Jodi Hills

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


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Already flying

.

The groups had already formed in high school. In this small school of a small town, the grouping off included — the athletes, the musicians, the scholars, and the good looking, the smokers, the rich, and the poor, and the religious and the lost. We disguised all the groups, covered up the broken hearts and broken homes with silk graduation gowns and marched through the gymnasium. We flung our tasseled hats as they flung us out the double doors, and we began again.

Dorothy Parker wrote the words that I copied from the school library and placed in my pocket —

“Once when I was young and true.
Someone left me sad —
Broke my brittle heart in two;
And that is very bad.”

I crumpled the paper and left for college. It was freeing this life. To begin again. To learn again. But still the groups formed as we thought we were making such grown up choices. Gown and hats, this time in the outdoor courtyard. They said words I don’t remember in microphones and flung us off again.

Without knowledge or permission, I began living the second half of the poem,

“Love is for unlucky folk,
Love is but a curse.
Once there was a heart I broke;
And that, I think, is worse.”

So if I wasn’t to be flung, or do the flinging, where did I fit in?

We are all trying to find our way. We get tossed into groups and stereotypes. Lost in should-haves and supposed-tos. And the only way that I can see to survive is to keep learning. What a glorious thing to keep learning. To get beyond the first half of the poem. Beyond the second. To write your own. And write it again. No more gowns to hide behind. No more, this need to be flung…because I was already flying, no need to fling, there was room for all of us.

What a thing it is to fly. I write the words, and begin again.


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A look around.

Of course I’m going to finish it. I always do. I never leave a book, just in case… But this will take some effort, this book, because so far, (and I am more than half way into it) I have yet to find a character to empathize with…no one seems real, not to mention likable.  I’m not going to reveal the title, because for you, it might be great. You might relate to one or all of the characters. And that’s for you to decide. 

In any book, I enjoy a flawed character. It’s not like I’m looking for perfection. Because the flaws make people interesting. Human. And that’s what I’m not finding in this book. And maybe that’s on me as well. I have to find a way to see them as human. Part of the journey is up to me. I have to see them.

I suppose that’s the real lesson, isn’t it? I have been proposing this since I wrote my first book, “I am amazed.” I would often take the book to schools and read to the kids, all grades. After reading, I had them do an exercise – pick another student and write down something amazing about them. I encouraged them not to just pick out their friends. And they didn’t. They wrote beautiful things about each other, and their teachers too. They could see each other. One school made a mural of all the attributes and left it up for the school year. They claimed, and I hope it’s true, that bullying decreased, and everyone was just a little more gentle with each other. That is amazing.

So I will finish this book. And I will try harder to empathize with characters not common in my world. I will try to see them. I want to be better at this. Every day. And what if we all did that? Not just with characters in books, but also the ones at the grocery store, the bank, the school, in the car next to us, all the characters who vote and wander, and read, and see us as the different ones. Maybe we all do that for each other. Wouldn’t that be amazing?


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Book lover.

Yesterday afternoon, I went through all the motions, but something was missing. It felt like my best friend had left town… well, not my best best friend, but a really good friend… and I felt a little hollow, like this really good friend came for a vacation and after having the most wonderful time they had to leave. And because we were good friends, we went deep, all the old and new stories. And we laughed and cried, and my heart was rattled in the best way. So letting go, I was bathed in a melancholy of saying goodbye to this very good friend… who was not really even a real friend friend, but a book — that’s right — yesterday afternoon I finished a book — a really good book.

“Now what?” I thought. “Am I supposed to just find a brand new friend — a new book — immediately?” We barely said goodbye and my heart tells my brain “just keep thinking about them!” “Remember when they… and then they did that, and you clutched your heart, and then they stayed up late with you, right beside you until you fell asleep… How can you just let them go? They’re still right there – on the nightstand.”

“You’re right. I know it,” I tell my heart. “But wait, I’m just going to get a sample, on my ipad, it’s not like a real book. I probably won’t even like it.”

I scroll through all of the latest reviews, book sites, what-to-read-nexts… “Well, here, I’ll just download this one. It’s not like I care. I don’t really need it.” One hand on the friend friend, or book book, and I hit “sample.”

I tried to read a little before I slept. But the memory was still so fresh. Still alive beside me. And I missed them — all the characters in Cloud Cuckoo Land. I remember when they said “she leaned into the needle of loneliness…” and I put my ipad down. Stopped the new sample. And said a proper goodbye.

I’m jealous of you, you who haven’t read it yet. You who get to experience it for the first time. If it’s possible for you to have any outside thoughts when you are reading, please tell them that this book lover misses them.

If you’re not a reader — (and I so hope you are) — find something that makes you feel the same way. They say runner’s get a “high” — maybe you can do that. Or garden. Or sing. Play an instrument. Bake. Eat. Travel. But love! Whatever you do — love it! Love it so much that you are willing to let it crack you open, and through the cracks will come spewing the words that you’ll have to share with the humans that you love even more! Share your words. Meld your stories. Live.

It’s a new day and my joyful broken heart is ready to love again.


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Mon préféré

We got a new refrigerator yesterday. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that it’s the most beautiful fridge in the world. My very favorite. It is shiny and clean, and it works! Sure, it doesn’t have all the “bells and whistles” – to be honest, I’m not even certain what that would include. But I’m in love with it. The rack that holds the water bottles – how could anything be so magnificent? It’s ours. And it’s my favorite.

