Bloom! Bloom! – this is your spring!”


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The line.

We stood in the long line. I didn’t want to be there. I glued myself to my mother’s leg. We got closer and closer. There was a long table of food. An indecipherable melange of flavor. I peaked around my mother’s hip. All I wanted was to find her dish. I knew if I could find it, I would be saved. I didn’t want something from another kitchen, another mother. “What did you make?” I asked. “What color is the bowl again?” We were taught not to hate, especially in this place, this church, but I strongly disliked the occasional pot-luck lunch. I didn’t have words for it then, but I knew there was something about “the making.” To know the maker meant something. It was important. I knew the maker, my mother. I knew her hands. And that was love. And that’s what I wanted. The only thing I would stand in line for. 

After visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I walked around the gift shop. So many beautiful things. It was hard to focus. And then it caught my eye. So small, almost indecipherable, but oh, so familiar. I moved immediately across the aisle. I held it in my hand. “Made in France,” it said. It was a magnet of the skyline of New York, including the Statue of LIberty. A line. A connection. It was familiar. It was mine. This maker, this France, I knew it. It was as warm, as familiar, as the dish my mother made, and I was saved.

Trust the line that connects from hand to heart to others. These are the makers. This is the love worth standing for.


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Confirmation.


I can’t explain exactly what makes one town charming, and another, not so much…. “Je ne sais quoi.” But when it is, charming, I can see it, almost immediately…I mean, I can feel it. And I feel it in Breaux Bridge, LA.


We crossed the bridge into the main part of the city. One or two streets really. But the life can be felt. People were dressed up. A young man, maybe six years old – pink collared shirt with bow tie. Girls in dresses. Something must be happening on this Saturday nearing mid day. We walked toward the small crowd. They were leaving the one church in the city center. Warming in February’s sun, they laughed and visited on the lawn. We just kept walking toward it, until we were in it. We asked the priest the occasion — confirmation he said. We asked, did he know of a good place to have lunch. Yes, he said without hesitation. One of my favorite things. I love it when people are sure of their city – their home. And that doesn’t always happen. We always ask, everywhere we go, because we want to eat what the locals eat. And there is such beauty when they are certain, when they say with confidence and pride — go here. Confirmation.


We went as directed. As we walked we could here Zydeco music coming from different buildings. They celebrate Saturday mornings here, with music and food and coffee and drink. And why not? We all should! We stepped into the restaurant. Seated at the table, she came over to greet us – the owner. She was proud of her place – with good reason. She was welcoming – asked us where we were from – so happy we were there. The food was sure to be good, we were already enchanted. And it was. Crawfish Etoufee. Shrimp. Delightful. We walked the shops. The woman at the antique store gave us her phone number. “You call if you need anything. I don’t know everyone, but I can help.” People being people.
With full bellies and hearts, we saw the haunting beauty of the swamps and the lakes and the trees. This is Breaux Bridge. It is not New Orleans. I have often written that France is not the Eiffel Tower — it is so much more. And so it is with Louisiana.


The world is a magical place. Filled with beautiful things to see. But I encourage you to look beyond the landmarks. Beyond the popular. Search for the humanity. When you find it, you will never be disappointed. The charm of humanity — beauty confirmed.


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We might be giants.


My grandma made coffee on the stove. My mom started drinking at 13. With one older brother and seven younger siblings, I guess she needed it. Someone told her it was going to stunt your growth. She grew to almost 5’9”, traveled to Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, dressed to the nines, (or five nines) — never stunted.


We all begin somewhere, but that doesn’t have to dictate where we go. This is all up to us to decide. Every day. Every. Day.


Today we drink our Caribou coffee at the airport. Awaiting our next journey, wearing my mother’s turtleneck and a big portion of her heart. Gathered in her never stunted spirit, I travel tall! I travel on!


Enjoy today’s journey!


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Unprepared.

I got chills looking outside the window this morning. The recycle bins took a ride with the white wind and ended up across the street.  I can feel that wind just typing about it. 

I’m usually cold. No matter where we are. And people always say, oh, you should be used to it – you’re from Minnesota. I’m not used to it. Maybe it’s like Bob Dylan says, “I was born a long way from home.” (Someplace warm, no doubt.)


Looking through some of my mom’s things, we found this picture – me, perched on a snowmobile in a sea of white – a winter wonderland. Packed into layer after layer of clothing. We didn’t have fancy down polar jackets, so we put wool upon wool until we almost rolled out the front door. The bundling and unbundling took more time than we ever spent outside, but we did it – again and again.


