Jodi Hills

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


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Bambooed.

I didn’t even notice it when I took the picture – how the bamboo tree photobombed my most recent painting.

I don’t know that I was aware of the speed, strength and resilience of bamboo before moving to France. We have a tiny forest of them in our backyard. It’s not like you can actually see them growing…but almost. For the most part, we have kept them contained to a single area, but this one somehow snuck much closer to the house.

I was never really one to paint landscapes before. I had only lived in the city. But I am surrounded by nature now. I walk through it daily. It seems I permanently have a rock in my shoe, every shoe, and a call to wander. It’s in my heart now. And as with all of my paintings, they have to travel through there first. I paint the landscapes. I live in this new palette. And I can see it. The growth.

Maybe I didn’t notice it while it was happening, but I have bambooed my way into this new palette — this new life. I suppose that’s the way it is with all growth — strong, resilient, and oh, so surprising!

Green and smiling, I begin the day. New.


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In a flash

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I took a photograph as ’21 turned into ’22. I shook the image into view. Winter turned to spring before my eyes, and petals fell from trees. Pinks turned into greens. Splashes in sun-warmed water sounded like promises. I put sleeves on tanned shoulders, and never dreamed goodbyes would have to be said to love that fell from the tree that gave life. Bundled and braced. Memories wintered my soul in the white of the photograph — the photograph made not with a click of shutter, but the blink of an eye. The same blink that opened ’23. 

Open lens. Open heart. Smile! I’m just getting started.


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Coffee on the table.

It has been a month since we had our coffee. We’ve had lots of coffee — lattes, iced and hot, dark roasts with cream, coffees from drip makers, espresso machines, pods — lots of coffee, but not ours. This morning I brewed the coffee in our Italian pot. It is simple. Strong. Fills the kitchen with the scent of morning. Fills our spirit with the taste of home. 

I painted this coffee pot years ago because it was a symbol to me of “falling in love with your own life.” It is still just that. And to start each day with that reminder is priceless, familiar, comforting — I guess that’s home.

But it takes an effort though. You have to search. Try different things. Take different paths. Stumble. Fall. Get up again, all in order to find this place. And then maintain it. I suppose the best way is just through gratitude. So I give thanks for this morning pot of coffee. I give thanks for this love. This life. This home. 

There’s coffee on the table, and kindness in the air. We begin. Good morning!


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Body and Soul.

It was the only sheet music I remember seeing on my grandparent’s organ – “Body and Soul.” It didn’t seem strange then, this large instrument. When I think of it now, they were probably the only farmers in the area to have an organ in their living room. 

They bought it for my Aunt Sandy. She was the youngest of nine, this Dairy Princess, and when she asked for something, she usually got it. So there was an organ in their living room. I never heard her play it. Nor anyone else – not seriously. Most of us thought of it like a big toy. One cousin would crawl underneath the bench and play the foot pedals by hand, while another cousin or two pressed the keys with as much flare as previously seen on the Lawrence Welk Show — something that also seemed to be on continuously in my grandparent’s living room. 

My Aunt Sandy has passed. I don’t know where the organ ended up. But the song lives on. I heard it this morning, on the radio, in France. Body and Soul. 

We are scattered — those of us that began on this farm — scattered by jobs, and hopes and dreams, scattered by loves and heartbreaks and loves again. Bit by bit, we puzzle together the pieces of our own lives, string together the notes of our own songs. And it takes a long time — a long time to build a soul. 

I thought, when I was young, with fingers glued against the keys, that we would be given all the answers. And that would be that. But we, like everyone I suppose, were not given the answers, but options. And somewhere between field and keyboard, I suppose, we made our way. 

The song fills my heart this morning. Along with the coffee. The conversation above the tune. Joyfully, not complete, but beginning. Again. What a pleasure it is to begin. The sun comes through the window, and another piece of my soul fits together.

The music never ends.

building a soul framed web.jpg


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Again.

