Jodi Hills

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


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Finding my Napoleon.

Standing in front of the Napoleon monument in Corsica, I didn’t expect to feel it – this reverence. I stood amongst the crowd, mostly French, there to pay tribute to their hero. I was so happy for them, those gazing with such pride. As we moved slowly across the gravel path, getting closer and closer to the statue, I could feel their excitement build. And I felt it too, not so much for myself, but for them. I was truly happy – perhaps a little envious as well (because we all need a hero from time to time).

I read the stories, the legends, on all the plaques and pamphlets and books — this was not the Napoleon we were taught in US schools. Here, he was not short, he was, is, grand, celebrated. And standing there, amongst the believers, I could feel the magic, the wonder.

I walked by the cave – the cave where, as a child, he was said to have looked to the sea and dreamed of what he would be. Looked to the water and dreamed of what he could do. This is where I knew him. I knew that child — because I was that child. I heard the waves in his young ears. I heard the waves in mine. He had the sea. I had the lake — Lake Latoka. I would not have a throne or a monument. I would have a diving tower. I would not conquer nations, but my own fear, and I would believe.

I sat in the shade of the trees that surrounded Napoleon’s monument, and I no longer had to envy their joy, their hope, or their pride. I had it too. And I believed in it all – the possibility of it all. The possibility of looking out over the water and having a dream. The possibility of letting the waves carry you, buoying you bigger than you could ever imagine. I sat with my Napoleon. Smiled. Looked at the water. And knew I was alive!


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Standing in front of Napoleon’s monument.

Standing in front of the Napoleon monument in Corsica.

They do love their son, Napoleon. I stood there with them in Corsica. I watched them, feeling him. I was so happy for them, gazing with such pride. I walked with them, closer, as the gravel moved softly beneath their feet , closer and closer to their hero, I could feel their excitement build. I felt it too, not so much for myself, but for them, and I was truly happy. A bit envious, maybe, in a good way. We all need a hero from time to time. I thought about the stories and legends and it didn’t really even matter to me if they were true, I celebrated the belief.

I walked by Napoleon’s childhood cave – the cave where they said he looked to the sea and dreamed of what he would be…. What he could do… And a little part of me knew that child…. Heard the waves that he rode on in his youthful dreams. I had heard them too, at Lake Latoka . I would not have a throne or a moment. I would have a diving tower. I would dive. Taking a leap of faith. Conquer not nations, but my own fear. And I would believe.

I sat in the shade of the trees that surrounded the moment, and I didn’t have to envy their joy or hope or pride… I believed too… In the possibility of it all… In the possibility of looking out over the water and having a dream… In the possibility of letting the waves carry you… And I was alive!

My husband’s father is buried in Corsica. We searched for his monument alone, no crowds, but I felt the same reverence. This man had dreamed his own dreams. Married his Lucie, gave life to his sons, one of whom would conquer my heart. Legends are real. I stood in front of one, and beside one, in Corsica.