But I am not prepared. For the cold. I don’t really even know what that means. If you think about it – who is prepared really, for anything? We get up. Each day. Do the best with what we have. Life happens. We change. With any luck we grow. Pack ourselves in the lessons that we learn again and again, and live and love – unprepared. But I’m good with that. Like it even. Probably love it. I don’t want to be hardened by preparation. I want to feel the surprise of joy and love when it comes, even in the tiniest of ways. Maybe that’s not preparation, but it sounds a lot like grace.


Nothing prepares you for this day. Your heart is cracked open so you cry. The world keeps turning, so you live. No one tells your heart to stop beating. So you love! Nothing prepares you for this beautiful day!


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Another look.


The thing is, we always think we know… we look at the surface of things and think – that’s simple – that’s it – and we move on. But in this way, we only get to the next thing, the surface of the next thing, and then what, again? There has to be more than this. And this “more” I’m thinking of, reaching for, longing for, is in the depth, not the breadth.

I love putting things together. Giving things texture. Meaning. The three paintings that I have pictured here, one might think the commonality is green. But the reason I put them together at first was not because of the green. I really didn’t even put them together, they gravitated to each other. I didn’t paint them at the same time. Not from the same tube. But later, when I made postcards of the paintings. Held them in my hand, it was so easy to see why they fit together. It was their beautiful strength in their own fragility. All. This force that carried them from within. This beautiful belief in their own possibility. This gentle and beautiful strength.


Maybe you have to live it, to see what others are living. To see their “green” for all it really means. And I want to see it. I want to see it in you. Possibly even me. And so I rise, and take another look.


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Find the good.

Louie.

Our 7 hour flight from Paris to New York turned into 11. The first four hours, we didn’t move an inch. It could have been frustrating, and frankly, it was, but then a local boy saved me. I searched through the movies. Nothing. I couldn’t think. TV series. Nothing. Try the comedians. Mostly French, it was Air France. Then at the end of the line. Louie Anderson. Oh, Louie. It was not lost on me that he took his own long flight just the day before. Sometimes angels get their wings very quickly. I tuned in and started laughing almost immediately. Maybe it was because of the name – Anderson, the familiar – we grew up with him — or maybe just because he was hilarious and I really needed a laugh. And oh, how I laughed. Through my mask. Through the waiting. There was joy. Thank you, Minnesota. Thank you, Louie. Even stuck on a plane in another country, you were welcoming us home.

Sometimes I forget to look for the silver linings. Sometimes they show up all on their own. Even the hardest days are kind enough to pass. Find the good. It’s out there.


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Love her.

Some things you don’t learn in school. It was a Sunday afternoon. The snow was falling. And falling. I was supposed to go back to school. I had come home for the weekend to see my mother. I was still naive enough to think I could drive in any weather. I packed up my things. My books. My clothes. And the snow kept falling.

Everything said it was not fit for driving. All one had to do was look out the garden window of my mother’s apartment. The snow kept rising. Shortening the view until it was simply white. Still not sure of the severity, still clinging to my indestructible naivety.

I turned on the television to see if there was news that supported my theory that I could make the drive. Nothing. They didn’t even bother to send the reporters out into the snow, they simply scrolled on the bottom of the screen that everything was closed. And still… It’s hard to let go of an idea in your head. This idea that I had to prove something. Be something. Be more. Become worthy, I suppose. And I didn’t want to be told otherwise.

Nobody really likes to be told what to do. I sat in front of the tv, arms folded across my chest, like the snow cared if I didn’t like it. The Sunday afternoon movie began. Camelot. Camelot? The singing was nice. I relaxed a little. I stopped looking out the window. “I wonder what the King is Doing tonight?” They asked in song. Sang “The simple joys of maiden hood.” I relaxed into a pillow and blanket. They kept singing. “The lusty month of may.” And then, “How to Handle a woman.” Aaah, yes. I wondered too. The answer was so simple, “just love her, simply love her.” My heart sighed into a smile. With all my crazy ideas. My wild ideas. My naive ideas…. I still believed in love.

It would not come, this love, not by willing it, watching out closing windows, but taking a deep breath and allowing it to happen. Not forcing it. But with the patience of a snowy Sunday afternoon, it would come. Even in this love, I have to admit my heart and my brain still get a little anxious, perhaps even a little snow blind. “I can do it! Right now. This and this! And why can’t I?” I want to! Right this very minute.” (I suppose I still have those wandering thoughts, needing to prove I’m worthy.) And then he scrolls the words across my heart. “Just relax.” He loves me. Even in all my wild flutters. (I’m still learning.) He loves me with all the calm of Sunday song. And I realize, as I look in the mirror, the song was right, and not just for him, but for me…I must love her — me —simply love her.