When I’m starting a new canvas, with an old canvas, (something I painted before and it wasn’t quite right, or a vintage canvas I found) before I start the new painting, I have to gesso (paint over) with a fresh color. Just one color. A brand new start. A clean canvas. Maybe some can just paint bit by bit over the old, but I need a fresh start. A new clear vision. No obstructions. As I was doing this today, I thought, if only I could do that with the obstructing thoughts in my head. 

And so I gave it a try. Why not! I wrote down what I was thinking, and painted over it. Let it go. I’m not sure it will last, but for that moment, this moment, it feels good. I will give myself this gift again and again if I need to — a clean start. A fresh start. I smile and begin again.


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The anticipation of youth.

I always trust a town with a coffee shop. We stopped yesterday in Jennings, a tiny, really tiny town, just outside of Lafayette. A sign hung at the entrance, “Making people tolerable since 2013.” We smiled and knew we were home.

Maybe it has come with age, or from living in France, but I have gained appreciation and the patience to wait for my order. Because it won’t be fast here – in the south – in a small cafe. No, you will wait, even if you’re the only ones there. But it was worth it. The lattes – perfection. The ingredients the same, but they added a little anticipation to make it just a lot more delicious.

It hung on the wall in the restroom – this coffee cup made from “string art.” String art was probably the first real art that I made as a child. I say real, because it wasn’t with a kit, or something you filled in from the store, it was all hand made. A piece of wood. Nails. Lots of nails, and string. Oh, how I loved to make it. I made it again and again. Gave it to my mom’s friends. And when I saw it hanging on Diane Larson’s wall, I think that was the beginning for me. I was an artist. I was home.

This coffee cup that hung in the restroom in Jennings, Louisiana, was not new. It was falling apart at the bottom. Some may not even call it art. But it was for me. More than that really. Because in it, I could feel it – all the anticipation of youth! What a feeling! I carry it with me as I greet the new day, again and again, and I give thanks for each beginning! How delicious!


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Limping down the freeway.

Limping on the freeway.Yesterday we went to the big Casino, a large grocery store near our house. After a somewhat quick trip on the freeway, the tangled exit (which the city calls an improvement, but really almost makes it impossible to find the store), we picked the goods, put them in the cart, thought about the Easter menu, priced the items through the self-checkout, (with three calls to the assistant to reset the machine), pushed the items to the car, loaded them in the back, put the cart back, navigated the “improved” exit and got back on the freeway. We were mostly quiet. The radio wasn’t even on. The cars in the multi-lane freeway began to slow. Maybe an accident ahead. No worries really. We crawled along with the traffic. There was no honking, which is unusual for our country. The car in front of us made a quick lane change and our hearts stopped. In front of us, a one-legged man (with a prosthesis), walking down the middle of the freeway. My husband turned quickly, I imagine before we both started to breathe. We didn’t speak for a minute. What had we just seen? It was real? But it was more than strange. It was terrifying. Truly terrifying. Soul shaking. What was happening? What would happen to him? What were we all witnessing?

We put the groceries away, as if we could just get on with our day, and forget about it. But could we? Could we drive down this freeway and ever feel the same?

Our usual routine is to watch a small feed of the American news before lunch. The George Floyd trial was on. They showed the videos again and again. I can’t describe them in detail, for it too, is unimaginable. What are we witnessing here? How can this be real? How can this possibly have happened. The same soul- shaking feeling gripped my insides, and I knew, what we are watching is our collective humanity dangerously limp down the middle of the freeway.

Our pure, but broken, humanity is in grave danger. But just as sure, it is alive. It is living.

They have done studies in France to calculate the estimated time one has to remain alive on the side of the road, say, if your car has broken down. The time is surprisingly short. There are no studies estimating your chances in the middle.

We don’t have the luxury of time here. We have to save our humanity. This minute. This very second. I don’t have the answers, so I can only work on myself. In this springtime air, this moment of rebirth, we have the chance to begin. We have the chance to make a change, make a difference, to say, “Let it be me.” Let it be me.