Jodi Hills

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


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To flutter.

I woke up to another 5-star review on my Etsy page. She said my painting “was her very favorite in her whole house!” Just a few words strung together, but they fit perfectly into my heart and filled it!
It’s amazing what we can do for each other. Just the tiniest bits of kindness. Humanity. It’s so contagious. I give you a piece of my heart. You pass it along to someone else. It flutters and flies and fills the air.


Some will call it the butterfly effect — how the simple flapping wings of butterflies in India can change the weather in Iowa. I am not a scientist, but I have seen this play out with humans. I have seen the flapping of kindness change the behavior of many. I have seen the soaring effects, the light and airy beauty of it all. And I want to be a part of it. A part of the beauty. Of the changes.


Today, can we let go of all the things that are weighing us down? The weapons of bigotry, and hate. Fear and anger. Can we just let them go and fly? Oh, how I hope so! Let’s fill the sky. We can be the change.
I’ll see you up there!


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Thanks.

Some mornings when I sit down to write, the idea is at hand, jumping so quickly from my heart to my brain to my hands. Other days, I have to breathe slowly, look around, thumb through my sketchbooks, and aaaah… there it is. Still others, like today, I know I will have to dig for it. Dig deeply. Be patient. Attentive.


To quote Meister Eckhart,“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” I suppose it’s the same with living. With creating. With writing. Today, instead of searching for the lesson, I’m just going to give thanks. I’m going to say hello to the sun, and be thankful that I have another chance, another chance maybe not to be clever, to be smart, or to be creative, but a chance to be joyful. To be grateful. A chance to look around, listen to the sounds of morning, and simply say, thank you.


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Being Pelican.

We were on a trip a few years ago. The Florida Keys. It sounds romantic, and it was. I mean everything. When you allow yourself to be swept up in it, the Ernest Hemingwayness of it all. The small details — waves rushing under a beating sun. The boats rocking next to the thatched roof bars. The night heat. The novel being written by the couple you can’t help but overhear at the bar — you start to feel it all, deeper than you could imagine. You can smell the salt in the air. Taste it. Everything is more. Even the pelicans looked beautiful. The pelicans.

We sat for a long time on the pier. Watching them. They had runway model confidence. Up and down the pier with ease. “Go ahead. That’s right. Take our picture.” I couldn’t look away.

I’m always painting in my head as I look at something. Seeing each shape. Color. I stared at them. Bit by bit, this is not a conventionally attractive animal. A little awkward. Weird angles. But I couldn’t look away. They looked back, as if to say, “I know, right? We’re beautiful!” They believed it. They truly believed it. And so did I! I could see them. Really see them. And they were something!!!

I continue to paint them in my sketchbook. Each time I understand them a little more. Appreciate them more. On the days when I really need to be brave, I think, I could be that pelican! I am that pelican! The romance of confidence sweeps in, and I am saved.


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Set up to fly.

She was really too petite to be a Barbara. We called her Barbie. Barbie Smith. She was the setter on our volleyball team in high school. She was excellent in her role. She knew each player. How high they could jump. When they were ready. Quick set. High set. And when she did it perfectly, the hitter got all the credit with the perfect spike. But we knew…without her, there was none of it.


I’m not sure we value these people enough. The setters. Those that set us up for success. As school is about to begin around the globe, maybe it’s a good time to recognize those that have lifted us, lift us now.


My mom worked in the Superintendent’s office at our high school. She took all the calls. She was the first to handle the ball. She welcomed the teachers, new and old. She directed the parents, upset or confused. Kept the administrators smiling. Not only made the school run, but made it look good. The perfect setter.


And the teachers. To say I can’t thank them all would be wrong. I do thank them all. They gave my broken world structure. Gave it a play. Popped the ball in my direction and told me to jump. Jump as high as I could. And I did! I still do it. Every day. Because they set me up. Sure, they offered up the words and the skills and the rules…but they also gave me a reason to stretch my every muscle, a curiousity, a belief that I was part of the game. And I am. They “Barbied” me into a wider world. What a gift!


Today, let’s look behind the curtain. Give thanks to all those who lift us without reward or recognition. The every day heroes — I don’t say everyday because they are not ordinary — they show up every day, they lift us. They give us not just a chance at winning – but a chance to fly!


