Jodi Hills

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

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The beginning of somewhere.

We pulled the car off of the freeway to the only gas station in sight — the only building in sight. We were in the southern part of the US. Some might call it the middle of nowhere. But I don’t really like that phrase – everywhere is somewhere to someone, and we in fact were there – so I call it the beginning of somewhere. I would say we were lost. Dominique would say that we just weren’t sure how to get where we were going…. In any case, we paid the woman behind the counter for the gas and some random snacks, and asked her directions to our destination. She had never heard of it. That was fine. What’s the name of this freeway right here? Or the number? She said she didn’t know. Perhaps she didn’t hear, I thought, so I repeated, this freeway right here — I pointed. “I don’t know,” she said, “I didn’t drive here.” Baffled by the response, we walked back to the car in silence. There were so many questions. First of which – how did she get there? Where did she live? There were no houses in site. And most importantly, do you really need to drive on a road to know its name — a road that you could reach out and touch if you took two steps?

And I suppose that’s the problem, isn’t it? This lack of interest. Empathy. Knowledge. Have our worlds gotten so small? Our concerns even smaller? It was Maya Angelou who said the most important thing was curiousity. It was the key to everything. Without it, she thought, nothing else was really possible, including love, friendship, education, invention…life itself.

Our favorite travel memories always include the stumbling upon. The surprise of what isn’t on the map, or the brochure. I wish this for everyone. And you don’t have to travel the world – though I highly recommend it if you have the means — but please, please, look beyond your front door. Take the road less traveled, or the road worn to tracks, it doesn’t matter, just take a road. Go somewhere. Learn something. Meet people.

We were taught in school that it was important to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” Maybe that’s frightening to some, so I would say, start by walking in your own shoes. Live your life. Take some chances. Make some discoveries. And then make the exchange — of “shoes” — you will have something to share, and be open to receive. If you want the thrill of “stumbling upon,” you have to be willing to stumble.

We drove down the unknown freeway. Smiling. Packed with a new memory. A new story. Ready for our next adventure.

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You are part of my story, and it is beautiful.

Becky gave me one red cherry yesterday.  It was delicious. I named our cherry tree Becky. It seemed so obvious to me. Tom Sawyer describes Becky Thatcher when he first sees her, “the new girl in the garden… a lovely little creature…wearing a white summer frock.” How could this not be our Becky — our lovely cherry tree. She is, in fact, the newest of our trees. She hasn’t yet produced what one might call a real crop. Just a smattering of red cherries, but the most beautiful cherries I have ever seen.  

Summertime, to me, will always mean youth. The days are brighter, longer. Everything greens and blooms and grows, and somehow, I feel, so do I. 

Probably the first to bloom in my brain were the words of Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn. At the time they seemed more real than almost anyone I knew.  They jumped off the page. They were alive. They were my American childhood.

Through the years these books have been banned. But then again, so have I. I remember one church that wouldn’t let us in because my mother was divorced. We couldn’t go to the golf club because we were too poor. (And this I realize is nothing compared to how others are banned, but I, we, felt it just the same.)  And maybe it’s childish, (and part of me hopes so, because how pure is that!) but I still believe that we can learn and grow and become better. We can treat people better. All people. We can take the light of summer and start to see who we really are. Possibly even bloom. Summer is so open. So freeing. Maybe we can be the same. 

The birds are singing. I see Becky swaying in the morning breeze. Everything is still possible.


When there’s no parade.

There was a small piece of this wood left in the scrap pile. I could have just left it there. Who would know? Who would care? I guess the answer is me. I cut it into the largest four lengths possible (which wasn’t very big). There was a hole in one of the lengths. I had to use it, or there wouldn’t be enough wood to complete the tiny frame. I squared it up. Pounded in the old nails I pulled from another piece of wood. Sanded. And sanded some more. I cut a small piece of wood from an old dismantled armoire to fit the opening. The whole thing was about 6″ x 5″, fitting into the palm of my hand. I stained the frame. Gessoed the board. Painted a pear in charcoal. Secured it to the frame. Covered the back in paper. And attached my card. But what to do about the hole? It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I thought it added something, but still, it called out, like “use me – this could be really special.” So I found some weathered string, and attached the smallest card. Front – Still. Life. Inside – Never perfect. Always original. And it was complete. For me, a treasure. Right there in the palm of my hand.

Today is the Fourth of July. For Americans, that’s something special. Independence Day. Living in France, it could easily pass as just another day. I could just forget about it. Who would know? Who would care? I guess the answer is me. There will be no parade, and no fireworks. But the songs we marched to in band play over in my head. The kids waving flags, and jumping into the lake way too soon after eating too many hotdogs from the barbecue – these thoughts make me smile. They are treasures that fit into the palm of my heart, and I choose to care. Because that’s the freedom we were given, isn’t it? The freedom to choose what matters. The freedom to take something and make the best of it. To see not the flaws, but the beauty. The freedom to love, even the worst of us. And to celebrate all, wherever we are!

As I type the words, the sparklers are bursting from inside. To celebrate here is not perfect, but it is original! And it feels so good, so magical, just to care!!!!! Happy Fourth of July!