Jodi Hills

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


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Growing poppies.

My grandmother was a dreamer. My grandfather was a worker. And together they created a life of faith. I think that’s what faith is, believing in things some people may call unimaginable, but you imagine them anyway, and work towards them. My grandfather was the muddied rack of coats that hung just inside of my grandmother’s unlocked door, the door she kept open, hoping to let in her next big thing! And it worked. The house – this home – this giver of nine lives, stood strong.


I knew the poppies would come. Because I put in the work. Because I believe in what I imagine. I show you the painting today, so you too, can believe in all of the things clearly and unclearly imaginable and reach out your own weary and working hands, and grow your fields of rouge!


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Being small.

John Prine sings, “I remember everything…every single blade of grass holds a special place for me.” I hear the words in my heart and I’m back on VanDyke Road. It’s a summer day. Bits of green stick to my legs and I’m soaked in sun. Red shoulders. Cheeks. Carrying a plastic bow and arrow from Target. Arrows not strong enough to puncture the ground, but strong enough to make me a cowgirl, a big girl, as my mother told me to be. A big girl that could stay alone during school’s summer vacation and imagine a ranch of hired hands, working cattle and horses, and filling a backyard with “Big Valley” moments, “Bonanza” rescues, and every Disney movie hero. Only until 4:30, then my mom would come home from work. I let the bow drop from my hand into the blades of grass I counted. Each a different color of green. I dropped my arrow. And I was gloriously small. I was saved. She held me close. Every day. My heart beat full. I remember everything.


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Carry it with you.

I can get distracted. So easily. So many “shiny objects” in a day. And it’s easy to let things slip by. “I’ll email them tomorrow.” “I’m sure someone else has taken care of it.” “My vote doesn’t really count anyway.” We can justify almost anything. But can we? Really? Every day, we stand for something. Either by taking a stand, or not taking one. Everything matters. Everything counts. Now some might say, “Oh, lighten up…” But maybe that’s what I am doing. When I believe in something, love something, someone, stand for the things I believe in, it gives me great joy. Such great joy! And the thing is, nothing is lighter than joy. It’s so easy to carry it with you. I want that joy. And so I love and I live and dance my way through the shiny objects of the day, and then I pause. I stand. And I believe.


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Steady.

“Focus on something steady,” she always tells me. I do. Every morning, for my yoga session. I was looking out the window, this morning, as I usually do. I like to focus on a tree for balance. Keeps me strong. Sturdy. Rooted. Standing strong in tree pose, a squirrel ran up the branches (on the tree outside, not me). My focus darting along with it, I lost my balance. Nearly tipping over. Back to the tree. Back to my balance.


It makes me laugh, because that is so typical of my life. I try very hard to stay on track (as crooked as my track sometimes runs). But it’s my normal. My balance. And it works for me. I keep my heart steady above my anchored feet, my reaching arms. But even in my practice, my trying, my hold steady, my brain will shout out “Squirrel!” And go racing after it. I forgive myself and look back to my heart, pumping still steady through my veins.


Nature is filled with every kind of normal. Every kind of distraction. We choose what to grab on to. Focus on. Lean against. Grow with. I heard once, a tree is never foolish enough to fight amongst its own branches. And so, too, I let my heart and brain reach as far as they can, then gather it all in, in my ever green, ever practicing core.

Focus on something steady today, my friends.


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10,000 lessons.

We’re crossing bigger waters today, but we always find our way to the comfort of shore. And how would I have ever dared without the waves that first rocked me? Gently. Easily. Each one saying, you know there’s more…we taught you well. Go see. And they did teach me well – these 10,000 lakes, this Minnesota. With each arm splashing, leg kicking, breath-losing, breath-taking wave – taught me when to dive, when to keep my head up. Gave me laughter. Washed me clean.

Today is a day to keep my head up. I won’t let my teachers down. Thank you, Minnesota.


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A blink of blue

We decided to get lunch before taking pictures at the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we went into the restaurant. We had the most delicious sushi. We stepped outside under a gray cloud. Wow – that changed quickly. Still, we went to the lake. The sky, was a mixture of grays and whites. Full of movement and rumble. It wasn’t the beauty we had seen just 45 minutes ago, but it was beautiful! We walked along the shore. The golden leaves popped out against the gray. The lake’s sky, as if to thank us for still coming out in the ever changing weather, blinked a brilliant shot of blue. It was so magnificent! It lit the air and my heart with hope.