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Cardinal on my sleeve.

We sang a cheer in high school –


“We are the cardinals!

Mighty, mighty cardinals!

Everywhere we go – oh,

people wanna know – oh,

who we are,so we tell ’em…

We are the cardinals… (and repeat and repeat)


I never thought about it then, really, but what a lesson. I’m not sure that people often describe cardinals as mighty, but we did. And why not? It was our decision after all. We were cardinals. That was the mascot we were given. We could choose to wear it proudly, or sink behind someone else’s fragile truth.

So the black and red became a symbol of strength to us. A symbol of celebration in victory. A symbol of perseverance in loss. And we were nothing, if not mighty!


You get to decide what makes you strong. You get to decide who you are. Stand up in the colors you were given, and the colors you create. Even with the most fragile of wings, you can choose to be mighty!

I paint the birds again and again. They are my heart. My fragile, but ever-winged, mighty heart! The heart I wear proudly on sleeve, and in song, because I still think, maybe, you just “might wanna know – oh…”


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Remembering to fly

I could see him from my window, this bird. He was at the bottom of the large pine. A tiny little thing, dwarfed by this massive tree. He started climbing. Hopping really. Up, so slowly. I could hear the little click of his feet (claws?) grab onto the bark. Click, hop. Click, hop. He wasn’t making much progress. I had never seen a bird make so much effort, struggle, to climb a tree. There was an alternative… I kept watching. He was about a quarter of the way. Click, hop, Click, hop. I wondered when he was going to realize it. You know, that he could just fly. Half way up, there it came – the realization – oh, yeah, I have wings. And in two seconds he was at the top. Then floating in the sky. What a relief! How delightful – I could see it in his wings.


Yesterday, after waiting two and a half hours from his initial phone call saying he was near, the FedEx man called and said in fact he wasn’t going to come at all. Like it was just some option. Like when you call for a pick-up, he’ll swing by if he has the chance…. Aaargh. So frustrating. I got upset. It happens all the time. The anger was building inside of me. Rising. Climbing. Click, hop!!!! CLICK, HOP! It took about 15 minutes until I decided to jump into the pool. The water was lifting. I started doing laps. The strokes started to release it all. I was getting lighter. In the pool, I started to fly.


I had thought the bird so silly for not realizing the lesson he had learned so long ago. Then I saw myself. How easy it is to forget. And so we live and learn, sometimes the same lessons over and over, again and again… yesterday’s lesson — patience.


This morning the sun is shining in a bright blue sky! I hope I remember to fly!


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Nothing small.

“Why didn’t you tell me I was small?” she asked her mother.
“Because I never thought so,” she replied.
“No really. Am I small?” she asked again.
“You fill my heart with joy. Could anything small do that?” her mother replied.
She smiled. And felt a world of possibility.
“I wish I were beautiful,” she told her mother.
“You light up the sky, my love.” Her mother showed her the stars.
“What if I’m not smart enough?” she cried before leaving.
“You are stronger than you think.” Her mother held back her tears.
“What if I’m not strong enough?” her mother asked the open sky.
“I love you,” she sang to her mother as she flew.
Love held her. Could anything small do that?

(Chickadee – from the book “Bird Song” by Jodi Hills)

I found something huge yesterday. (Yes, I’ve been deep diving in the cleaning department). Well, what I found is only about 1″ x 1/2″, but to me it’s huge! A pencil sharpener. Even in its original packaging. Unopened. Sometimes the universe just knows what you need. (Or maybe it always does, and we’re just not looking.) And the most important thing of all – it works!!! That may not seem extraordinary, but believe me, I have a lot of pencils, for all types of drawing, and I, until yesterday, did not have a pencil sharpener – that worked. I have one that you just spin and spin and spin and nothing ever happens. I don’t think you should have to lose weight while sharpening a pencil. I have another that, no matter what you put in, it only takes out that one side, and you’re left with the shard of wood that you try to pick off, and it gets stuck in your fingernail, and you start all over again, getting the same result. I have another that absolutely fits no pencil that I own. I have no idea what it’s for. And my last one, has the most voracious appetite, eating everything inserted. None of these I actually purchased. They were all left behind from Dominique’s family. (Maybe left behind for good reasons.) But yesterday, aah yesterday, I found it. I opened it with such hope — oh, the tenacity of HOPE! — yes, I opened it and tried the closest pencil. The most perfect point. I tried another. Perfect. Easy. I tried charcoal. Yes. Lead, yes! Colored – sure, why not! Soft – no problem. Perfect points all. I wanted to fling open the doors of the studio and shout to the world – it works – it really works! I raised up my best Sally Field’s impression to the sky, “You like me – you really like me!”