I hold that feeling as I climb the stairs to begin my daily routine. The first of which is to practice my French. I have found a new website that offers up random questions that you can discuss. Today’s question was “Who is your favorite author, and why?” In my office, I am surrounded by books. I love to read. I love writers. I love words. To Kill a Mockingbird sits right behind my head. It is glorious. I remember the first time I read it, and the last (which won’t be the last). Ernest Hemingway rests beneath it, reminding me “there would always be the spring.” There is Elizabeth Strout who so elegantly takes me back to Maine. Joan Didion who inspires me daily. George Saunders. Joyce Carol Oates. Virginia Woolf who challenged me. And John Kennedy Toole who made me laugh out loud by myself. I won’t go through every book and author — there are just too many. And I love them all. But the question lingers, and I think about each word of it. It isn’t who wrote your favorite book. The question is, who is your favorite author. To which I answer, it’s me. Hold on, hold on, hold on… not so fast to judge me… let me explain.

I am not the best writer. I look up to all the authors that I have mentioned and more! So many more. I envy the perfect words they choose – in the perfect order. They are magnificent. And I haven’t sold the most books. I won’t be on everyone’s best seller list. Most people won’t even know my name. No, I am not the best writer. But I will tell you this. Writing has always been my comfort, my joy. I have told you from the age of five, I began writing and drawing. No matter what I was feeling, I would go into my room and put it down on paper. Words have always saved me — from the darkest of times, and they have rejoiced with me in the brightest. They have held me. They have lifted me. And so I write. Every day. And I love it. So, yes, I am my favorite author. I would hope the same for all, with everything!!

I have to believe I am living with the best husband. That I have the best mother. That I am living my best life. (And I have the best refrigerator). Otherwise, what am I in this for??

I want you to be in love with your life. As I have said before, Do something you love. Be someone you love.

Good morning, my friends. Welcome to the day — it just might be my (your) favorite!


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Home town.

In Kindergarten, Mrs. Strand had the audacity to leave us mid year to give birth to twins. In the first grade, Mrs. Bergstrom, hair pulled back in a bun, wore her long pencil skirt and wool sweater all the way until summer break. We knew she would never leave. She taught us the meaning of the word trust, and then taught us how to spell it. She was opening our worlds. Then one day, she lined us up, single file, and quietly led us up the stairs, turned us to the left, opened the big wooden door. All was silent but for the singing of my heart’s choir! The library! All those books. A conversation from wall to wall. Information. Entertainment. Belonging. Yes, most of all the belonging. I knew I would be both comforted and launched — I suppose the perfect definition of home.


And I was home. Here in the words.


Yesterday we arrived in Laurel, Mississippi. Being an HGTV fan, I wanted to see it all. Where they filmed. What they made. The houses they transformed. People have told me, oh, you’ll be disappointed – it’s only make believe.


We pulled into town and the first thing I saw were the giant books painted on the side of the building. I smiled. I have always been one made to believe — the very day I stepped through the big wooden door at Washington Elementary. I know all is not always as it seems. But it is always what you choose to see. Today I choose to see the magic of it all — from the giant books on the side of a building to the promise of a small home town. It’s hard to hear the doubters over the singing of my heart.


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Travel day.

Today we will be traveling from Marseille to Paris. Paris to New York. New York to Minneapolis. The fact that I get to type words like travel and Paris and New York and Minneapolis, and that I have stories from each place, memories, footprints, even artprints…this fills me!

Maybe it was from Ernest Hemingway that I first learned about this “feast.”

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway, to a friend, 1950

My “lucky enough” was that I always found a way to feast, even with what some would call absolutely nothing. But what they couldn’t see was I had words. I had hands. I had paint. I had an imagination. This took me everywhere — long before I stepped onto a plane. And it has stayed with me. Hemingway was right. It does stay with you – if you carry it, nurture it, give thanks for it – every day!

Zipping up the luggage now. Giving thanks. Time to feast! Bon appétit!


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Seeing it through.

“There was the man who got on his horse one afternoon and told his wife he was going to bring in the cows. She watched him ride off across the flats. He came to their two mild cows, grazing half a mile from the house, and he rode around them and kept on going. She watched him to the top of the rise, a mile away, and she waited and waited. He never came back. “I don’t know what got into him,” his wife said. “He didn’t even say goodbye.” Hal Borland from “High, Wide and Lonesome”


When I start a new painting, I like to keep quiet. Those who know me don’t ask, “What is it going to be?” I suppose there are a few reasons for this. First, I’m often not sure. What I begin might turn into something else completely. That, to me, is never failure of losing the first, that is the magic of gaining what is to be. The magic that comes from seeing it through. Allowing it to become. Never abandoning the canvas, but working with it. Not forcing it to be something it isn’t, but allowing it to be what it wants to be.


Maybe she learned it from her father — the farmer who always came back from the field. But most certainly, I learned it from her, my mother. From her I learned the magic of seeing it through. The magic of no more abandonings. So today, if you’re wondering what the next painting will be… what tomorrow will bring…if you really need to know, know this, it’s going to be magic!