Life moves and changes – often faster than we’d like, but we still need to show up. Find the beauty. And forever cling to even the smallest blink of blue, the promise of hope. Can you see it? Can you feel it? It’s beautiful!!


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Standing on the beast.

The bronze statue The Fighter of the Spirit, by Ernst Barlach stands near the 24th Street entrance of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The statue shows a winged man holding a sword vertically, tip up, and standing on the back of a snarling beast. The statue was commissioned by the University of Kiel (Germany) and was originally placed in front of its church (Holy Spirit Church). The statue did not fit with the ideals of the ruling National Socialist party; it was vandalized and condemned as degenerate art. As a result, the statue was removed and cut into four pieces, in preparation for melting down. However, the pieces were hidden on a farm and didn’t resurface until 1946. The statue was repaired and placed in front of the Church of St. Nicholas. Two copies of the statue were made at this time; the Minneapolis Institute of Art acquired one copy in 1959. This glorious spirit survived.


Growing up, I too, had my own snarling beast. (We all do at some time.) But it was my mother who was always “tip up,” (many times saved by a farmer) — ready to fight, to declare a different life, a better life, a life above the snarls. What a direction she was given, and then gave to me! She, this fighting spirit, my mother, pointed me straight to what I love. Straight to what I live.


The beasts will always try to run in our paths, but we stand tall. Forever tip up.


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Magic wandering.


“Years ago, there were tribes that roamed the earth, and every tribe had a magic person. Well, now, as you know, all the tribes have dispersed, but every so often you meet a magic person, and every so often, you meet someone from your tribe.” — Carrie Fisher


It took me a long time to find my tribe, but not my magic person. She gave birth to me. She was the one who gave me the courage to go look for the rest of our tribe.


Through the years, we have gathered each other in. You know the reflection of your heart when you see it. And oh, what a delight! Yesterday we walked into their condo, and just resting, on the coffee table, one of my books, “astonish”… welcoming us, reassuring us, we were, still, and again, home.
In this book I encourage you to “surround yourself with these people…A world of people opening doors and highways and hearts, just by living. Just by being bold enough to be themselves and to share their amazing gifts…they give us reasons every day to hope, to believe, to try.”


Keep your eyes open today. There is magic wandering.


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Beauty of nowhere.


I can’t tell you exactly where I took this picture. Just outside of Alexandria. Maybe Carlos. On the side of the road. I’m sure it is passed by, over and over. Day after day. Just a swamp, you might think. In the land of 10,000 beautiful lakes, why a swamp? But look at it. Really look. The colors. The calm. The effortless confidence. The “I’m not trying to be beautiful, I just am.” Wow!


Thomas Wolfe said you can’t go home again. You can, but it will never be the same. And I suppose we should be ever thankful for that. The town changes, sure. Everything does. But mostly, I change. We change. See things from a new perspective. This is one of the greatest gifts of travel. Not just to see all the beauty of the rest of the world, but to train your eyes to see. See everything. And in returning home, maybe the colors become a little brighter, the ordinary becomes a little more extraordinary.


Maybe in the nowhere of our being, we can make it somewhere! We can see the beauty all around us. Inside of us. Visit it daily. Share it with others. We can see and be the extra in all that is ordinary.


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Trampling over.


We went for a walk under a gray sky. We have been searching for the fall colors. At first glance, this did not seem to be the prettiest of days. Dominique was just a little behind me. I heard crunch, crunch, crunch! I looked back and he was smiling, ankle deep in a pile of leaves. Each crackle of the leaves said, “There is no such thing as time. There is no gloomy day. Only you. What you make of it!” The fallen leaves were not sad. They were not over. They had merely changed.


We came home and I painted the colors I longed for. The colors I heard in crackling leaves.


The sun is shining through the window this morning. A better day,” I thought. Then smiled. Better. Better days don’t just come. They are created by hands. Summoned by hearts. Invented by brains. Welcomed with courage. Light beams through open doors. Open minds. Paths to higher ground are made by trampling over discarded fears. We, in fact, are the better days ahead, if we choose, if we believe, if we try. If we reach in, reach out, and become. Be the better day.