Jodi Hills

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

Leave a comment

A tourist in pink.

It’s summer in Aix — our peak tourist season. We were just walking through town – going to Dominique’s dentist appointment. I wanted to feel what they were feeling – the tourists. I started looking around. Wow. It really is beautiful! I took a few pictures. The houses, the churches, the scent of the pink flowers — I saw it all again, for the first time.

We decided to stop at the fish market. We bought some sea bass (loop de mer) for the barbecue. And some vegetables for the plancha. Some rosé wine for the imagination.
We ate slowly in the summer air, and I fell in love, again, for the first time.

The world is pretty extraordinary. But we have to decide to see it, every day. I suppose that’s why I paint. In these moments, I have to forget all the “well, I’ve seen this before…” — all the “it’s just another day…” — forget the noise of “but this… and this.. and my…”. I have to just stop, and see something for the first time. Look at the flower. It’s brand new. It’s waiting just for you. I stop a bit of time, a vacation from my brain, a tourist in pink.

Leave a comment

The yellow dress.

I certainly didn’t know any artists. No painters. No writers. But I knew I loved both. Still, there was no outlet really. So I tried everything available. Played in the band. Sports. Wore the red and black — our school colors. We were the cardinals. And I blended in. 

It was in college that I began to see the different colors. Of people. Of opportunities. Still uncertain though of how that applied to me. Paths can be followed, or made. And I suppose that’s not a one time decision, but a daily one. A step by step. Because it takes courage — so much courage — to put one foot out, then the other. To shed the colors placed, colors assumed, and replace them with the colors of your heart. 

We went to the Raoul Dufy exhibition yesterday in Aix en provence. (I’m only now imagining the amount of steps it took to get from Alexandria, Minnesota to Aix en provence.) I stood in front of the painting, The Houses in Trouville, Normandy. Immediately I was drawn to the woman in the yellow dress. In a sea of red, black and blue, there she was, all in yellow. And I smiled. I don’t know if she was afraid when she stood in front of her French mirror. If she thought, today I’m going to be brave, I’m going to be different, I’m going to be me… It must have taken courage. And he saw that, Dufy did. And showed it to the world in the most beautiful way. Confirming what I have always thought, hoped for really, that you don’t have to blend to belong.  

We all want to be a part of something. To belong. But that doesn’t mean we have to hide who we are. I, we, belong in the painting, in the big picture. And how beautiful!  

There will always be a part of me that is a cardinal. And I’m proud of it. But I’m not only that. And I’m not only a yellow dress. I will choose my color, my path, daily, and light it up as best I can — hoping maybe, just maybe, it shines a light for you to see — not to find my path, but your own.

Leave a comment

The unobstructed view.

We pass by the Sainte Victoire mountain almost every day. I can see why artists like Cezanne painted it again and again. Every day it changes colors. The shapes are magnificent from every angle. I want to capture all the variations, but the problem I face is finding the unobstructed view.

There is an angle that is absolutely stunning on the road to Meyreuil. We have pulled over so many times, trying to capture it with different lenses, but something is always in the way. The freeway. The road. The poles – oh, the poles. The poles with their wires. If I want to create the image, I will have to paint it. See beyond the obstructions and paint what I love so dearly.

I’m willing to do that for my art. I hope I’m willing to do that for my life, for the lives of those around me — see beyond the obstructions. And there are many. It’s easy to get lost in the politics, the religion, the language, the color, the age, but I want to see beyond, into the hearts and minds of others, and even myself. Because look, just look at the view, beyond all those poles and wires, it’s pretty amazing! YOU are amazing! Can you see it?!

Leave a comment

Le pic et la belette (The woodpecker and the weasel)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_5496.jpg

Since Covid began, I have made my daily walks inside of our yard. It’s a grand yard, so no complaints. Lots to see, smell and hear. I walk past the pool, the olive tree, under the pines, past the mailbox, the driveway, the fruit trees (all named) Officer Bob the peach tree, Becky the cherry tree, Abigail the apricot tree, Prune rouge – her name was just too perfect as is (the plum tree)…past the American and French flags…I walk over the space where Daniel used to grow – the almond tree – he didn’t make it – nothing to do with Covid… and past the back gardens, the art studio, the green house, the swing set… it’s lovely, full of life, and I go round.

This spring, some holes started popping up, (or I guess down), throughout the yard. No sign of who was making the holes, but nature certainly nurtured my imagination, and immediately I thought of a weasel. And the thought of a weasel led me to thoughts of burrowing, not just in the ground, but up my pant leg, and so I switched to my tightest, skinniest jeans and walked a little faster.

The other morning, making coffee, looking out as the sky turned from pink to blue, my husband and I watched a green woodpecker picking in the grass. Oh, how we love birds. Look at him. So quick. So agile. Wow, he’s really digging. Look at the dirt actually flying up. He’s really going at it. Wait… we looked at each other… wait, I have to go see… that pic is not just “picking”… why, he’s actually digging… I ran out to find a big hole. A big weasel-like hole. A big, no longer scary hole. It was just the pic (woodpecker). It’s just a little pic hole, I smiled.

Is there a moral to the story? Maybe. Probably. You can find your own. My first English professor in college told us to show, not tell. This is what I know for sure. I switched back to loose pants and joyfully walk in a weasel-free zone. Yes, there’s still Covid, a few holes in the ground, but the sun is shining, the grass is greening, my pants are loose and it feels so good to walk, once again, in the truth.

Becky winks a crooked branch to say, “I knew it all along…”

Leave a comment


The first time we drove along La Corniche, the radio was playing.  I didn’t understand the language.  The more the announcer talked, the more the view disappeared.  It’s hard to see when you’re drowning.  Each word was an anchor. It was so hard to breathe.  What was I thinking?  This couldn’t possibly be for me.  This view.  This bienvenue.  No, not for me. I couldn’t see the blue, the turquoise… I was going under. Each word I didn’t understand said you don’t belong here. It’s funny when we don’t understand something how quickly we can translate. Create our own narrative.

“Use the back door,” she said.  She knew I didn’t belong to “the club” – The Alexandria Golf Club.  That was obvious. Wasn’t it obvious?  I would never belong. “Breathe,” I told myself.  And walked around.

We drove along the sea. “Use the back door.” I hadn’t thought of that in years. And now that’s all I could hear. Each French word was pushing me down the back stairs, and the water kept rising.  

That weekend at The Alexandria Golf Club, I was there to sell my not yet refined art work.  It was simple, inexpensive, full of my heart and hands. I entered through the back door, terrified. What was I thinking? It was me. 

The world can surprise you. I sold everything. People smiled, and hugged and clutched their pearls, and “oh, that is so me,” they said.  “So me.”  So me.  “Entering through the back door me.” 

It took me years to claim my hometown. Maybe I should say, claim myself in my hometown. And I expected to enter France through the front door?  

Some lessons we have to learn again and again, and I would learn this one…again. 

I grew up across the gravel road from Lake Agnes in Alexandria.  I painted Lake Agnes in France. I painted the blue, each stroke stepping through the front door.  This was my hometown.  It was not theirs.  It was ours.

I claimed it.  My heart. The most terrifying thing, can sometimes be the most beautiful. 

We’ve driven along the sea more times than I can count.  I begin to see it more each time.  The colors flowing in my heart now, not over my head.  The blue. The turquoise. I see it.  It is not theirs. It is ours. And it is beautiful.

We came home to Aix, and I grabbed my brushes, my blues, and wrote a love letter to Marseille. 
Us.  (Did you know that includes you?  As terrifying as that may seem, it is twice as beautiful!  And it is ours.)