I know it’s a pencil sharpener, yes, it’s small, but it takes that one thing in my life and makes it so much easier, makes it delightful. Nothing small can do that.

I guess it’s always the little things that make up a grand life. If you look at the ingredients of a croissant, it’s almost nothing, and extremely ordinary, but rolled and rolled, it becomes something magical. And shared with someone you love — even better. While eating our croissants at breakfast my husband said, “We have to find or make these for your mother, because she would really love them.” I told my mom that later in the day. She beamed – I could feel it over the telephone. He had thought of her. Just a little thing, but oh, so magical. The universe does this for us every day. Certainly we can do it for each other.


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The view

The view from the window is spectacular.

I arrived in Sedona, Arizona in the dark of night. I couldn’t see any of the surroundings. I went to bed and woke with the sun. I opened the hotel drapes, and almost fell over. The view! I had never seen anything like this! The red rocks. Spectacular! All this was there in the darkness, and I didn’t know it — but the light beamed from rock to rock, yellow mixed with red to create an orange that said, I’ve been here the whole time.

Waking in Italy for the first time, I saw a sky draped in elegant clouds, allowing the sun to still dance across the water. This yellow, this blue, and this playful white that invited me to dance along. I’ve never looked at clouds the same. (Maybe, like Joni Mitchell, I didn’t know clouds at all, until this very morning.)

This morning, I open yesterday’s shutters on yesterday’s house, and I feel a brand new day. The air is fresh, and the birds are singing today’s song. It is a comfort that says, I’ve been here the whole time, and a song that welcomes me to the adventure of this dance.

The view from morningtime — spectacular!!!! Let me always see the gift.

Artist Original ~ As for the clouds, I'm just going to let them roll on by.


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Barely more than air.

There is a group of migratory birds that, each year, flies over 7000 miles over water, without stopping, without eating, without sleeping.  They are able to shut down a piece of their brain.  Their heart rate changes.  Their digestive system adapts. These beautiful living beings, weighing barely more than air, have been given every tool necessary to make the journey.  Each year, at the same time, in the same place, without worry, without discussion, they take the flight. They don’t gather and wonder, “Well, I don’t know, it’s a long ways… I’m not sure… It’s super hard…We could get hungry… Probably tired… Maybe we should wait…”  No, these are the voices in my head, probably yours.


When I was five years old, I began to write and I began to draw. My mother said, no matter what I was feeling, I would go into my room and create the feelings on paper. Feel them. Work through them. Resolve them.  These words and colors would carry me through unimaginable things.  They still do.  


Sometimes I forget. Clogged down with little things like, oh, my computer isn’t working correctly, how can I possibly go on… I’m embarrassed to say that I can be grounded by the smallest things, when I know, I have been given everything I possibly need to make each day’s journey.  


I, we, barely more than air, hold the most magical gifts.  Here comes the sun, my friends.  We can do this. The sky is open with possibility.  I’ll see you up there.  

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Just sing.

Am I good at it?  If you mean do I love it, do I do it often?…then, yes!  If it is judged by some other standard, then, I guess, I don’t know.  But why would it be judged?  I’m singing.  It’s like if you asked me, are you good at breathing?  I sing.  I sing, I sing, and I sing. I think, I hope, I want to sing because I’m grateful. I’m so grateful that I get to sing. That I get to sing alone, and I get to sing along. That I get to hear it.  That I get to feel the joy in my heart, my throat, and then in the trees. Joy is nothing to be judged, just enjoyed. I think if I questioned it, I would suck the life right out of it. I sing. I live. I love.
I hope I can be grateful for all the amazing experiences. I hope you can too. Because it’s all pretty amazing. Look around. Just look. Just listen. This is not a bad day. This is life. This is joy. Just sing.